Dear old Skint Writer, that well-known feminist advocate, kindly tagged me for a meme concerning the things that feminism has done for me. This is a subject that I am, of course, glad to tackle, knowing as I do, just about everything that is good for women. But before I launch into my learned reply, maybe I can get my apologies in first by way of a rather craven preamble?
In my defence for what follows may I ask you to remember that I am a middle-aged guy who was a grown man – male chauvinist? - when modern feminism was no more than a glint in Germaine Greer’s eyes. I became aware of the feminist movement only gradually. Some of my (male) friends still regard many of its tenets with a mixture of distrust and only grudging acceptance.
Although I have made a real effort to become a properly-reconstructed male I only manage to keep treading this righteous path by making a real, and continuous, effort – something that doesn’t come naturally to a man. Notwithstanding my many shortcomings be assured that I accept feminism was a long overdue movement that emancipated women from the yoke of men. It was – and is - a good thing. Indeed, by and large, I believe that women still get an unfair deal at the hands of men in many walks of life.
So here goes, here’s five things feminism has done for me:
1 Feminism opened my eyes to the fact that women were people too. Until I was twenty-five or so I put all women on a pedestal, taking a wildly romantic view of the species, thinking they were something special, unknowable, magical, exciting in their strangeness. I now treat all women as equals, in much the same way that I treat men. Something has been lost here, but more has obviously been gained.
2 Feminism showed me that I was treating my wife like an underpaid servant. She held down a job, did the shopping, hoovered, cleaned the lavatory, made the beds, ironed etc etc. In return, I imagined I was the main breadwinner, worked the longest hours, earned the most money, took responsibility for the family budget, cooked the occasional meal.
Except that, in reality, there never was a fair division of labour or responsibilities. She did the lion’s share of the domestic chores, played her full part in earning the family income, cared just as deeply about the family welfare as I ever did. In other words, I was a lazy male slob, taking her efforts for granted. I’m not as bad as I used to be – if I was she would have left me long ago - but I still don’t do my share. No wonder I feel guilty typing these words. Actually, thanks to feminism there are times when I feel guilty about being a man. We seem to be the cause of most of the misery and unhappiness in the world today.
3 Feminism alerted me to the unfairness of many organisations and institutions. Parliament, big business, academia etc are all under-represented by women, often unfairly so. In these institutions women’s views are rarely accorded equal weight with those of men. We still live in a male-dominated world.
4 Feminism conditioned me to think in a politically-correct way. Nowadays I dare write nothing about women without thinking through the implications of what I’m really saying, searching out the hidden meanings that may betray my old outdated values. This is as it should be. However, as a result, sometimes I’ll keep quiet, fearing a possible feminist backlash. There is something wrong here – I wouldn’t worry in the same way about upsetting men just because they are men.
5 Feminism gave me a wife who over the years has become stronger and more independently-minded as the world has changed. A wife who can stand up for herself, giving as good as she gets, and more, in a man’s world. Someone I respect more and more as she has matured, and as a result, love all the more too.
Hm. Maybe I should do the ironing, and then she might respect me a little bit too.