The Network

The Network
This blog is no longer updated. Please click the picture to hop across to The Network

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Only a bird in a gilded cage?

Karen Murphy says:

Years ago, when I first went into the world and embraced feminism as an equalising movement, not one based on hatred, resentment or superiority, my mother expressed doubts.
She said that she foresaw a time when women would be under more pressure, rather than less, with less respect rather than more, falling further behind rather than stepping out in front.
Then I thought her fearful and reactionary.
Now I think her wise.

Miss Eagle didn't have the prescience in this matter of Karen's mother. But I do give her some credit.

Miss Eagle's feminist credentials have always been sound. I was never in the radical, separatist camp. And I didn't swap my husband for a same sex partner. I have always called myself a fair-go-feminist or, more technically, an equalitarian.

I wanted a fair go: a fair go to be myself, not to be impeded because of my gender or marital status or fertility or child caring and rearing responsibilities. I love men - or some of them. And I care about the way some men are treated and how many of them - for one reason or another - don't get a fair go. I wanted to earn the good money the boys always ensured for themselves. I wanted women to cease to be their own worst enemies by their always-trying-to-please-mentality. I was sick and tired of a system that kept women happy by giving them a nice title, a nice office, don't-get-your-hands-dirty work, and lousy pay.

I hate Secretary's Day. To show appreciation to and for your Secretary/PA/EA, forget the ad in the paper. Ditch the roses. Give her decent money, time flexibility, a fair degree of autonomy, treat her as a professional member of the team, and value her work!

And titles. One of the feminist trademarks was "Ms." Even down to Gloria Steinem's magazine. But Ms was an indication that marital status was my business not yours. And believe me the stories that abounded back in the 70s in relation to single mothers and their treatment by electricity companies!

To Miss Eagle, the title is important. So important that she doesn't want any. She was not born with a title. She is not a miss - nor has she been missed.

I have a first name, a middle name, a last name. You can call me by my first name (my preference - even if you are a six year old) or you can call me by my last name. I don't want Miss, Ms, or Mrs. This has been the Quaker way for the last 350 years. If there is a Quaker title, it is merely Friend.

As for how to address the mail, use names or initials. Ms has still not lost the stigma of being a very, very radical title. Rubbish, poppycock and horsefeathers! Any good old fashioned stenographer will tell you that when you don't know the title of a woman (whether it is Miss or Mrs) you can always write M/s. This was the forerunner of the feminist Ms.

Many organisations - business, political, feminist - have, since the 70s, always addressed their mail Ms. But imagine my shock in recent times when I received a letter from Kevin Rudd address to me as Mrs.... !

Now, for those of you who are archaic, yes I am a Mrs. But I don't wish to be called Mrs and how dare Kevin or who ever prepared that letter assume, since they are complete strangers, my marital status. It is none of their ever-so-polite business. Why could the letter not have been addressed to FirstName LastName or FirstName Middle Name/Middle Initial Last Name. The salutation could have been Dear FirstName. What is so difficult about that? What is so bad mannered about that?

And then what bugs me is that, so often, computer programs give no option. Very few in the title box have an option saying "None". So I pick my own - if someone is willing to play along. My favourite Melbourne book store sends me their catalogue - courtesy of the assistance of a rather cute young man on a sunny Melbourne morning - using the title Saint: Saint First Name Last Name. Heaven knows what the postie thinks!

Back to Mrs Murphy and her prescience. Is she right? Julia Gillard is now next to the top of the tree and there are a lot more visible women in public and corporate life than ever before. Our efforts have not been for nought. But even more visible are the sexual libertarians and their camp (no: not gay: ancient phrase) followers.

Karen Murphy explicitly lays the blame and I support her:

And I blame women because winning equality and respect was always going to be our fight, wives and mothers, sisters, friends and colleagues, but we seem to have walked away before serious battle was even joined.
Capitalism lurks somewhere behind it, of that there is no doubt, the notion that earning money is without a moral component. But it goes deeper than that, as if we have all been sold the emperor's new clothes of sexual glamour.
No, ladies, it's not glamorous, it's just naked.
In particular, I hold to account:
■All the lap dancers, strippers, topless barmaids and well-educated prostitutes who do it for the money.
■Women participating in pornography.
■Women who post tawdry "raunch" photos of themselves on the internet.
■Women who model in degrading advertisements (think Windsor Smith shoes) who do it for the money.
■Women who have cosmetic surgery just when their faces are becoming interesting, and breast enhancements to make themselves desirable.

■Women who claim they have Brazilian waxes for themselves.
■Women who refuse to have an argument with their male partners over the sharing of household duties.
■Women who have caesareans so that their vaginas remain tight.
■Women who claim stiletto heels are comfortable.
■Mothers who give their daughters make-up or hair dye before they turn 10, and are more likely to ask if the child has a favourite boy at school rather than a favourite subject.
■All the women who participate in soft-porn music clips.
■All the women who do pole dancing instead of a non-sexual gym workout.
■All the actresses that strip when their careers are in trouble.
■All the female sports stars that strip to raise money.
■Those women who still believe it is more important to be beautiful on the outside than the inside.

Is this what the liberation of women, the freedom of choice and social movement for women is all about? If so, as Mrs Murphy predicted, it has devalued the currency. Not only has the currency of the free will of women being devalued but it is affecting our children, particularly our daughters and our grand-daughters.

We now have people who consider pole dancing a mainstream activity appropriate for teaching to little girls. We now have sexually-inspired clothes for little girls. Our little girls are not only playing with their mothers' cosmetics but seriously wearing cosmetics at a younger age than ever before.

The women who use their freedom for only these practices have sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. Instead of building wider horizons for themselves, they have narrowed the supposedly gilded cage. There is a wide and beautiful world out there waiting for women to explore and make their own. There are those who want to encase us in heavy clothes and imprison us in our homes and leave us naked on our beds.

We have to continue to fight to establish ourselves in the physical, mental and spiritual freedom our Creator Spirit intended for us.