This week, I have been thinking both about feminism in general, and prostitution specifically. Unfortunately I have been thinking a good many things about both these subjects, so I have had to split them and you will be hearing my thoughts on prostitution next week. Should you be desperate to think about prostitution yourself before then, why not skip over to the BBC iPlayer where you can listen to Woman’s Hour for 10th and 11th March 2014 and hear the interviews that sparked my thoughts.
The reason I have been thinking about feminism in general is because it was International Woman’s Day on 8th March. I have been clicking around, browsing a few articles, and to be honest I was shocked. Not at the articles mind you, but at the comments. Obviously there are fools and trolls out there, but there were certain comments in places that I didn’t expect. Let’s take the comments on the article that accompanied this Independent front page:
Judging by the front cover, I gather yesterday was International Whingers Day.
All men have it so easy compared to all women. Lets give everything to women. Life is so unfair.
I for an instance thought the “World day of women” is to celebrate the wonder of being a woman, and least that I expected it is a doom and gloom of being one. When was the last time I heard the husband expects his wife to make more money for the family? I call those husbands “good for nothing” husbands.
I feel sorry for the woman who wrote this article, more so for the boyfriend or husband if she has one.
The vast majority of negative comments seemed to centre around two points.
1. There is no longer any inequality between men and women
2. The inequality that exists is there just because, not through any fault of anyone.
In many ways I don’t know where to begin. To me it is self-evident that there is still inequality and it is obvious without statistics. Britain is a lot better than a lot of the world, but it is by no means perfect. To my mind, you only need to compare the politicians in the House of Commons to see that half of them are not women. None of the leaders of the parties are women. The vast majority of CEOs are not women. So unless you are assuming that very few women want to be successful, which is a bizarre assumption to make, there’s an inequality there.
This brings me onto the second point, that inequality exists just because. People that use this argument usually point to childbirth and it is true, if my partner and I have a child, it will be coming out of my vagina. However, does that necessarily mean that I have to stay at home and look after said child afterwards, interrupting my career and exacerbating the pay gap because my experience when I return to work will be inferior to all the men that have not taken a ‘break’? Of course not. Yet most women do. If there is a single overwhelming reason why women are not as successful career-wise, that is it.
Employers don’t hire women in case they have a child. Women deliberately choose careers and workplaces that will facilitate them having a child because they know this is something they have to think about. When was the last time a man wasn’t hired because he might have a baby? Or thought about a career choice in light of whether he wanted a family? The reason this hasn’t changed isn’t just because. People seem to forget that institutions and traditions have been put in place by people. They aren’t self-evident, they aren’t unchangeable. They are just the way someone decided it should be at some point.
Admitting this doesn’t mean that all men are arseholes, and it doesn’t mean that all changes should come at the expense of men, which I think lies at the crux of the resistance to feminism. It just means that there are still inequalities, and inequalities that can certainly be changed. For example, making childcare more affordable so both partners can go back to work. I personally think that childcare should be an extension of school hours, not done by teachers, but by schools employing childminders to deal with the thorny parts of the day where children are not in school but the nine to five is still ongoing. Employers should have to provide flexible working for all men and women so that work can fit around children. And men should very much be encouraged to do the childcare. These are just suggestions, but they are ways that Britain could become a more equal place that doesn’t make life harder for men.
There is so much more I could say. To be honest, writing on feminism does tend to send my fingers into a bit of a rant, so I’m going to leave sexual violence, the depiction of women in the media, the obsession with motherhood, division of labour in the home and social expectations of women for another day. After I have tackled prostitution. Have a great day!