Feminism is not a four letter word

cover of Harpies & HeroinesI sometimes feel like a leaky tap. Drip, drip, dripping onto a huge stone, and the noise probably drives everyone around me crazy.

My life long  reason for harping on? The position of women and their rights in the world. More recently, I have noticed how most younger women take what they can do for granted and don’t realise how recently some of their ‘rights’ have been ‘given’ to them. New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the vote in 1893. This event is celebrated on 19 September each year and it is a good time to take stock of where women are in our society.

Many young women I’ve talked with think every woman has always been able to go to university, work full time, be a doctor, run a company, or own property.

Do they worry, I ask them, that female Rock and Pop artists still have to shake their bootie and let it all hang out to be a star? Their answer is that it is their choice, their way of showing strength and self empowerment. So why do the male artists not have to strip to be famous?

Cover of The Stalking of Julia GillardRecent news tells me we certainly haven’t ‘come a long way baby’. An English woman was bombarded with rape threats and other offensive abuse for campaigning to have a woman celebrated on a British banknote.

Whether you like a woman’s politics or not, female politicians are still vilified for so many reasons other than their political beliefs. Questions are asked such as why do they not have children, or if they have children, why aren’t they at home raising them? Female politicians can  vilified for being too fat or thin, or a bad dresser.

I have yet to hear a male politician criticised about his ties, or whether his haircut befits a leader of the nation.

cartoonWomen are still being criticised for breastfeeding in public, but you don’t have to go far to find pictures publicly displayed of women showing more than a woman feeding her baby would.

As Suffrage day is upon us again, I feel proud of the women who came before me and made my life better and proud of the things I have done in my life to increase awareness and make change, but I also feel frustrated by how much there is still to do and the stubbornness of our society to give half our population a fair and equitable deal in all things.

There are so many examples of New Zealand women fighting the good fight and living amazing lives. Here are some Christchurch connected stars who led the way:

  • Elizabeth McCombs was the first woman to be elected as an MP, in 1933, when she won the Lyttelton seat.
  • Elsie Locke was a prominent author and political activist, feminist and peace advocate
  • Ettie Rout is most famous as a safe sex campaigner in World War 1, setting up a safe sex brothel and designing a safe sex kit which was officially adopted by the NZEF and handed out compulsorily to all soldiers going on leave.
  • Kate Sheppard  became the leader of the fight to win the right for women to vote in elections. She organised petitions to Parliament asking for the right to vote for women and persuaded Sir John Hall, a leading member of Parliament, to support them.

To call yourself a feminist still seems to mean you are seen as uptight, man hating and with no sense of humour, when in fact being a feminist just means you believe in every person in every society being given equal rights, and the ability to live the life they wish to, unfettered by prejudice or laws that hinder this.

Do you care about women’s rights, or do you think women have equal rights, and there is no more work to be done?

10 thoughts on “Feminism is not a four letter word

  1. Laraine 19 September 2013 / 1:20 pm

    We have certainly come a long way since when I was a kid, though I agree there is still a lot more that needs doing. In an age when mothers didn’t usually work, my mother worked full time (because my father didn’t earn enough to raise four girls) and had to keep the house and raise us with just about no help from my father. Yes, we were latchkey kids, something which some busybody somewhere would report to the authorities today. And my husband was raised by a woman old enough to have been my grandmother, which means my husband never helped around the house (was waited on hand and foot by his mother) so consequently things were much the same for me. Today’s husbands seem to take it for granted that they help look after babies, help with cleaning, cooking, shopping, etc. Any husband who doesn’t is asking for divorce.

    • purplerulzpurplerulz 20 September 2013 / 2:47 pm

      yes, I know when my kids were little and I was at home, I fell into the trap of doing everything, certainly second time around , I share things and don’t do ironing and only cook twice a week.

  2. Jan 19 September 2013 / 4:04 pm

    I am still waiting for a couple of All Blacks to be interviewed on TV while shopping in a supermarket as some Silver Ferns were before the first netball test last week. Its obviously women’s work. And that was a young female reporter too.

    • purplerulzpurplerulz 20 September 2013 / 2:48 pm

      Yes, I was stunned by that too.. a couple of gals bonding over a shopping trip.. how exciting!

  3. Sophie 19 September 2013 / 7:24 pm

    I think we still have a ways left to go. I didn’t realise today was a celebration of women’s suffrage in NZ. I don’t know if I count as a ‘younger woman’, but I know plenty who are engaged with our feminist history.

    • purplerulzpurplerulz 20 September 2013 / 2:56 pm

      I do know some wonderful young women carrying the torch, and I for one loved the recent video by Auckland Law students parodying a sexist and frankly boring video…sending up ridiculousness by doing the same back.

      • Sophie 20 September 2013 / 4:10 pm

        Yes, I loved that too. How could I not?!

  4. Bibliobishi 19 September 2013 / 7:42 pm

    Hear Hear. We have come a long way but we do have a long way to go before we look like achieving equality. I fear a lot of young women have no idea how hard it was for these brave women who gained us all the vote and the pride in being the first country to give women the vote. I could not believe the questions Julia Gillard was asked recently during the campaign to axe her. There is no way a male politician would have had the same questions, the interviewer wouldn’t have dared.

    • purplerulzpurplerulz 20 September 2013 / 2:56 pm

      Yes, so many women in power are giving the third degree about appearance and life choice when their male counterparts don’t…

  5. Gallivanta 19 September 2013 / 9:38 pm

    It is a good day to take stock of how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. My blog post today was also on the importance of this day and I was pleased to be able to link to the excellent posts written on this subject on the library blog. There is so much work yet to be done.

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