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What’s Feminism done for us?

March 10, 2010

I had to laugh when I googled International Women’s Day.  I want to blog on Ceri Matthew’s excellent piece in the Telegraph today and that was one of her tags.

Ceri’s article is about the excellent BBC Four Documentary Libbers celebrating the achievements of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the Seventies. And what came up on google was Jeeves, looking every bit the archetypal British butler, responding with answers about Ladies Day at Ascot, a day when women still try to outdo each other with glamorous hats. In fact, they make a point of dressing like the very women the valiant libbers fought to liberate.

On the merits of feminism…There’s good news and bad news. The world was ghastly before it. We know that. And we’re not ungrateful. There is a wonderful moment in Mad Men, set in the advertising world in the early Sixties, when the only female copywriter asks for her own office. The Managing Partner turns to his secretary and says “Isn’t she cute?”

So the good news about feminism is that nowadays we have to go out of our way to behave like those obsolete women. Most of us have to dress up and act out to become caricatures of the women who didn’t do it for fun, women who had no choices; before the Liberation Movement unravelled the stereotyping and set us on course to take over the world. (You do know that women are gradually taking over the world, don’t you? Of course you do.)

And the bad news? Every woman knows it.

I was standing in a crowded train after a long day in London and whispered to the woman next to me, “So much for women’s lib.” It was neither clever nor original and on the Surrey line one ought to know better than to address one’s neighbour. Quite rightly, she recoiled, thinking I was trying to sell her the Big Issue. But the point is this: I was complaining because I grew up in a world where men gave up their seats for us, opened doors for us and brought us flowers at the drop of a hanky.

Actually I lie. No-one ever bought me flowers spontaneously. I always had to break their spirit first. But that’s another story.

I know I’m an old fogey but I can’t get my head around male behaviour nowadays. Letting a lady stand up while he sits! It’s….it’s beyond comprehension! Like eating a dog. Hmmm. Is it that bad? Well yes, very nearly. If it’s a Jack Russell.

So what has feminism really done for us? Apart from all the good things, which I will learn from watching Vanessa Engle’s whole series, it’s denuded us of our right to courtesy from the male sex and turned us into wage slaves. Now we’re wage-slaves by day and house drudges by night. And half the weekend.

Why can’t we have the best of both worlds: men that carry our bags; give us their seats and clean our houses?

It’s no good. Thanks to feminism, the world is all mussed up.

Roll on the robot age. It’s all we can hope for now.

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