Tag Archives: equality

In spite of A.A Milne – a poem

The King asked the Queen

And the Queen asked the dairymaid

Could we have some butter,

For the royal slice of bread?

 

The maid asked the cow,

And the cow was not obliging.

I am tired of exploitation,

Is what the bovine said.

 

And while we’re on the subject,

What is it with monarchy

What kind of man can’t sort out

What he puts upon his bread?

 

The cow said, he’s a patriarch

I find him most annoying,

Look how he makes the Queen

Sort all the daft things in his head.

 

And why are you a dairymaid?

I think we should be asking.

The workshy Queen has hands of white

Your busy paws are red.

 

So tell the King we’ve gone on strike,

We will not do his bidding

We want fairness and equality

And better lives instead.

 

If he wants some sodding butter

Well, he’s got so much of everything,

He should try some of his money

On his royal slice of bread.


Matters of inequality

We aren’t equal, as people, nor can we be. Differences of physical ability, and temperament means that in the most equitable situations imaginable, we would not all be equals. Of course in an ideal world, inequality would only be about skill, creativity, desire for achievement and inclinations around what we prioritise. At the moment we like, as a society, to tell ourselves that it is brains and talent that gets you places, but this isn’t true – it’s the money and resources in your family. The best shot you have at becoming a millionaire, is to be born into a family of millionaires.

Affluence buys opportunities. It buys more time with good teachers. It buys physical resources to help achieve, it buys access to facilities. The best instruments, and opportunities to hear the best musicians playing. The best sports gear. Granted, money cannot make you clever, or a good problem solver, or creative, but what it will give you are the opportunities to develop.

This is where the myth of talent comes in. Natural ability is only ever a small part of what makes for success. Willingness to work, and the resources you have access to are also factors. It’s easier to get through the first few years of doing illustration for little or nothing while you get a foot in the industry door, if someone else can pay your bills. It’s easier to have a sporting career as a young person if someone else has the time and money to take you to events around the country, or around the world. The more we focus on the myth of talent in all fields, the less attention we pay to the power of privilege.

There are of course people who come out of no-where and by dint of sheer ability and determination, make it. They are the exceptions – luck often plays a big part. There are many people who become high achievers, not because they have any great inner resources, but because money has smoothed a path for them. Most of us are capable of far more than we are ever getting opportunity to do. How many great pieces of music will never be written, how many scientific breakthroughs won’t happen, how many brilliant bits of technology won’t be made, how many books not written, art not crafted simply because the person who could have done it was never given the opportunity to develop?

Now imagine what would happen if we had equality of opportunity. If we used technology to do away with tedious jobs, and created a culture in which anyone could seek to excel in any field. Jobs are on the way out as it is, and we don’t seem to have a good vision of the future. We could, if we innovate rather than being led by the preferences of the people with the money, come up with a whole new way of being communities of humans.


Why do we need International Women’s Day?

I hear in my memory, the voice of a man I once knew, talking about why isn’t there a men’s day, and how women hold all the power anyway. He, and those like him, are exactly why we still need to raise issues and awareness.

There are plenty of Western women who believe that the equality issues are all sorted and feminism is just another bit of history. I’ve met them too. And there are guys who believe that what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms and marriages shouldn’t be anyone else’s business. Including the belief that the police should not be investigating them.

We need International Women’s Day because internationally, definitions of rape are too often shoddy and sometimes non-existent. Worse still there are countries where the female victim of this crime can be punished for sex outside marriage. I’ve heard men speaking on the radio about how if girls dress in provocative ways, of course they are going to get raped. As though to be a man is to have no self control. That’s an insult to men. The guys who think that lack of self control is a justification for rape and violence need telling that no, they are not proper men. Real guys can keep it in their pants when they need to. We have a long way to go on that score.

We need International Women’s Day for the many, many victims across the world who suffer domestic abuse. Not just the ones who are bruised and bloodied, but the ones whose self esteem is taken from them, who are used as slaves, drudges and sex objects. Those who die at the hands of men also need to be spoken of. There are still too many people of both genders who think its fine for women to be subservient to men. We need today for the trafficked girls who are kidnapped and sold, and who, if rescued will be stigmatized by their communities for what happened to them. We need it for the girls from impoverished families who don’t get an education and are sold into marriage before they even hit puberty. For the girls in their early teens who still die in childbirth every year. For the victims of forced marriage everywhere.

We need it here in the UK too, where your typical woman still earns 20% less than your typical man and a working mother can still expect to do most of the housework and childcare. Here in the enlightened west where a rape victim in a court room can still expect to be asked what she was wearing when the assault took place, as though that made a difference.

We also need to celebrate the women who have been persistently written out of the history books. We have a tendency to focus history on male politicians, ignoring the roles of women, their work and actions. It creates an impression that all women do is stand round as ornaments and squeeze out babies, and this has NEVER been the whole story. Have a look some time at the role of women in dissent and radicalism in UK history – they take some finding because most books don’t include them. You’ll need a specialist, feminist text for that, but thankfully they exist.

We are a good half of the population. We have as much intelligence, skill and potential as those who landed in this world blessed with a willy, on the whole. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but on the whole, we are more alike than different. But there are still places around the world where to be a woman is to be a second class citizen at best. And there are still people who can’t hear ‘no’ in every country. Until rape is consigned to the past, until trafficking has gone forever, until there is no man on the face of this planet who is able to imagine that he has the right to own and control women, we need today.

While we’re here, it’s a good time to also appreciate the good guys, the heroes, fathers, co-workers, equals, companions, friends… the ones for whom respect is natural and a given. The ones who listen, care and respect themselves enough to do the right things for the right reasons.


Fertility cult and feminism

If I was to go to a convention wearing revealing clothing then, based on what I hear of the experiences of other women, I could expect lecherous advances from total strangers. It would not be unthinkable that some of them would decide it was ok to grope me, as well. If I was raped by a total stranger and got as far as court, I could expect to be questioned about what I was wearing at the time, in case my attire somehow offered a justification for what had been done to me.

Perhaps if a woman went out in a t-shirt that read ‘I would like to have sex with every man who reads this t-shirt’ then there would be some grounds for taking the clothing into account. Otherwise… what on earth are we doing? Clothing might suggest availability or a willingness to be asked, but no woman dresses up with a view to being insulted, assaulted or raped. Why is this such a hard concept for so many people to grasp?

If a man is mugged, do we ask in court whether his clothing suggested that he was inviting it? Did he deserve it for dressing too wealthy? Of course not. If someone is beaten up because of the colour of their skin, do we blame the skin colour, or the sick prejudices of the aggressor? Well, once upon a time we’d have considered that skin colour was a reasonable justification for violence. Go back to Hitler’s Germany and it was deemed a perfectly good reason to harm people. We used to consider gypsies fair game (identified visually), and gay-bashing was the business of the authorities. Western culture has evolved out of something where prejudice-based violence was not unusual. Where women are concerned, we still haven’t got it sorted. Plenty of places it’s not entirely safe to be transgender, either, or black, or some other ethnicity.

We see a surface, and some of us take that as a justification for aggression. It’s back to that dangerous concept of entitlement again. Something about how you look entitles me to behave in a certain way. This is not a healthy thought form.

One of the ones I’ve found on occasion in the pagan scene is a willingness to patronise: Directed at the young, the inexperienced and those we tar with the brush of being ‘just a bunch of fluffy bunnies’. I happen to like bunnies and other fluffy creatures, but there we go. Why is it wrong to be soft, gentle, harmless and well meaning? I think the world could use a bit more of that, and if the price is more dolphin adoration and conversations about Atlantis… I’ll take that over the condescending attitudes and put downs any day. The one thing fluffy bunnies can be relied upon to do, is play nicely and not attack anyone else. That’s a virtue well worth celebrating.

How do we handle gender issues in the pagan community? I’ve seen an awful lot of scantily clad, nubile young women in ‘goddess’ artwork. I’ve got to say that aside from the Neolithic fat women, the Venuses, there are very few western goddess images out there I can identify with. Pagan archetypes are a step up from the starving supermodels of the mainstream, but they’re still a long way from what real women look like as most of them have large, gravity defying breasts only achievable for the rest of us with surgery. I don’t feel comfortable about this.

From experience, I don’t like the kind of male attention I get if I flaunt my cleavage in public. I’ve not been molested by strangers, but I’ve had plenty of comments that have made me feel uncomfortable, and a bit like an object. My response has been to mostly cover up. I feel more secure out in the world when I’m dressed very deliberately not to draw attention. I very much like the fact that the man I’m with fell in love with my mind first. Flirtation can be fun and playful, but it so often isn’t. It can be threatening, invasive, and then it paves the way to much darker things.

Once you start relating to someone else as not a proper person, but a bit of pleasing meat that exists to entertain you, then it’s a slippery slope. A culture that condones verbal harassment and minor assaults is hardly equipped to deal with rape or domestic abuse. These are not separate issues. It all comes down to looking at a surface and imagining that something we see entitles us to do what we should not.

In the meantime, someone, please, point me at a feminist goddess, because I’m sick of the babes and beauty queens who seem to be far more about male fantasy than female power.