Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Don't Think of Myself as a Feminist. But...

it's just the default position, surely?
It surprises me to recall that when I was a young teacher and the issue of equal pay arose, I was not particularly interested until it occurred to me that although I was paid less, being a woman, I was never charged less, as a woman. Free entry on one day of the year at "Ladies'Day" at the races didn't really seem to balance that.
It's easy to accept the world as it is without questioning.

(The pig is just there for colour: my one and only attempt at pottery).

However, I now feel that difficulties for women are a by product of the misuse of power, and that this is the enemy.  Sometimes people are unaware of their power.  Parents can misuse power, as can spouses,  bullies, politicians, bosses, managers. Anyone.
People misusing power often treat those "underneath" them with contempt.

It was a very hierarchical world back then.  People knew their place, (irony alert).  Important people - professionals, ceos, the religious, the monied  - were the authorities on everything.  They were the power figures, expecting deference.  Women were of course lower - "we'll look after you as long as you act like we think women should", was the sometimes explicit message.  Children, by and large, were very low down in the rankings, but poor people were probably lower again. Poor children - well, we know how they were treated.

Turning points. At 21 I was sent by the Department of Education to a remote country town.  It was so small that there was little for rent, so for a while I lived at the hotel.  One morning at breakfast a catholic priest sat at my table and  questioned me. "How old are you?" he said.  "Twenty one," I replied.  "How old are you?"   He looked at me aghast and muttered "52" or something. I was impressed and aghast at my own boldness.  He was just aghast.  He left me alone after that outrage, and I felt a gleeful pride.  There was no turning back.

At present in NSW, apart from the endless child abuse scandals, we have ongoing revelations of past corruption involving politicians, some of whom were enriched by tens of millions of dollars. The adult son of one, when asked how confidential mining maps, showing coal seams under land that they bought for $3 million and profited by $73 million, appeared in his office, said, "Perhaps Jesus put them there."
They need their wings clipped.

Suzanne Moore, in The Guardian, rewrites Burke:  "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men kid themselves that they knew nothing and set up yet another inquiry."

Hear, hear.  We've had more than enough of that.  We need to either limit power, train people how to use it, or have far more open systems than we do.

And dissociate power from physical strength, as well.  And that brings me back to feminism again.

What a muddled post this is.


Elephant's Child said...

If this is muddled - then so am I. In my first job I was paid 0.76 cents an hour - less than half that of a male of the same age, doing the same work. Which made me furious.
The anger, over all sorts of discrimination, remains.
And yes, Suzanne Moore is sadly right. Which also makes me angry. I think that we need all of the options you raised: limited power (particularly over the bodies of others), people better trained in the use and abuse of power and much more open systems. To my fury, I cannot see any of it happening soon.

Frances said...

There must be other stupids like myself, EC, who have an awareness now that once they didn't.
I try to take heart from that.

molly said...

Hello Frances---lovely to meet you! Muddled maybe, but it makes sense to me. It appalls me when I look back and see the extent to which they brainwashed us growing up! You just didn't question a man of the cloth---and look what that got us! And we would never, as young (read inferior) persons, even dream of asking him how old he was, though it was acceptable for him to be so nosy! Well done, young and saucy you!

Elephant's Child said...

You, stupid? Not so but far otherwise oh best beloved.
And my awareness gets stretched often, and that is not one of the reasons I consider myself stupid.
(That relates largely to the fact that I don't have a maths brain - in a family which doesn't value anything else. I was in my thirties before I realised I wasn't stupid, and I sometimes lapse...)

Frances said...

Elephant's Child: At one time I was employed to give individual IQ tests to children. Once, it was to the 4th child, son, in a brilliant family. He was not "doing" very well in the lower class.
He quite happily considered himself to be, along with his mother, the family dunce.
His IQ came out to be 142, with 135 and above indicating the top 1% of IQs.
This IQ actually confirmed his opinion. Others in his family were above 150.
In realistically seeing himself as less able than his siblings, and being happy with that,he therefore didn't compete very successfully in his classroom where many would have been struggling to get 100.
Families, huh.

Frances said...

Hello Molly. Lovely to see you here: thankyou for visiting.
Yes, the deference. the obsequiessness -(is that a word?)
Hooray for change!
What a long time it took me to start to see clearly: it astonishes me when I consider that I sat with G Greer at University and saw her only as an older, immoral woman.
Well, she was that, actually. I just didn't see the bigger picture.