Thursday, 20 August 2015

Confessions of an Egalitarian

In his brave Edinburgh show, journalist, poet and wit, Lloyd Evans, opines that the most offensive thing you can say to a feminist is: 'Congratulations, you've won!'
You can do what you want, go where you want and be who you want (ie: what more do you want?).

I have been mulling over this ever since. I take his point that the point about a cause is that it should seek to obsolete itself, not turn into an entity in its own right which then has a territory to preserve and this has also previously crossed my mind.

For example if Cancer Research ever succeeds in finding a cure, you would expect them to close their offices and start refusing any further donations within days. You would hope the same with Oxfam, once they had solved world hunger, etc.

And yet it seems that causes really do prefer to become permanent entities and fixtures in our lives rather than seeing it as their moral duty to bring an end to the need for their existence, and as quickly and efficiently as possible. Rather, they seem to expand and expand with more and more highly-paid staff who appear to do less and less, except find ways to keep their jobs going indefinitely.

And I am still not entirely convinced that feminism is any more preferable to chauvinism as neither gender claiming superiority over (or denigrating) the other equates to equality, much though I acknowledge that the female race was once so disadvantaged that we did need a campaigning vehicle to 're-advantage' it. However in this country I think those days are gone and an individual should get a job because they are the the right person for the job rather than to fill an artificial gender quota, irrespective of their fitness for a role. Some disastrous female appointments have ensued, which just make our gender look bad. Then again there have been disastrous male appointments throughout history, so how bad should we really feel?

One curious fact that Mr Evans neglected to use in his show is that 'being female' has now become desirable enough for increasing numbers of men to undertake surgery to become us! Imagine that happening in Victorian times (even if the surgical expertise existed), when women were but the property of men, with even the wealthiest living lives of unbelievable societal and professional stricture. We were corsetted in more ways than one!

I am a grateful recipient of all the suffragettes and feminists have achieved since those days, enabling me to have total freedom of expression, the vote and all the opportunities and choices I now enjoy. I for one, am happy and content. The only person who has held me back in my life is me and that is a fact of the past now.

As for other countries, is it our business to act as if we were still an empire and dictate to them how they should run their society? Or is it up to the women of each society to do what the women of Great Britain had to do to win what human freedoms they seek? I have so many qualms about us interfering in the affairs of other nations, no matter that I might disagree on a personal level with how they run their countries and treat their citizens.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Militant Breastfeeding - a mother's view

Following the fatuous comments of a BBC Solent Radio DJ last week to the effect that only unattractive mothers felt the need to get their breasts out in public to feed their babies, there has been somewhat something of a media furore on the subject.

Last night I asked my 76-year old mother (an ardent advocate of breastfeeding and fully paid up member of the National Childbirth Trust when we were little in the early 70s and breastfeeding was deeply unfashionable) what she thought.

Now bear in mind that this is a woman who also successfully fought for home birth for us both in an era where this was also deeply unfashionable. Futhermore her best friend in the vegetarian movement, Frances Howard, wrote one of the earliest pamphlets extolling the health virtues of breastfeeding - Breast is Best - of which there were always a stack of copies in our house as my mother used to give them to her Yoga class ladies (she is also a Yoga teacher of some 50 years standing).

To my surprise, my mother replied that she finds the whole concept of breastfeeding in public 'bizarre', and firmly believes that both mothers and babies need quiet and privacy for this activity and why would a mother want Joe Public gawking at her while she did it?

She also worried that the modern trend for 'militant breastfeeding' was turning the public against breastfeeding rather than genuinely promoting it, particularly among shyer and less confident mothers who might choose to bottlefeed rather than risk doing something portrayed as controversial, even though it is actually the most natural means.

I was glad to hear that, for all her staunch views on the subject, she basically agreed with me that breastfeeding should remain a private matter between mother and baby.

In addition why would any mother want to risk some creepy DJ staring at her and judging her attractiveness and presumably whether he'd give her one, despite the kid dangling from her nipple?
Or indeed the breed of man who jokingly remarks 'oi, that baby is stealing my milk!' upon noticing a nursing mother in the local cafe. At least one of my acquaintance admits that this is his first thought.

My mother concluded by saying that the best thing the NCT could do was carry on lobbying for breastfeeding facilities to be provided and maintained in all public places. I asked how she had managed in the early 70s.

'Well I always fed and changed you before we went out, took dummies for you both wherever we went, and if we were going to be out for more than a couple of hours I used a breast pump. In emergencies I would simply ask the shop or our host wherever we were if I could borrow a room for a few minutes. Or go behind a tree or bush. There are always ways.'

Ways of breastfeeding without compromising the human rights, sensibilities and freedoms of others? Why isn't my mother with her full collection of Sheila Kitzinger tomes in the bookcase head of NCT?