Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
Do you hate men? Do you think they are all a bit useless and pointless, and now that you’ve got your “modern woman” accoutrements like a career and easy sex, wonder why they are still around? Do you refuse to let your “mate” love and provide for you?
Congratulations. You are no longer a woman.
I know, right! I mean here I was, laboring under the albeit cissexist assumption that I am a woman. I’ve always assumed that, even though my uppity ways would suggest that while I might be a woman, I’m certainly no lady.
It’s strange though. You see, apparently feminism won me all these things. A career, though odds are good I’ll still be paid less than the men in my profession. Apparently I can have “sex at hello”. Which would be nice, if I weren’t threatened with sexual assault for doing just that, and if I couldn’t remember in vivid detail the most recent time I was called a slut for wearing a tight skirt. It won me the right to parent as I like – with or without a job – but seemingly I need to cave to men over that, because I need them to “pick up the slack at the office”.
She’s right. I am angry. And probably more than my fair share of defensive. But I’m not angry because I think of men as the enemy. Trite as it is, I think of the patriarchy as the enemy, and that it hurts all genders as much as it hurts me. And Ms Venker here is apparently a High Priestess of the Institutionalised Sexism denomination.
Maybe I should just admit it. I hate men. I don’t want them around, and I don’t ever want to get married or have babies, because that would get in the way of my plans to smash the glass ceiling and have all the sex I want. With *gasp* whoever I want. Oh, and I hate porn.
So, I took the quiz. I thought i might need the 12 step programme to get over my ridiculous fantasies (of equality, perv). I thought, maybe, this was true:
…there’s nothing empowering about moving in and out of intense romantic relationships, postponing marriage indefinitely, or pursuing careers with a verve that belies common sense. There’s nothing empowering about shacking up, rejecting your husband’s surname, ignoring your biological clock, refusing to depend on a husband, or becoming a single mom.
To be truly empowered, you’re going to have to do a 180.
You mean, there’s NOTHING empowering about having a life of my own? That any man who might want to marry me might value my career and not just my capacity to breed. That (get those pearls ready for clutching) I Might Not Even Want Children. That I might want to keep my own name as a sign of my independence and that I am not just my husband’s property.
Anyway, now I’m confused. I don’t need the programme. I felt so sure I would. I felt so sure Ms Venker and Fox news and their ilk would consider me such a pointless woman, with my career and my high heels and my disturbingly silent biological clock. But. I don’t consider myself better than men. I’m not holding out for Brad Pitt. Or George Clooney for that matter. I’m (through luck rather than design) not a product of divorce, nor do I need to be right all the time. As often as possible, but not every time. Smart, stable and kind sounds lovely, though I’d throw in funny, and certain…other requirements. (Mostly grammar-related.) Even mustering the loosest definitions possible, I still only managed four yesses.
One last thing.
What exactly are “the consequences of sex”? As in
It’s all so unfortunate – for women, not men. Feminism serves men very well: they can have sex at hello and even live with their girlfriends with no responsibilities whatsoever. It’s the women who lose. Not only are they saddled with the consequences of sex, by dismissing male nature they’re forever seeking a balanced life.
You’re talking about babies, right? They’re the consequences of sex? First, how delightful. Second, women are left, quite literally, holding the baby, and it’s FUCKING FEMINISM THAT IS THE PROBLEM?
Courtesy of DPF, a list of people who have been part of The Panel on Radio NZ’s Afternoon Show with Jim Mora in the last month or so. DPF is interested in political diversity, so he divides the people into right leaning, left leaning, and unknown. He comes up with 7 right wing people, 19 left wing people and 11 unknown.
I’m interested in diversity too, and the particular type of diversity that concerns me is gender diversity. So here’s DPF’s list of people, grouped by gender.
1. David Farrar
2. Neil Miller
3. John Bishop
4. Sam Johnson
5. Stephen Franks
6. Matt Nippert
7. Martyn Bradbury
8. Jeremy Elwood
9. Simon Pound
10. Duncan Webb
11. Brian Edwards
12. Mike Williams
13. Gary McCormick
14. Tim Watkin
15. David Slack
16. Chris Trotter
17. Don Donovan
18. Finlay MacDonald
19. Gary Moore
20. Scott Yorke
21. Tony Doe
22. Graham Bell
23. David McPhail
24. John Dunne
25. Chris Wikaira
26. Richard Langston
1. Joanne Black
2. Michelle Boag
3. Deborah Hill-Cone
4. Michelle A’Court
5. Anna Chinn
6. Islay McLeod
7. Liz Bowen-Clewley
8. Irene Gardiner
9. Rosemary McLeod
10. Ali Jones
11. Jane Clifton
Hmmm…. I’m spotting a slight lack of diversity there. Only about 30% of the guest panelists are women. So, Jim Mora, and Radio NZ, how about making a bit of an effort to get some more opinionated women on the panel? I’m sure there are plenty to be found.
As for other diversities, I could find only one obviously Maori name on the list. My guess is that there is more than one Maori panelist, but I can’t tell from names alone. And I would be willing to bet good money that there aren’t all that many Maori appearing on the show as panelists. Or Pacific Islanders, for that matter. I wonder if Radio NZ and Jim Mora would consider approaching someone like Tapu Misa to appear on the show? Or Anjum Rahman?
Update: Following a comment from David Slack, I did a quick count-up using the Radio NZ Archives. Counting yesterday (Wednesday 12 October) and working back to and including Tuesday 13 September, I found that DPF had omitted Jock Anderson, Richard Langston, Bruce Slane, Peter Elliot, Peggy Ashton and Linda Clark. Michelle Boag appeared twice, as did DPF, and Neil Miller. So in all, there were 30 male guests, and 13 female guests. In terms of appearances, there were 32 appearances by men, and 14 by women. So yes, there have been other women appearing on the panel. But if we take the last month as representative (and yes, I know there could be issues around that), then no matter how we massage the data, there’s a something like a 2.3:1 ratio of male to female panelists.
She stepped up behind me and I felt her fingers working through my caught hair. It brought the memory of another long-ago touch: my mother combing out snags and knots.
“Why do you wear women’s clothes? There is no power in being a woman, and you are suffering for your choice,” I said. “You could wear men’s tunics and they’d leave you alone.”
The pin came free and she stepped away from me. I heard it clink onto the crowded table.
“When I was seven or so, my sister caught me wearing her skirt,” Lady Dela said softly. “But even before that, I knew I was different from the other boys in our tribe. Nothing boyish came naturally to me. I hated hunting, fishing, even the ball games. I had to work at it, all the time.”
I turned around. Her arms were wrapped tightly around her body.
“Then one day I found the beaded skirt my sister had laboured over for months, tucked away in our family’s tent,” she continued. “When I put it on, I felt complete. I remember thinking that it was just the thing to wear to the mudhole while I pretended to make the special bread our mother baked for Midwinter Feast.” She smiled ruefully. “As you can imagine, beautiful beaded skirts and mud do not mix. My sister found me and dragged me back to our mother for a beating. Of course, my sister’s righteous indignation was lost in the excitement when my mother and the other women saw me dressed in a skirt.”
“What did they do?”
“Instead of a beating, my mother sat me down beside her and showed me how to mill the rice. She always suspected I was a twin soul. She was just waiting for me to come to it myself. A wise woman, my mother. But I did not take on the life of a Contraire until much later. Until I was sure. It is an honoured position in my tribe.” She gave a small, bitter laugh. “Not so honoured here.”
She moved in front of the mirror, surveying herself. “I do not wear men’s clothing because I am a woman in here,” she touched her head, “and here,” she touched her heart. “You are wrong when you say there is no power in being a woman. When I think of my mother and the women in my tribe, and even the hidden women in the harem, I know there are many types of power in this world.” She turned to face me. “I found power in accepting the truth of who I am. It may not be a truth that others can accept, but I cannot live any other way. How would it be to live a lie every minute of our life? I don’t think I could do it.”
By way of explanation, I can’t find any evidence anywhere of Alison Goodman claiming to be feminist. However her book Eon is strongly feminist, with an interesting heroine, and a nuanced and sympathetic extended discussion of gender. The plot is simple, but the characters are complex, and the ideas are fascinating and beautiful. It’s a young adults book which I bought it for my emerging teen daughter, and read and enjoyed myself.
This is a post I put up on my own blog a couple of years ago which I thought might be interesting to people reading here. I’ve reworded it slightly in a couple of places.
Some years ago, I heard a seminar talk and read a paper by Dr Natalie Stoljar, “Essence, Identity, and the Concept of Woman.”* I know the paper is sometimes discussed and often referenced in academic feminist philosophy and women’s studies, but it may not be well known beyond the academy. Yet it has an analysis of the nature of being woman that could be extraordinarily useful, far beyond the academy. What follows is my understanding of one of the key points that Dr Stoljar makes in her paper, about the nature of woman.
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