Down with the patriarchy!!….. (**whispers** “the what?!”)

I’ve heard the word loads of times. I’ve nodded along when people have spoken about it, as though I understand and agree.

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Patriarchy.  Am I embarrassed to say that actually I wasn’t entirely sure until just recently what it meant? Yes, a little.  I had an idea of what it was about. I knew it related to Women and feminism. I had an inkling it was related to the power struggle between men and women.  I also knew it was probably fucked up.

Let’s start basic.

Here are some definitions I found online:

“A system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is reckoned through the male line” – Google dictionary.

“Patriarchy is the term used to describe the society in which we live today, characterised by current and historic unequal power relations between women and men whereby women are systematically disadvantaged and oppressed” – London Feminist Network.

“The bogeyman that feminists blame for women’s problems or under-achievements because their big-girl pants apparently don’t fit” – Urban Dictionary.

Before we move on, I have to say that this last definition pissed me off, a lot.  I could have just left it out of my post, because let’s face it, there’s stuff like this (and much worse) all over the internet, but I felt like it proved a bit of a point.  So, let’s take a moment to have a little look at who wrote this.  ‘Shikaku’ has 3 definitions to his name on Urban Dictionary (yes, I am assuming he is a he):  MRA (men’s right’s activist), patriarchy and rape culture.  I think I can safely say that we don’t give a f*ck about what Shikaku thinks, he even goes as far as to say rape culture doesn’t exist.  So, let’s ignore this definition.

** Fun fact: the Urban Dictionary creator is a white male, who once said, about the content being added to Urban Dictionary: “Racial and sexual slurs are allowed, racist and sexist entries are not”.

 

The rule of the father.

Patriarchy literally means the rule of the father.  Society has allowed us to believe that men are strong, women are weak, men are the earners, and women take care of the home.  Men have higher paid jobs and dominate politics, industry, sport and religion.

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In the past (and present) women were second class citizens, I mean we’ve only been able to vote since 1928 (since 1918 as long as you were over 30 and had property).  Women took their husbands name when they married and were expected to stay home and cook, clean and look after the kids.  Women are still earning less than men.  In January 2018 the Office for National Statistics wrote “The gender pay gap for full-time workers is entirely in favour of men for all occupations” and “for 2017 women’s pay growth in respect of age was lower than men’s pay growth”.

Fun fact: “Between 2011 and 2017, men’s pay has grown by 10.4% from £13.12 to £14.48 per hour whilst women’s pay has grown by 12.0% from £11.75 to £13.16 per hour. In 2017, men on average were paid £1.32 more per hour than women, which, as a proportion of men’s pay, is a pay gap of 9.1%.  The pay gap has fallen from 10.5% in 2011 to 9.1% in 2017, but remains positive in value – meaning that on average men are paid more than women.” (Office for National Statistics, 2017).

We live in a patriarchal society that allows rape and rape culture to be the norm.  Men are raping women and only receiving pitiful sentences (in 2016 Brock Turner was found guilty of raping an intoxicated 23 year old woman behind a dumpster in America.  He received a 6 month sentence [yet only served 3 months] and 3 years’ probation).  Hell, some countries even have a rapist as their president!  Women are blamed for the actions of men, with people (men and women!) “slut shaming” them for engaging in sexual behaviour, whether this is actual behaviours or just presumed.  All the while men are getting a “high five” from their mates.

 

Male privilege.

So this patriarchal society we live in allows for men to consistently do better than women, it allows them to have “special rights”.  They achieve more, they are paid more and they benefit more (all at the expense of all other genders).  This is male privilege.

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Unfortunately male privilege is toxic for all genders, including men.  It means that men are expected to act in a certain way, a toxic norm of masculinity.  It means they can’t show their emotions, they can’t cry, they must love sports and physical strength is valued too highly.  It also means they don’t ask for support when it’s really needed (in 2017 the Samaritans reported that male suicide rates remain consistently higher than female suicide rates across the UK and Republic of Ireland).

However, male privilege, well it privileges men too.  Here are just a few examples (I would be here until the end of time if I listed them all):

  1. Men are unlikely to be interrupted when talking and will dominate, unquestioned, most conversations
  2. Men are not victims to “mansplaining” (I’ll look at this in another post)
  3. Men are not usually victims of “slut shaming”
  4. Men don’t worry that a casual interaction with a stranger could be misconstrued as a sexual come on
  5. Men are much less likely to be killed by a partner
  6. Men are less likely to be raped
  7. Men aren’t expected to eat smaller portions than women
  8. Men aren’t told that “they just haven’t met the right woman yet” if they say they choose to not have children
  9. Men aren’t told to “cover up” when they take their shirt off when it’s hot
  10. Fat men face less judgement and abuse than fat women

 

To conclude…

What a shit storm.

 

**Disclaimer: “fun facts” are not always fun.

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So, what is feminism?

I guess the best place to start would be at the beginning.  Exactly what is feminism and why should I, or you, be a feminist?

I was brought up in a typical white family household.  My dad worked long days, sometimes at the weekend too whilst my mum was at home cleaning, cooking and looking after my sister and I.  Although my mum did work too, but only part time, and she worked for my dad.  My dad would come home late after work and expect his dinner on the table.  Some nights he didn’t even sit at the table with us but took his dinner on a tray to the living room and ate his food whilst watching the news.  He would only reappear when coming back into the kitchen and dumping his tray and dirty plates on the side.  We had a dishwasher all through my childhood, but I doubt my dad ever even saw the inside of it.

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But this was normal, or I presumed it was.  This was how it was “meant” to be.  Mum would be the “mum” and dad would be the “dad.  This was what society, the media, my friends and family had us all believe.

But it’s much more than that.  It’s much more than it being the women’s job to cook, clean and look after the kids.  It’s much more than judging someone’s driving ability on their gender.  It’s much more than congratulating a guy friend for sleeping around yet calling your female friend a slag for doing exactly the same thing.  It’s about years and years, decades and decades even of oppression, discrimination and exploitation.

 Let me tell you a little story…

When I was about 18 I worked in a call centre for a large utility company.  At the time I was seeing guy who loved him a bit of the “Daily Star” newspaper.  This rubbed off on me and I used to read a copy most days.  I mostly liked the “Dear Deirdre” column at the back and any celebrity gossip, but I would read through the whole thing on my lunch to avoid having to interact with others.

One day I was sat at my desk on my lunch, minding my own business, reading my copy of the daily Star.  My then line manager walked past and noticed what I was reading, just as I turned past page 3 (Did I mention already my boss was a man?!).

So, as he walked past me he loudly called out to me “dyke”.  I was 18.  He was probably about 50.  I don’t remember being particularly upset with the comment, but wow was I embarrassed.  I remember the other people on my team, staring and laughing.  I spoke to a friend about it who was part of the union, he begged me to take it further.  I just wanted it to go away, and I definitely didn’t want to make a fuss.  I remember clear as day why, because I was scared.  I was scared I’d be the one who ended up in trouble.  So I left it, I ignored it.  I let him get away with it.

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(I recently read that the term “dyke” is being “taken back” by the lesbian community.  It is being owned, by those who would have in the past been offended by it, as a positive term of self-reference.  I love this.)

If this was to happen now I would for sure take this as far as I could.  Make him understand that this is not OK, on so many levels.  Was it his seniority that made him feel he could say whatever he wanted? Or was it purely because he is a man and I am a woman?

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So back to the original question, what is feminism?

Feminism, to me, is the belief that all people should have equal rights and equal opportunities, regardless of their gender.  It is the belief that women should be paid the same as men and that they should have the same access to education and health care.  It’s the belief that no woman should be exploited or objectified.  Finally, it is the fight against the patriarchy (**don’t worry, I will be covering “the patriarchy” in another post coming soon!).

More personally for me it will also be the end of:

  • girls not supporting girls
  • guys grabbing my arse
  • guys telling me to smile
  • men explaining my own period to me
  • men behaving superior to me
  • not feeling empowered because society has taught me to feel like that

Across the world women are treated as second class citizens.  In many countries they have less rights than men, they are facing many risks every day.  Such as assault, limited access to contraception and abortion, poverty, lack of education and even FGM (female genital mutilation).  Even in developed countries women face ongoing issues every day.  Increased domestic violence, pay gaps, transphobia and objectification.

This has to end! Doesn’t it?  Feminism is about fighting for an end to all of these issues.  You (or I) may not be able to make big changes, however we are all able to make little ones. Talk to your friends, family, children, co-workers about gender equality.  Talk about equal rights for all.  If you hear someone making inappropriate comments direct them to an article, blog post (maybe this one?!) or a podcast to help them learn more how feminism benefits us all.

The journey begins here…

I am 32 years old, I identify as female and I am from Yorkshire.

I live with my partner and our amazing doggo.

I love camping, the outdoors, my family and I recently realised I love to write.

Oh, and I’m a feminist.

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On my 30th birthday I had dinner and drinks with my close friends.  After a few drinks a close friend of over 20 years grabbed another friends arse without her permission.  She called him out and said he had “sexually assaulted” her.  He was quite upset with this accusation which led him to fall out with her, and actually even to this day he still doesn’t speak to her.  He was embarrassed that she had said these words but still couldn’t see how this could be seen as a violation and that he was maybe the one in the wrong.  He clearly never thought “maybe she won’t want me to do this”.

My friend, at the time, was entering a new stage of her life.  She told me she was a “feminist”.  She kept talking about “all men” and “sexist this” and “sexist that”, etc etc.  I didn’t really understand it and to be honest, at the time, I wasn’t sure I wanted to.  I was all like “Feminist Schmeminist” and didn’t think being a feminist was for me.

Over time I asked more questions and she explained exactly what it meant to be a feminist.  Explained it wasn’t about hating all men, it ran much deeper than that, it was about fighting for women and their rights.  I started to think about all the things that men did that pissed me off. “Smile love, it might never happen” was one of my (least) favourite things for a male stranger to say to me in a club.  Cat-calling me in the street, or telling me I was a slag.

 

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Almost a year ago now I started listening to The Guilty Feminist podcast after it was suggested it to me.  It was my first real insight into anything feminist, other than what my friend had already told me.

Listening to amazing women talk about the daily struggles all women go through really opened my eyes.  I think it was at this point I realised that I’d actually been a feminist all along.

 

What I hadn’t expected was that this would be a life changing journey for me.  My journey into becoming a better feminist was going to lead me in different directions.  I see now that it was actually a path to becoming a better person.

I realise that there will be lots of people out there just like me.  Who won’t know that they’re a feminist too.  People who, like me, don’t understand why it’s not cool for a white person to have dreadlocks and who have just found out that there are more than two genders.

 

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So, although I am already a year into this journey, I know I still have a long way to go.  So I’m going to start sharing this with you.  I will cover old ground and then some new ground.  Hopefully you will learn something along with me.

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