Equality and the privileged woman

Friday, 5 March 2010

You know what saddens me? Seeing extremely privileged women eagerly registering their disapproval of feminism because they 'don't believe in equality', at the same time as telling everyone how satisfied they are with their loving husbands, wonderful marriages, beautiful children, idyllic home life and charmed existence.

In a bubble where husbands always earn enough for their wives to stay at home, in a bubble of beautiful houses and perfect tableaux of rosy family life some women are free to decry feminism and all it has done for them because they don't have to fight any more. They don't 'believe' in equality because they don't have to, their lives are just fine as they are, thank you very much. It's all too easy to think that 'rights' don't matter when you're not worrying about feeding your kids, or an abusive husband, or getting an education, or fighting oppression in every area of your life. When you don't have to worry about that sort of thing you can easily reduce it all to a matter of biology and say 'well, men and women are biologically different so this means they can NEVER be equal' as if this is the be all and end all, the final word in gender issues.

But this view relies on having a responsible, caring, loving, respectful husband. It relies on good self-image and seeing-yourself-as-God-sees-you and being satisfied with fulfilling a particular role. It relies on having had all the choices you want in life - going to university? Choosing when you want children? Having economic freedom? It's all there. I think some people need to remember that this sort of life isn't a reality for millions of women and this is why we need feminism. Or even if you don't want to call it feminism (and I don't see why not because it's a great word) - a worldview where women are of equal worth and status to men.

You can make all the self-satisfied comments you want about 'angry feminists' and 'I have all the rights I want - that's what matters to me'. Actually I can't let that one go because it is genuinely distressing to think that people feel that way. I know plenty of people do but when we are called to help the last, the least and lost what sort of selfish, insular person lives by that mantra? It's sickening. Every time I encounter a sniffy comment from an affluent white woman saying 'feminism is all about choice - and it's my choice to be anti-feminist' at the same time as extolling the virtues of her perfect husband/children/house/life/cupcakes every part of me screams 'YOU HAVE CHOICE. THAT'S THE DIFFERENCE. YOU HAVE THAT CHOICE. How about you change places with a woman who DOESN'T and let's see how you feel about equality.'

Middle-class white women standing by and taking advantage of all the privileges feminism has awarded them at the same time as disapproving of 'equality' and seeing it in terms of physical differences is obviously nothing new. We're coming up to International Women's Day and I just wanted to reiterate where I stand on that point because it is SO IMPORTANT.

12 comments:

Ms.Kitton said...

*stands up and applauds*

I always feel like asking these women if they have enjoyed their education, and if they are planning on voting at the next election. And if they enjoyed living in house shares with friends between moving out of Daddy's house and moving into Hubby's. I want to ask them if they enjoy having the right to walk unaccompanied through the streets of London.

Thank you for writing this.

Brooke said...

Thank you for your earlier comment and your post here. I'm a social science PhD who reads a variety of blogs, just for a "slice of life" view of what others believe, but there are some times where I really feel like I have to back away from some of them before my world just starts feeling a bit crazy.

Adrienne said...

Bravo! I know exactly what blog post inspired you to write this and it was your extremely intelligent and insightful comment on that post that brought me to your blog. Thanks for writing both there and here. It is sad and shocking that so much ignorance about feminism continues to surround us, but hopefully your writing will serve as a bit of a wake-up call for some. Thank goodness there are still people like you out there who are able to see past their own front doors put themselves into others' shoes. Cheers to you!

Hannah Mudge said...

So do i, MsKitton, so do i. Because i'm damn sure they wouldn't be so satisfied with their lot in life if these rights were taken away. Since it's only *other* women who have to deal with that sort of thing though, it doesn't matter, right?

Thank you, Brooke and Adrienne :) It is SO frustrating and i only hope that people can think about this a bit more before they go mouthing off about the evils of women who stand for and beside their less privileged sisters.

Laura said...

YES. I COULDN'T AGREE MORE.

Apologies for the caps but for issues like this it is needed definitely. I am so glad there are people like you in the world who can see life from another point of view other than the one you are dealt with. I wish there were more people who could see beyond their own comfortable existance.

grahamsgrumbles said...

Such a good post I block-quoted a chunk (with link), and then thought it might be polite to tell you. You've picked up on one of the very important phase-changes feminism has undergone (or should undergo): from tackling rights for women to tackling privileges experienced by men.
http://wp.me/p3sef-bC

Hannah Mudge said...

Thanks for linking me! I think it's so important that people consider the privilege they have before they spout stuff like this, or continue believing some warped view of women's issues because they feel it doesn't affact them so it doesn't matter.

fallbreak said...

Right on, Hannah!

Jen said...

Right on!

Alexandra said...

I agree too - but is this view only applicable to white women? I took your article seriously until you threw in that old tired stereotype of "middle-class white women". It's all classes, all women. Feminism is two steps forward, one step back, because it's every kind of woman who slows the process. It's ethnocentric to think it's only white women hindering the cause.

Hannah Mudge said...

Alexandra, I see what you're saying but my post was inspired by an online discussion I saw taking place between middle-class white women, hence the reference. It's also something I see a lot among middle-class white women I know. Obviously there are many barriers to equality but I chose to pick up one just one of them.

sian and crooked rib said...

applause. you have just said what i have been trying to articulate for ages. choice doesn't happen in a vacuum! and because woman A has the choice to live her kind of life doesn't mean woman B does!

 

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