As a child, my identity was fragmented. I enjoyed playing with my Barbies
as much as I enjoyed climbing trees, playing cricket and war games in the bushes
based on Star wars/ Battle of the Planets scenarios. Behaving like a "little
boy" excited me and I thrived on the adventure. Behaving like a "little girl"
catered to my appreciation of beauty. Isn't it a pity that more parents don't
encourage their children to explore both personalities so that playing war games
and appreciating beauty are no longer gender-specific activities
When I flick through textbooks that define all the different branches of feminism I can't find myself located in any of them. Contradictions in my personality render my identity undefinable. I am a left-wing environmentally conscious feminist of 22 but my favourite music is heavy metal and I have a fetish for hard-core action movies. Neither of these have a reputation for treating women very well. I was associating with a group of left-wing women's collective colleagues last year and one of them asked my flatmate where I had completed my work experience. She replied that I had gone to Loudmouth Magazine, a heavy metal publication for my work experience, and the snickers could be heard all the way back to the lecture theatre. No doubt my Fem-eligibility went down 10 points after that.
I was somewhat taken aback at this response, considering left wing feminists are a great lot for rejecting stereotypes and preaching tolerance of race, gender and class. And I decided f..k it I will celebrate my lack of definable feminist identity. After all, the beauty of discourses such as feminism is they are designed to resist tradition linear constructions of identity and encourage pluralism. The feminist stereotype remains firmly embedded within mainstream western culture and how I love to subvert it! For me there's nothing more titillating than being at a heavy metal concert or watching an Arnie movie and throwing in a statement with the word patriarchy in it and watching my audiences eyes widen with horror, 'you're not one of those feminist chicks are you, but what are you doing here, shouldn't you be hanging out at a lezzo bar man-hating and burning your bra to KD Lang?' For me that is the sheer beauty joy and rapture about being a feminist in this decade, I can be who I want, wear what I want , do what I want and not be defensive about it because my most ardent passion is reconstructing the way that women are seen and treated in our society.
However, I must take a moment to reject any association with me and the Kathy Bails "Do It Yourself Feminists", although I can see why the idea is appealing. Carry on doing what you are doing everyday and be politically correct. I do believe in the underlying concept of DIY feminism, but I believe in acknowledging the achievements of the first and second wave feminists. It is somewhat misleading to label yourself as a feminist if you can't at least attempt to identify the struggles for equality that feminism has fought and still continues to fight. I think it is very easy for a woman to don her short skirt attend her well paid job and become complacent. After a week at a recent NOWSA conference (National Organisation of Women Students Australia) I realised that we have become accustomed to the advantages we have in late Twentieth century society such as access to contraception, abortion, and equal pay (not in all jobs but in some) .
Dale Spender, feminist author and one of the guest speakers at NOWSA put this phenomena into perspective when she said that since the inception of democracy men have had the right to vote, whereas women were granted the privilege only 80 years ago. And this is a privilege men can revoke at any time, along with the dozens of other "prilvliges we have been granted. Last July the Queensland Minister for Health, Michael Horan, was devoting his time (paid for by us I might add), to shutting down Children by Choice, a referral clinic for women who were unsure of their reproductive options. Horan was also trying to shut down private abortion clinics only allowing abortions to be performed in public hospitals (which can only perform abortions for medical reasons).
Now this frightened me. I have always taken it for granted that if I were to fall pregnant and be unfortunate enough to find myself in a situation where I felt I was unable to have the child I could have a choice about what to do with my body. In a demonstration held at Queensland Parliament House where a Right to Life dinner was being held (how insidious is that) a worker from Children by Choice said this type of closures were not just limited to Queensland, and soon all the nations clinics and referral centres would be under threat. The current debacle occurring in Western Australia, where police are trying to charge doctors with performing abortions, is a chilling demonstration of this prophecy.
So I think it is important for women and Maidens to remember to be alert to the subtle (and often not so subtle) alterations in legislation that can have serious implications for us. Prime Minister John Howard's recent slash in child care and legal aid are two examples of this. Independent Senator Brian Harridine's attempts to remove Medicare's rebate for abortions ( if passed women will pay on average $1000 for a termination, whereas under the current system we only have to pay $300) and refusal to allow the abortion pill into Australia are further examples of the regression of Women's rights under a conservative government.
And always remember that it is in Conservative government's interest to force women out of the work force and back to the kitchen because then there will be an abundance of jobs, unemployment will drastically reduce and maternity leave and other similar benefits would be cut. If women are out of the work force, it is more difficult to recognise the gross inequalities that still exist and force the Government to alter legislation in our favour. This was a strategy of Reaganism and this Government and other ultra right wing politicians have taken a few pages out of Ronnie's book.
So ultimately my beloved maidens rejoice in your refusal to be pegged into a hole, love yourself and your identity even if there is no textbook definition in it, But most importantly keep your head out of the fluffy fashion rags, Dolly, Cosmo and Cleo etc, they warp your brain, and have no intentions of offering decent advice they just want you buy their advertiser's products.
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