After two wonderful weeks of travelling all over Ontario to visit family and friends, as well as entertaining people in our home, it feels really good to have a quiet weekend with nothing on the schedule — nothing other than these couple of hours alone in the café to satisfy my craving for writing. Believe me, not being able to write during the holidays is more of a punishment than a vacation for me.
I know I mentioned Caitlin Moran’s feminist book How To Be A Woman in a recent post, and anyone who has spent any time with me over the past weeks knows that this is pretty much all I’m talking about — yes, even at Christmas dinner with the extended family, but only because my aunt had seen the book on top of my bag and wanted to hear about it.
Now I’ve finished it, after prolonging the delicious latter half because, honestly, I didn’t want it to end. Her writing, while not academic in any way, is funny and sensible and provocative. She says things that make me squirm — and I consider myself someone who is comfortable talking about anything. Masturbation, abortion, porn, pet names for female genitalia, Brazilian waxes… nothing is off limits and she stares down all of these aspects of what it means to be female (plus countless others) with an unfaltering, deliberate scrutiny that makes some of them seem utterly ridiculous and others perfectly normal. The chapters that made the biggest impression on me, however, were on feminism (the chapter devoted to her moment of enlightenment at 15), strip clubs, and abortion.
I am 100% on board with Moran, who believes that feminism has failed young women today and needs to be reclaimed. It started out as such a promising movement but has clearly not done what is needed if only 29% of American women and 42% of British women call themselves feminists. So what is feminism? It means making the world equal for men and women, that women can be as free as men, that women have complete control over themselves and their bodies. If you’re in doubt, try Moran’s quick feminist test: “Put your hand in your underpants: a) Do you have a vagina? and b) Do you want to be in charge of it? If you answered yes to both, then congratulations, you’re a feminist!”
It never fails to astonish me how strip clubs are considered a rite of passage for young men today. Whenever one of my husband’s friends gets married, the bachelor party almost always involves a strip club which makes me insane. Moran, however, articulated exactly what bothers me about it: How can it possibly be socially acceptable in a modern society to pay for “light entertainment” versions of the entire history of misogyny, where women are deemed little more than souped-up sex toys for men? It’s as incongruous as ads for “Jew Beating” or “Minstrel Shows!” or a white-owned cleaning agency that employs only blacks dressed in plantation clothing. The whole world would be up in arms because you simply can’t do that. Why is paying women for their body parts any different?
Interestingly, Iceland outlawed strip clubs in 2010 for feminist, rather than religious, reasons. The lesbian prime minister, backed by a parliament that is 50% female, said, “I guess the men of Iceland will have to get used to the idea that women are not for sale.” Wow — when I read that, I jumped up from the sofa and danced around the room for a minute, shrieking, then I read the whole chapter aloud to my husband.
This definitely will become a separate post, but Moran got me thinking in particular about society’s expectation that women must be constantly loving and protective of all life, that we must be prepared to give and give and give. Why is it so wrong to put a cap on our ability to give and say, “Enough is enough?” Clearly the world doesn’t view human life as sacred, with all our wars, famines, epidemics, pain, and poverty. “Why should a pregnant woman be subject to more pressure about preserving life than, say, Vladimir Putin, the World Bank, or the Catholic Church?” Anyways, lots more thoughts about that yet to come…
So this is where I’m at right now, my head swimming with new surging feminist opinions. I’m hungry to read more — Camille Paglia, Germaine Greer, anything I can get my hands on right now. Suggestions, anyone? Please share your thoughts on strip clubs and abortion, too. Do you call yourself a feminist, male or female?