09 March, 2008

Where are you, daughters of Germaine?


Yesterday was International Womens Day. I must say I didn't realise until about 10pm last night. It was discussed on the TV this morning by a panel in predictable fashion - is it still relevant? - and of course the men thought not. Worse still, one of the female panelists (aged 30 something) said that women her age didn't think they were feminists.

This always pisses me off. Girls, ladies, women, if you think you are worth as much as someone with a penis then you are a feminist. If you think your reproductive organs don't make your brain smaller, you are a feminist. Shame on you if you think we're all equal today and feminism is a swear word.

Yes, we've come a long way. We are no longer the property of our closest male relative. We have the vote. We can stand for parliament. We have equal rights to education and health care. We can own property. We can have our own bank account. So, what's all the fuss about?

Is International Womens Day still relevant? Hell, yes. Here are just a few examples. I could give more but it'll only put my blood pressure up.

In Australia, we do not have the legal right to paid maternity leave. It's the 21st century. Europe is so far ahead of us on this one it's embarrassing. What the fuck have Australian women been doing for the last 30 odd years to catch up with the rest of the developed world? (apart from the US of course, but they're all a bit odd anyway.) Yes, you can do the same job as a man, you might even get paid the same amount of money (you might not, either). But don't be looking to come back to that job later and don't expect any pay when you're at home, sitting on your arse watching daytime TV. You've got the uterus, you chose to have a baby, now get on with it.

In the 21st century girls are still being forced into arranged marriages in Britain as well as other countries. Females born in the UK where women have had the vote for a century are still being treated as though they are the property of their father. So called honour killings make the news headlines on an alarmingly frequent basis. Young women have their lives snuffed out, often at the hands of their own family members, all for not obeying someone elses orders on who they should marry.

Healthy female foetuses are still being aborted for no reason other than they are the 'wrong' sex. The classic example is the experience of China where the one child policy has seen the gender balance tip dangerously in favour of males. And whilst some lucky girls make it out of the orphanages to Western families there are too many left behind.

This message, released by the United Nations Girls Education Initiative on International Womens Day, shows we still have a long way to go to be equal. Only one in four girls in Somalia attend school and this pattern is repeated throughout developing nations. Education is the key to freedom. I don't know where I'd be without the education I received but I do know I wouldn't be where I am today. I can read and write. I can earn my own money, I'm able to make my own choices. I'm free. I owe this to my education, without a doubt.

Female genital mutilation is still being carried out. Let's call this what it is and not hide behind the 'nicer' term of female circumcision. Whilst male circumcision is a controversial area for some, it really doesn't compare to a young girl being pinned down and attacked with a dirty knife without anaesthetic. The removal of a foreskin isn't in the same league as the removal of a clitoris, the labia and the sewing up of the vaginal opening. In some cases the opening is just big enough to allow for menstrual flow. All this to 'keep a girl nice'. So, it's goodbye to people thinking you're a potential slapper with normal physiology and hello to a lifetime of urinary, gynaecological and psychological problems. Super. That's if you don't die from infection first. It's against the law in many countries but don't kid yourselves, it's still happening. And it's not in the name of religion, either. It's about control.

Plan is doing some excellent work for girls, please have a look and help if you can.

Is International Womens Day still relevant? I should jolly well think so. The clue is in the title. International. I might have the right to pick between two white, middle class men every election time and I might also have a vast collection of shoes, handbags and gin bottles but there are other women out there with nothing and no hope of getting it either. We'll need International Womens Day until our sisters can go to school with their brothers and be equals in the classroom. We'll need it until our sisters aren't being mutilated in the name of virtue, or killed for wanting to wear Western clothes, or being abandoned on the side of a road in China.

I don't understand why younger women don't want to be labelled as feminists. I don't understand why it's considered a dirty word. All it's saying is that you should be judged on merit and worth, not by your uterus. And that you are equal in worth and deserve the same opportunities and the same pay for the same job.

And finally,speaking of dirty words, we come to the big swearword. Cunt. See you Next Tuesday, Caring Understanding Nineties Type, call it what you will, cunt is reserved as the worst profanity imaginable. Some people can't even say it. 'The C word' is the last resort when someone has been so vile that you want to call them a really bad name and knob just won't cut it. But let's look further. What does it mean? It's origins are debatable. Thought to be from the Latin cunnis meaning vagina, it also has a relative in the Icelandic kunta and the Anglo Saxon cynd meaning nature or essence. The word 'cunt' was used as far back at 1230 in England, where it appears in the delightfully named Gropecunte Lane in an area of London known for its brothels. Once a word so common it had a street named after it, it dropped from everyday use sometime after the 1500s and took on its current profane meaning.

Clearly, then, historically the word refers to ladybits. So would someone mind telling me when the vagina became the most nasty, disgusting object known to mankind? Teenage girls can testify to the determination with which teenage boys attempt to better aquaint themselves with cunts. Straight men spend most of their lives trying to get back up one. That's how terrible and loathesome they are. An object of desire, turned into something to be reviled. If you're female and you're using it as a swearword, you're not liberated, sister. You're just perpetuating the fallacy that your reproductive organs are smelly and offensive. Don't do it. If you really want to use it, call a spade a spade. Or a cunt a cunt.

Geez, I'm an angry little thing today. Time for a walk in the sunshine.


Foodycat said...

Tremendous post SSS! And timely given the probable murder of Katoucha Niane .

SSS said...

Thank you! Am I out on my own with the cunt thing, so to speak?

mscrankypants said...

Not on your own at all. I'd prefer the richest profanities to be gender neutral, like fuckstick, oxygen thief, lily-livered piece of shit etc. That means we'll also have to get rid of male-centred insults like cocksucker, dickhead etc so it's all fair!

SSS said...

Good point. I particularly like fuckstick. Although I imagine the anti political correctness brigade will be in uproar.

Foodycat said...

I really don't like the c word! Not ready to reclaim it when it is used as the worst word because of the view of women. I don't think there is anything wrong at all with female genitalia, in the same way as there was nothing wrong with the Hindu swastika, but it has been coopted for something bad and I don't know there is any coming back from it.

And as you know, ferret-fucking snake-fellator is my insult of choice.

SSS said...

I'm inclined to agree. I don't think we can take it back either. I just wish young girls wouldn't use it.