Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
Among 35 major national print publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, men had 81 percent of the quotes in stories about abortion, the research group said Thursday, while women had 12 percent, and organizations had 7 percent.
In stories about birth control, men scored 75 percent of the quotes, with women getting 19 percent and organizations getting 6 percent. Stories about Planned Parenthood had a similar ratio, with men getting 67 percent, women getting 26 percent, and organizations getting 7 percent.
Women fared a bit better in stories about women’s rights, getting 31 percent of the quotes compared with 52 percent for men and 17 percent for organizations.
I’ve been thinking about issues of representation, and voice, and presence, and diversity, of late, mostly in a recent op-ed I wrote for the Dom Post, but also in just an idling sort of way, thinking about who gets to write columns for our major newspapers. I tend to read The Dominion Post and the New Zealand Herald. In the Dom Post, I can think of two women who have regular opinion columns there: Tracey Watkins and Rosemary McLeod. Trevett is a political reporter, and Rosemary McLeod is a feminist writer in the same sense that Chris Trotter is a left wing writer (see The Dim-Post for an explication of this). The New Zealand Herald lists four women among its eleven opinion writers: Dita di Boni (parenting, politics of parenting, parenting while female), Audrey Young (politics), Fran O’Sullivan (business and politics), Kerre Woodham (life, parenting, stuff). Plus there’s Claire Trevett (politics), and Shelley Bridgeman (if you can think of a category for her let me know), though their Sunday line-up is fairly XY oriented, especially with the recent replacement of Deborah Coddington by Rodney Hide. Even so, overall, there are noticeably more men than women, especially so in the Dom Post.
Way way back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I first became aware of feminism, and first started seeking out feminist voices, I would never have dreamed that we would still be fighting to get an equal share of the national discourse.
My partner and I are rearing three wonderful girls. We’re doing our best to help them to develop enquiring, critical, engaged minds, and a sense of justice, and a desire to be good people, who care for themselves and for others. But much as I would like to, I don’t think I can raise them to be feminists.
The reason is straightforward. If we are able to help our children to become independent thinkers, then feminism is a choice they must come to on their own. My guess and my hope is that each of them will develop her own commitment to feminism, but it must be their own commitment, not mine.
There are perils in rearing independent thinkers. They have a wretched habit of going their own way. To my horror and great delight, when Ms Thirteen was a tiny girl of four, she sat at the lunch table and announced that she had changed her mind about what she was going to spend her carefully accumulated pocket money on. She had decided that she wasn’t going to get a goldfish, and instead, she was going to get something that I wouldn’t like (she said this with a sideways and then very direct look at me). That child is going to get herself a Barbie, I thought to myself. And she did. Her father had to assist her, taking her down town, and lending her the extra four dollars she needed to buy some clothes (she worked it off in chores), and he did so with my support. She had made an independent decision about what to spend her money on, and we didn’t want to countermand her sense of autonomy.
Over time, the decisions will no doubt become much more difficult, especially when the girls start to develop their own sets of compromises with the world. All I can do is be on hand to talk the issues through with them, if they want to, to point them towards books and articles and blogs and artworks that may help them to work out their ideas, and to reassure them that no one is right all the time, no feminist leads the perfect feminist life, no one person has all the insights and answers needed, or even understands all the questions that can be asked. They may not want to call themselves feminist. And it would be wrong of me to require them to do so.
They are of course, learning feminism. How could they not, living with me, and with their father, and hearing the political and ethical and theoretical discussions we engage in nearly every day. Sometimes extended, sometimes just a brief comment, but there as the constant background of our lives. They’re also absorbing a fair degree of classical history, and science, and literature, ‘though not so much about sports. They already know a fair amount about feminism. But calling themselves feminists is a different matter.
I will just have to wait and see.
For anyone who might be inclined to wonder why I am not raising my sons with a knowledge of feminism… I have only daughters. Although I rejoice greatly in my daughters, this statement is to be read as expressing neither regret nor delight: it is a mere statement of fact. I would have rejoiced in sons too, had we happened to have sons.