Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Is it feminism or sexism that is alive and well?

As soon as I saw this over on the ever splendid ASBO Jesus I knew I wouldn't be able to resist posting it. It's been interesting to go back to it a few days after seeing it originally and read the discussion about feminism in the comments.
There are so many pre-conceieved ideas around what feminism is. Part of me is sad that feminism has such a bad press, but in the end it's about getting the message across about equality and dignity for women. For the vast majority of poor women across the world it is not about discussions about who does the housework, but about access to education, healthcare and a decent life. These poorest women are growing much of the world's food, working hard at home and beyond the home, they often live in situations of extreme vulnerability and are not seen as equal citizens. In the end for me feminism is about passionately believing that women deserve as much dignity as men. Of course women are not better than men. Of course men are not better than women.
A cartoon like this one reminds me that I am hugely privileged - to have access to work, to live with a man who values me as an equally flawed human being (of course we do sometimes disagree as to who is more flawed but that's just married life!), to have leisure to reflect on the meaning of life rather than to worry where the next meal will come from or whether the next bullet, bomb or rape will be for me. In the end feminism for me is about saying my (perhaps seemingly petty) struggles are not unrelated to greater and more important struggles by women in many places. How societies view, judge or value women has a direct impact on ordinary women's lives. I'm trying to play my own small part to make sure that feminism stays alive and remains fun as well as feisty.
Meanwhile if anyone seriously believes that sexism is dead I would encourage you to watch some of the videos on the Lenten campaign to overcome violence against women.

"Sexual and gender-based violence shreds the very fabric of society" said Dr Manoj Kurian, WCC programme executive for Health and Healing. "While it undermines the physical and psychological health of people, it also questions the integrity of our life and faith. We have no illusions that these problems will be easily solved. Our aim with the study is to encourage our churches and communities to examine these often unspoken and unrecognized acts of violence, so as to address the root causes. We also encourage churches and communities not to use theology selectively nor hide behind cultural tenets to defend such violence. It is only by acknowledging the pain and the ongoing hurt that we can begin to seek justice, truth and ultimately the healing and reconciliation of individuals and communities." More here.