Thursday, August 29, 2013

Equality between women and men

Have you noticed that we usually talk about 'men and women' and not about 'women and men'? If we are to achieve equality for all we must get to the stage where we feel comfortable using both these phrases interchangeably. That isn't the only thing that must change. We must have equal representation (about 50%) of women and men in politics, in boardrooms, and in other workplaces. This alone would revolutionise how we perceive men and women, but there's a lot more to equality than this. For now, though, it's a good place to start. I'm sick of women not being taken as seriously as men. In 2003 I wrote to the Oxford University Press because they used 'he' to speak for humanity in general on their website, not 'they' or 's/he'. The woman who responded to my complaint failed to find fault with this privileging of the male over the female. I wonder how she would respond today in the light of the renewed feminist consciousness the world is currently experiencing. Would she have the same ignorance?
It took me a long time to notice that most protagonists in everything from children's books to crime fiction are male. A woman learns to put herself in the shoes of a male early on, to prioritise 'his' voice over 'hers'. This leads to an imbalance in our society where men are seen as the default setting for humanity, and we assume that the male point-of-view is universally relevant. What we need is more stories that focus on the female experience - approximately half of protagonists should be female, and equally authoritative. That is what equality means to me, and it would change a lot of things in the world, not least of which the self-esteem of all of society's members for the better. I don't believe for a second that men really want to be dominant. I believe it is a burden, the disadvantage that comes with being advantaged, and they would want change as much as female feminists do if they really had the time and space to think about it (and do some soul-searching). All of us need to help each other understand the obstacles to understanding the other, so that we can overcome them, and have females empowering males and males empowering females equally.

Friday, August 23, 2013

On not wearing a bra

"You really need it," an acquaintance told me with good-natured amusement when I admitted that I was happy to go bra-less - my cup size is E, so it's quite noticeable when I don't subject my chest to uncomfortable restraints. But the thing is, I don't need it. Not at all. I leave my bra behind as often as I can work up the courage to face the negative attention. I feel infinitely more comfortable, and since it's a conspicuous sign of my activism I don't necessarily need my custom-designed tee with Feminist written on it to indicate visually that I am one. 
As for the lash-back from the more conservative elements of Sydney's eastern suburban society, I try not to let it get to me, especially since they are in the minority. Most people don't seem particularly affected. After all, it's not like they haven't seen a breast in its natural state before. The freedom I feel when I choose to go bra-less often makes up for any uncomfortable glances I might receive.
A recent French study claims that women who don't wear bras have greater pertness to their breasts, which is just one more reason to go without.
I believe that bras are another means of controlling women's bodies in society. Women are expected to conceal their nipples (which are usually read as sexual) and to have their chests conform to certain norms of contour (to be more easy on the eye). Who's to say that the rounded shape that most bras encourage is more aesthetically pleasing than a breast left unlifted? A lot of us have been brought up to believe that this is true, but then we have been exposed to very few alternatives, and not given enough opportunities to develop a different taste. I would like to see more women go bra-less, so I can get a chance to find the natural look more appealing.