Better ask your husband before you do that, love

I am not afraid to call myself feminist – and to be honest I’ll probably think a little bit less of you (especially if you’re a man) if you cringe at the word yourself.  About a year ago I decided a good way to judge male character would be to imagine to what degree they would or would not be comfortable wearing this t-shirt in public:

Now don’t freak out – its not about making anyone feel guilty.  I actually don’t think I would wear this t-shirt as I don’t like wearing any clothing with writing on it.  Its about the fact that around the world the statistics don’t lie and how you relate yourself to them.  Women earn less than men for doing the same work.  They do most of the world’s labour for substantially smaller share of the wealth.  They bear children – and that shit hurts man!  They are more likely to be victim of violence or sexual abuse than men.

Feminism is complicated – especially modern feminism in the developed world.  Its been long enough now we’ve forgotten the major victories (flawed as they are): financial self-determination, career emancipation, independence.  Its not ‘cool’ to be a feminist anymore – and the areas where the movement borders on the mainstream colours everything else.  Yes I am a feminist who also shaves her legs and wears makeup and lets boys pay on the first date sometimes and that doesn’t somehow make me a hypocrite thankyouverymuch.

But I will ask myself: would they wear the t-shirt?

I struggle with where we’re at now.  While I love the backlash against slut-shaming and movement for sex-positivity in women, we’re still struggling for basic access to contraception and we have embraced gender roles for children and the sexualisation of young girls in a way that makes me uncomfortable.

But today this website made me smile and remember we’re still working hard and its important to enjoy the victories we’ve had. came organically out of international woman’s day when Linda Grant tweeted about why feminism still matters to her – thousands of examples were suddenly being tweeted everywhere.

The case for feminism is easy.  My favourite is the economic case: without empowered women a country is limiting its own economic potential by keeping half its workforce at home.  When women earn money they are more likely to spend it on items for their children or that improve the home – ensuring children are well fed and educated.  I could go on and on and on.

Feminism matters because less than 50 years ago women couldn’t get a credit card, loan or mortgage with the signature of a man, because women were told what to wear and what jobs to have, because in this day and age women are still seen too often as secretaries and not professionals. Women who could be working can’t afford childcare.  Women cant access contraception to ensure they plan, want and love all their children.

So would you wear the t-shirt?


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6 Responses to Better ask your husband before you do that, love

  1. Roberto Rocha says:

    As a man, my quick answer: no

    My longer answer: Maybe. I like feminism in principle, but in practice I’ve found much of its to be deceptive and polarizing. For one, I don’t even know what it means anymore. I hear self-described feminists say porn is bad, and other self-described feminists say it’s good. I hear some say women shouldn’t be objectified, while others say objectification is empowering.

    Twenty years ago feminists said men are too macho. Today I hear many say men are not masculine enough. I got scolded several times, by women claiming to speak on behalf of the whole gender, for opening doors to women. Today I hear women complain about the death of chivalry.

    It seems feminists can’t agree among themselves what feminism is. So I prefer to not get involved. I already tried hopping from one foot to the other to appease them. Doesn’t work.

    You say statistics don’t lie. Oh yes they do. Feminist groups have used misleading statistics for political advantage. The old saw that women earn less than men for the same job? This is based on a flawed survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that listed wages by gender across VERY BROAD work categories. For example, nurses and heart surgeons were under the same category of “medicine”. Well, there are more male heart surgeons and more female nurses. Guess who earns more? Yet, they are doing the same work.

    Men, in general, work longer hours than women. Even when women reach top management positions, they tend to work less to balance family life, and take a lower salary. This is conveniently ignored in the wage gap meme.

    And the “statistic” that one in three women will get sexually assaulted? Can you tell me where that comes from?

    This is all very normal. All political groups twist numbers for their benefit. Creating fear and mistrust of the other is a timeless technique for political gain.

    What has also turned me off from feminism is the very shame tactics they speak against. I’ve had feminists shut me down for voicing an opinion they didn’t agree with. Instead of presenting a counter-point, they appealed to shame, effectively killing any form of civil debate. These are the tactics of religions and paternalistic societies.

    And it seems that while feminism seeks to end gendered double standards, much of it wants to preserve those that benefit women. Feminism speaks of empowering women, but so many groups want to keep women feeling like victims of the patriarchy. This is the opposite of empowerment. I guess these organizations know they’ll become irrelevant if women actually do control their lives.

    So would I wear the shirt? Maybe, depending on what kind of feminism we’re talking about. I do believe there is still discrimination, and women are dealt a shitty hand in life. So are men, in other areas. But most of the feminism I’ve been exposed to has turned me off from it.

    • B says:

      Roberta thanks for such a thoughtful answer and a very succint summary of why it is no longer cool to be a feminist!

      I suppose from my perspective the lack of unity in the movement speaks to the diversity of the world – and I guess after women got a few key victories in the 70s everything fractured and became disparate.

      I am frustrated by many of the same things you speak of – but I suppose what I’m speaking to in this blog post isn’t so much a refined vision of feminism but that base feeling that things aren’t quite right yet. Its about continuing that dialogue around how women have a shit time in life. So do men – but I could send you a lot of evidence, especially in the developed world about how being a woman is a special type of hell.

      I think its hard out there for the enlightened man – wanting to be chivalrous and being criticised for it, then hearing others lament chivalry’s death or the fact that so often in order to hold an opinion on these things people seem to think you must have a vagina. I disagree.

      In terms of the statistics I mention but don’t cite – there are multiple sources. When taking my citizenship test here in the UK one of the question was about how much less, on average, women earn in relation to men in the same career – a slightly uneasy fact that they seem resigned to! So I’m not sure about this US study, but even adjusting for time spent off work on maternity leave, women earn less.

      I’m not sure a quote a statistic around 1 in 3 women being sexually assaulted thought I’ve heard similar things being thrown around. A recent survey here in the UK by a major women’s website mumsnet found 1 in 10 of their users reported being raped and 1 in 3 sexual assault. Anecdotally, I would say my and my friend’s experience line up with this – but they are not fact. All I was saying, and will stand by, is that woman are more likely to be sexually assaulted than men!

      Thanks for the dialogue – and I share your frustrations – but this was just my pitch to a) acknowledge that there is still a long way to go and b) celebrate some amazing victories!

      • I see what you’re saying and I agree with much of it. But here’s the thing: feminism has been terrific at alienating men to the point where the mere mention of the word inspires anger.

        Feminists have claimed that men are nothing more than defective women: masculinity is a disorder, male sexuality is evil (when you think about it, feminists have put on the most coordinated slut-shaming campaign) and “male-dominated (fill in the blank)” is still an insult.

        Add to that the hypocrisy of the idea that if a man does it, it’s sexist, but if a woman does it, it’s empowering.

        It’s funny when you think about it: feminism has done more to inspire misogyny than anything else I can think of.

        I know many feminists are not like that. But the resentfulness is still fresh among men. From the little I’ve read in article and discussion boards out there, the main message men have gotten form feminism is: “We want you, men, to accept us for who we really are. But don’t expect the same respect from us.”

        Is it any surprise there was such a strong backlash against it?

      • B says:

        I think I’d agree with everything you just said except I’d put it this way:
        certain TYPES of feminism have been so good at alienating men etc etc

        I was just reading a really fascinating livechat with naomi wolf of the guardian’s website and she distinguishes between different schools a few times in a way I see as helpful – ie: englightenment schools based on human rights vs. more radical schools based on female supremacy etc. not really being a gender studies person, I’ve not got the knowledge to distinguish (and neither does the everyday person I suppose), but its a nice way of saying feminism isn’t just one thing.

        its super annoying for sure that some schools of thought have gotten so radical that it alienates many of those who would be in favour of it. Its ridiculous and polarizing to state male sexuality is evil and all the example you state, which I have also read and seen and I would be resentful too! But thats not ‘my’ feminism – and I guess I’m trying to say it doesn’t have to yours either.

        In my opinion, any feminism that says it has no place for men and their opinions within it is not worthy of the name. blog posts like this one and the website i mention in the original post are where we should be fighting to keep those radicals where they are – on the fringes and free the word from this type of assocation. not easy, but what I would love in a perfect world.

        I would respectfully disagree that feminism has done the most to inspire mysogyny of anything else in the world – I think some organised religions and interpretations of texts (both in the north america and the west) sure have done a lot to inspire some good ol’ fashioned women hating. This is said of course, with the caveat that Women are often complicit and or active accomplices in the oppression of other women here as well – But who’s counting! Women like Michelle Bachman do something everyday that both inspires mysogyny in me and suppresses women around the world. Now thats an awesome paradox.


  2. Kate says:

    I don’t have a lot of time at the moment but I’m going to throw this bomb in here and then run away:

    I’m still trying to unpack her arguments and figure out where we agree and where we disagree.

    • B says:

      I love that she highlights women’s role in continuing the norms and practices they oppose… but somehow reading her work i’m not sure we could be… friends. ha ha ha.

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