Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Men can be carers too

I read a story yesterday about a man who has been put forward for a carer of the year award. My first reaction was well yes - men can be carers too. The story, briefly, is that his daughter was born with a rare genetic defect which will kill her in time. He and his partner made a decision that he would give up his job to look after the child 24/7 (not give up his life as the headline put it). His partner went back to her parents as she suffers from depression and the man's comment was that he could not be there for both of them - it was the child or his partner. This was the bit that stuck in my throat.

Now women are slated if they say they cannot cope with a husband with disabilities and young children. There have been a couple of stories recently where women whose husbands were injured in accidents or in the Afghan war and confined to wheelchairs and the wives said they could not cope with both - partly because of how the disabilities had affected their partners' personalities. The comments on all the stories were along the lines of 'selfish women always putting what they want before their husbands and children'.

Why the double standards? Giving up jobs to look after husbands, children and elderly relatives is a common place for women - 99.9% of whom will rarely receive any form of recognition let alone financial reward. A man does it but says he can't cope with ill partner as well and he's regarded as a hero. I admire anyone who makes the sacrifices needed to be a carer - I am one myself and I know how soul destroying it can be at times. What I dislike is that women are expected to do it willingly and pilloried if they hold their hands up and say they can't cope. If a man says I can cope with the child but not my partner he's praised to the skies. Hmmm. Very odd.

Monday, 29 March 2010

The Manipulated Man

The Manipulated Man by Esther Vilar was first published nearly 40 years ago - and it shows. It is described in an extract from a review on the cover as 'a vigorous answer to women's lib'. I suspect whoever wrote that hadn't actually read the book. It contains no references to research and is simply the author's opinions and it castigates the traditional stereotypes of male breadwinners and female stay at home mothers and housewives. So I would have thought it was pro women's lib and more independent women no longer sponging off hard working men.

I'm about half way through the book at the moment and having to read it in small sections because this is the worst misogynistic rant I have read from a woman. She quite plainly does not like her own sex - and she's not too keen on men either as she seems to be saying they are stupid for not seeing through women's manipulation.

Women are brought up, apparently, to manipulate men into supporting them in idleness for the rest of their lives. Women are all completely stupid - though I'm not sure where that leaves the author herself. Women are not interested in knowledge for its own sake. If they start brushing up their knowledge of a subject it's only because they want to impress men. Girls don't play with the same toys as boys - at which I started to laugh. I had a chemistry set and a microscope as well as a collection of toy cars. My brother and I pooled our collections of Lego so that we had more to choose from and could build bigger projects. I never was a girly girl and wasn't too keen on dolls except paper ones though I did like sewing and knitting so I was happy to make dolls' clothes.

Overall I would say this book is actually supporting feminism as the author disagrees with the stereotype of women being supported by men. She obviously hasn't read Betty Friedan if she thinks all women find housework and childcare personally fulfilling.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Iceland - land fit for women

I've just read that Iceland - tiny, cold country of 320,000 people - is on the brink of passing a law that bans lap dancing clubs and strip clubs and virtually closes down the country's sex industry including prostitution. How have they managed to do it? Because both men and women are behind the ban. It could also have something to do with the fact that there are a high number of female politicians and they have a female Prime Minister - Johanna Siguroardottir.

Apparently feminists are virtually completely in favour of the ban whereas in this country feminists tend to be in two opposing camps - one saying that women can choose these jobs if they want and other saying objectifying women, even if women are willing to be objectified, is completely wrong. So - what we need is a united front.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Women are imbeciles

I recently got involved in an online discussion with someone who was trying to say that any country which has women in power will inevitably degenerate into chaos and anarchy. His reasons? Women are incapable psychologically of maturity and will always remain immature. He quoted stuff about Jung's theory of the 'anima' and 'animus' and said women would always project their animus onto the men in their lives but men are able to actualise both sides. Which is not what Jung said at all and unfortunately for him I happened to know more about that than he did and told him he was wrong. Jung said the ideal was for both men and women to actualise both anima and animus but that it was pretty difficult to do and required a high degree of self knowledge.

Then he went on about women being incapable of thinking for themselves and always following the herd. Women are not designed to be leaders - they should always defer to men who are meant to be leaders. I reminded him of several powerful women and he retorted with 'Women are all imbeciles - you are no exception'. Right. OK - I think I know where I stand then and I presume he felt he'd lost the argument because as I pointed out if I had been an imbecile I wouldn't have been reading his convoluted and confused posts in the first place.

If these are the idiots we're up against it's going to take a long time to change the world, Sisters!

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Betty Friedan

I have been re-reading Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique having first read it way back in the early 1970s. It examines the trend in 1950s and 1960s America which glorified women's maternal and housewifely roles as being the only roles for women. Early marriage was common as were large families. But equally common were high rates of mental and physical illness among housewives and mothers. Half the stay at home mothers seemed to be on anti depressants or tranquilisers in order to help them 'adjust to their feminine role'.

That phrase, to me, says it all. If so many people need the help of drugs or analysis to adjust to a role which is supposed to be the best thing for them to do with their lives then there is something wrong with the role and not the people concerned. There are some real gems in this book - such as the man who wondered why women took so much time over housework and domestic stuff generally. He took over a household for a few days and in the first day had done a mammoth amount of cleaning and washing as well as baking cakes and preparing meals in advance and looking after the children.

Because they were confined to their homes - like benign concentration camps - the women made their work last as long as possible and turned it into an art form. The author compared two families - one where the mother had a career of her own and one where the mother stayed at home. Where the mother had a career she was able to fit housework into the time before or after work and generally had time in the evening to sit down and read a book. The family where the mother stayed at home the husband had to do a lot of the housework because his wife never seemed to get it all done and she always seemed to be busy and had no leisure time for herself.

The author suggests that if anyone is bored with no outlet for their creative energies they will seek to expand the work they do have to do and probably carry it out to a far higher standard than is necessary. Housework is boring but necessary so you get it done in the shortest possible time and move on to something more interesting.

Housework and childcare for most women are boring and necessary work but society sees them as the be all and end all of a woman's existence. Are we in danger of doing the same thing today? Martha Stewart anyone?

Monday, 15 March 2010

Badly behaved women

Venus: The Dark Side by Roy Shepphard and Mary Cleary is aimed at men and suggests that it is only women who behave badly in relationships and try to destroy men. The book should really have been called 'How to Live with Difficult People' because all the behaviours they describe could equally be exhibited by men. They cover things such a Borderline Personality Disorder, Sociopaths, compulsive liars, narcissistic personalities etc. They also explain how to deal with divorce - don't tell your wife you're divorcing her and take all the money out of the joint account and out it in your own name. Hmmm - not really the way to start if you want an amicable divorce and the advice could be applied to both men and women.

Many of the behaviours they say are suspicious at the start of a relationship are capable of more than one interpretation; for example - turning your mobile phone off, not immediately agreeing to dates when asked, not having sex on the first date. But if the woman was always available, agreed to anything you suggested and had sex on the first date - she'd be called needy and a slut. So basically unless you're a paragon of virtue, constantly massaging his ego, putting his needs before your own - do not think you can have a relationship with any man who has read this book and put all its advice into practice.

There is also a very patronising list of questions a man should ask a woman if he is thinking of starting a relationship with her including questions about her attitude to money, how many previous relationships, did she keep engagement rings, was she abused as a child, what has she done in the past when people have upset her. It even advocates getting your friends to ask her some of the questions and report back to you with the answers and asking her friends about her. The questions could equally well have been asked of men.

The only point in which I do agree with the authors is that ALL domestic violence should be treated equally serious - whoever is the victim.

Friday, 12 March 2010

A quote I love

Rebecca West - the novelist and long term lover of the married H G Wells - commented on feminism as follows:

I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist when I express sentiments which differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Enlightened Sexism

Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism's Work is Done by Susan J Douglas is a new American book about feminism and where it is today by reference to TV programmes and films. I've read about 100 pages so far and I'm finding it really interesting and well written. I must be the only women in the Western Hemisphere who has never seen Sex and the City, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Desperate Housewives but it doesn't stop me understanding what the author is saying.

There are many touches of humour in the book but it does have a serious message about consumerism and the way buying the latest must have fashion accessory is so much a part of modern American life. The book covers some of the same area as Nina Power's One Dimensional Woman which looks at consumerism, television, films and women though Power's much shorter book covers the issues in the UK rather than in America.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

International Women's Day - yesterday

Why do we need International Women's Day? To highlight problems such as female genital mutilation, lack of education for women in some countries, lack of freedom, forced marriages, equal job opportunities, equal pay for equal work, violence both by and against women.

There are still problems out there which need to be solved. I can't remember the exact figures but I think over the whole world women own less than 10% of the world's property and wealth - so inevitably they have less freedom and fewer opportunities. That in itself would be enough of a reason to have such a day.

It is also 40 years this year since the first publication of Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch - which acted as a focus for the women's liberation movement in the UK much as Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique had done in the US in the 1960s. It is this anniversary which has prompted - I think - the publication of Natasha Walter's Living Dolls, Kat Banyard's The Equality Illusion and later in the year Catherine Redfern's Reclaiming the F Word. There was also Nina Power's One Dimensional Woman which was published at the end of last year and looks at women and the consumer society. So 4 books on various aspects of feminism and women today in the UK. Then there is a US offering from Susan J Douglas - Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism's Work is Done.

This is an ideal time it seems to be interested in feminism.

Sunday, 7 March 2010


I am always intrigued by reading comments on news stories where there is any possibility of a male/female debate. It seems to me - from what is reported in the news - that men regularly murder their wives/partners and children after a relationship breakdown. I know it is not an exclusively male trait but there seem to be more men doing it at the moment and it is often blamed on the supposedly biased court system which favours women. As though that is a justification for murdering anyone.

Seems to me people - whether male or female - do it because they can't stand rejection.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

The Equality Illusion - part 2

The Equality Illusion: Women and Men Today by Kat Banyard is excellent reading. It covers some of the same areas as Natasha Walter's Living Dolls. I would have liked to see more about the way stereotypes and conventional expectations adversely affect men - especially in view of the title but that said there is some excellent material here. It highlights the fact that we still do not have an equal society and that women's bodies are treated as men's playthings far more than they were prior to the rise of feminism.

I found the chapter on pornography very disturbing. Not being someone who searches for it on the Internet I had not realised the violence and sheer nastiness there is in much pornography on the Internet. The author only looked at the top 10 hits on Google and these were horrendous. I am in general anti censorship but this sort of stuff needs to be kept away from children as it seems to be fuelling some very unpleasant behaviour among teenage boys.

The sexual harassment girls are subjected to at school was truly shocking to read about as well - and yet teachers' reactions were - 'boys will be boys'. They did not take it seriously. But are boys subjected to the same treatment by some girls? The book is silent on this point.

The chapter on domestic violence was interesting though it did not shed any new light on the subject and omitted to mention violence perpetrated by women on men - suggesting that any such episodes are a merely self defence. I would have liked to have seen a bit more about violence can affect men as well. Domestic violence is serious - whoever is the victim.

There is a useful list of the organisations connected with the fight for equality and comprehensive notes for each chapter together with a short reading list. A well written book though the author omits to mention that while the Sex Discrimination Act has the date of 1975 on it, it didn't come into force until - I think - the end of 1976. I was applying for jobs in 1976 and I can remember being asked questions about my intentions as regards having children because I was newly married. These questions were not illegal at the time.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Equality Illusion

Kat Banyard's The Equality Illusion: The Truth about Women and Men Today covers some of the same ground as Natasha Walter's Living Dolls. I've read about 60 pages of it so far and it is really interesting - and thought provoking. She wrote it as a result of interviewing over 100 people about equality issues.

The book is arranged as though the reader is living through 24 hours and showing how women spend time doing things which men never need to do. She talks about eating disorders and how they affect women's lives - over 90% of eating disorder sufferers are women. We see how even young girls are expected to go to school wearing make up. Which made me think about what happened to school rules which banned makeup? I can remember the deputy headmistress standing over girls while they scrubbed their faces if they dared to go to school with makeup on. It usually earned people at least a detention.

I will review the book at greater length when I've finished it.