International Women’s Day

Looking at the IWD history page, it’s easy to think that we’ve come a long way, but in reality little has been achieved, and little has changed. Women like me who call ourselves feminists are reviled by other women. We’re considered ‘unfeminine’ and ‘unladylike’ by women who sup pints, enter farting competitions, and would kick your head in for calling them a lady, and ‘frigid bra-burning lesbians’ by men. Part of this is our own fault. The movement I joined in the mid 80s was fractured and always had been – a loose agglomeration comprising at one extreme women who just wanted a fair wage and the right to get mortgages and credit in their own name without a male relative going guarantor, and radical types who wanted men locked up in concentration camps/castrated at puberty after providing a sperm sample/killed except for a few caged breeding specimens. We disagreed over matters large and small: was pornography/contraception/abortion rights/writing Ms instead of Miss or Mrs empowering, or just another monumental fuck-over? Was marriage/being a housewife/(not) liking sex a sellout of the sisterhood or a legitimate form of self-expression? We never defined our terms adequately. Even our leaders have flip-flopped about in their ideology. Saint Germaine, I’m looking at you.

I still have the NUS Women’s Campaign poster from when I was Women’s Officer in ’87-’88. It is almost perfect, no dog-ears, only a few folding lines. I have cared for it and will never part with it.I want to be buried with it. Some of you may be familiar with it. It was written, I believe, in 1971 by Joyce Stevens, and I hereby cheerfully rip it off. I doubt Joyce will mind. Most of the links were found by googling a couple of keywords.

Because women’s work is never done and is underpaid or unpaid or boring or repetitious and we’re the first to get the sack and what we look like is more important than what we do and if we get raped it’s our fault and if we get bashed we must have provoked it [1] and if we raise our voices we’re nagging bitches and if we enjoy sex we’re nymphos and if we don’t we’re frigid and if we love women it’s because we can’t get a ‘real’ man and if we ask our doctor too many questions we’re neurotic and/or pushy [2] and if we expect community care for our children we’re selfish and if we stand up for our rights we’re aggressive and ‘unfeminine’ and if we don’t we’re typical weak females and if we want to get married we’re out to trap a man and if we don’t we’re unnatural [3] and because we still can’t get an adequate safe contraceptive but men can walk on the moon and if we can’t cope or don’t want a pregnancy we’re made to feel guilty about abortion and …

Because we still need campaigns against violence towards women;

Because we still can’t be sure of keeping our jobs if we get pregnant;

For Sahjda Bibi, victim of a so-called ‘honour killing’, not in some primitive shanty town in the Middle East, but in Birmingham UK;

For Hannah Koroma from Sierra Leone, victim of female genital mutilation;

For Hitayezu of Rwanda, dying of HIV/AIDS, unable to afford the drugs given freely to the Hutu militiamen who raped her;

For the unknown 47 women drivers of Saudi Arabia who still live in fear (I believe one of them was shot in the head by her ‘dishonoured’ father);

For Dr. Lyla Gul of Afghanistan, almost blinded by the Taliban religious police for travelling to work in a taxi without a male relative;

For L from China, adopted by A and G after being abandoned like tens of thousands of other baby girls;

And despite the fact that we are often our own worst enemies and that in living my life by my own lights, that I too have been less than kind towards the perceived weaknesses of my sisters, I am still proud to be a feminist


[1] myth # 3. Like those for rape crisis, all domestic violence websites and leaflets still have to repeat that “it’s not your fault”

[2] flip down to “Respect Women”

[3] or have some other daft monicker inflicted on us

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