The other night I went out for dinner with a dear friend.
We wandered home chatting and a discussion of Amanda Palmer (who we both love) brought up the argument of feminism.
By 3am I still balled up in silent anger, unable to express my thoughts clearly and feeling pathetic about doing so.
I was tired.
We had been arguing for hours.
About hairy legs.
Or to be more precise; that Amanda Palmer would be more attractive if she shaved her armpits.
The next day, when I described the evening to some other friends, they couldn’t stop laughing.
I had never really expressed my thoughts on feminism clearly and it had frustrated me.
Despite many observer’s presumptions, I am naturally an introvert.
Not sure how to describe an introvert? This video does a pretty good job of it.
Since realising this I have found the acceptance very useful.
I know I need quite a bit of time to mull things through.
I’ve started telling people in initial meetings that I’d love to help them, I want to hear about everything they’re doing, but I will have to go away, think it through, and I will get back to them in a couple of days with my proper suggestions and thoughts.
I just don’t do well with snappy decisions on the spot.
I also don’t cope with confrontation.
I simply shut down. Or cry.
So at 3 a.m, when arguing about whether someone is more attractive with hairy underarms or not, I start crying.
Pathetic or what?
Couple of weeks later, having a coffee with a girlfriend, I finally work out what I wanted to say.
Firstly, I feel Feminism is a bad word.
It has been stained the same way that green washing has stained sustainability.
Ask most people’s impression of a feminist and you get a hairy legged ball breaker.
Women feel attacked by the term feminism. Men feel attacked by the term feminism.
You simply can’t have a conversation about it without emotions rising.
Strange defensive tactics start coming out.
Women want to be independent etc., but still want men to open doors for them…
Men are expected to fit a physical stereotype too…
Women shouldn’t be made to work and have kids…
Some women want to be at home…
We are physically different and will never be equal…
Taking a step back from the whole thing (which took me two whole weeks to do) and I was sitting in this cafe and I suddenly thought, “I open the door for people…”
Take away the word feminism.
Give it a new name. Anything. Empatheticism ?? Humanism?
Women are human.
Men are human.
There is as much variation within women are there are within women and men.
Yes, men are typically physically stronger than women.
If a women is struggling to pick up a heavy object, why wouldn’t someone (anyone) help her? In the same way that I hold the door open for the next few people to pass, I offer to help carry luggage up stairs in the tube station, I offer a seat to elderly people on trains.
This is not because I wish to be manly and chivalrous. It is nothing more than common courtesy born from the ability to be empathetic.
That’s not to say that there are not very strong women in the world.
And, if there were a woman that was able to be a brilliant AFL player, then there should be no reason why she should not be selected to play.
Women are physically different in their levels of testosterone, but this can be a positive and negative thing.
Testosterone builds when one is placed in a position of power (I read this in a New Scientist magazine a few months ago)
The brain physically changes and one becomes more reckless, sexual and, for this reason, it is good that there are laws to limit the amount of years one is able to retain power in presidency.
Women, having less testosterone initially, presumably would be less likely to become as reckless in power. They would have been a good addition to the stock market group and the banking sector leading up to the crash.
But it is more that people are different.
Some men are artistic, some are not. Some are sporty. Some cannot catch a ball to save their lives. Some people want children. Some people don’t, make the decision not to, or can’t.
Just in the way that I am an introvert.
I would not be good in a job that requires quick decision making and constant confrontation.
I would probably be valuable on a board though for general decision making that allows more time to process.
Businesses would benefit from realising some people are introverts and using this to their advantage.
People are different to one another but, in essence, it shouldn’t matter whether you are male or female. If you have the personality and the ability to be able to perform a task the best, you should be able to do so. Your skills, as a person, should also be equally paid for. If you are doing the same job and the same amount of work as someone else, you should be paid the same.
Many companies, boards and governments should also take a quick step back and make sure that they have chosen most effectively. Because sometimes introverts get overlooked in the selection process as they can be an uncomfortable interview candidate.
And statistics show that there are still women on less pay for equivalent jobs.
It’s not an attack, it’s just a reminder that we should look again.
What IS an attack (but a great one) is the amazingly talented Amanda Palmer’s ode to the Daily Mail.
This is what sparked the argument.
But, in the end, it doesn’t matter whether a woman has hairy armpits or not. The French can. If I went trekking in the jungle for weeks on end then I would too. It is a social construct and expectation which we should be able to look past in order to see someone’s ability and their skills.
And if I had a choice between being stuck in a lesbian relationship with a funny, smart, talented Amanda Palmer or one of the highly manicured girls from The only way is Essex, there is not even a moment of consideration of who I would choose. Amount of body hair doesn’t even come in to the equation.
The reason we need to talk about these things is that conforming to the aesthetic ideal of society doesn’t help you in terms of respect or acknowledgement of your skills. Scarlett Johansson has been quoted saying:
You work hard making independent films for fourteen years and you get voted best breasts.
The amount of rape, and physical and mental abuse that occurs against women is huge.
Men also can feel very unsure about the changing expectations on them and can feel totally emasculated for not conforming to masculine stereotypes.
Some men want to have paternity leave, be stay at home dads.
We are looking at making our workplaces more adaptable so we can get the best skilled people to work, but also allow them to have families.
But we can’t have a proper conversation about these kind of things when the barriers go up before the conversations started.
So I’m out with feminism.
I’m going to be a humanitarian?
I don’t care what I name it.
I’m going to be an empathetic person and hope that I get treated empathetically by others.