Are Women Really Defined by Men? Has Feminist Become a Dirty Word Again?

Last night, TV drama Apple Tree Yard concluded on television.  Its conclusion appearing to be that the main thing perimeopausal women need in their lives is some tall, dark mysterious stranger to make things exciting.  Are women really so shallow?  Will we all be rushing out to buy sports cars and adopting comb overs at the first sniff of waning ovaries next?  Ludicrous.

Apparently all it takes, for even a highly intelligent woman, to whip their knickers off in a broom cupboard is one brooding look and a few sentences.  Oh, and the lure that it was the same broom cupboard Emily Wilding Davison hid in in 1911 was an absolute guarantee of knicker removal etc, apparently.  The poor woman must be turning in her grave!

I haven't read the novel the series was based on, and perhaps it is far better than this dramatization, but the key message appeared to be that now we are all independent feminist sorts with careers we will become like men and have mid-life crises.

Really?  Aren't most middle-aged women far too busy maintaining those careers, running homes, looking after their children who could be aged 1 or 31, and possibly still enjoying a good relationship with their husbands?

What kind of message are we giving our mothers, sisters, daughters if we think their entire lives can be upturned over some 'mysterious' (suspicious, downright odd) man?

Wish me luck raising three girls in this world!

Then this morning I read that our second female Prime Minister, still a thing to be proud of, whatever your political standpoint, has had to apologise in the House of Commons for attempting to demean another MP by calling her by husband's name, rather than the job title or constituency name she should have used.  When brought up on the point, she sniped at Ms Thornberry, who uses her own name in life and work, May commented:

“I have to say though for the past 36 years I have been referred to by my husband’s name!"

Yes dear, maybe you have, but it doesn't mean the rest of us have to!  Why women give up their own name, the core of their identity, to become subservient to someone else's gender and title is a constant mystery to me.

Centuries of being 'given away' from one man to another at an altar, then becoming part of his chattels and belongings by taking his name is so ingrained that, even now we have been 'given' the vote, we are supposed to follow this oppressive patriarchal 'tradition'.  Disturbing.

Since Steve and I married, the only people who have asked me why we have different names have been women.  Like many countries in the world, we both have our own names and our children have a combination of our surnames.  Why would I ever change the name I had for many years simply because I chose to make a public and religious commitment to someone else?

And yet, we live in a society which still makes a distinction between toys for girls and those for boys (because obviously they are operated with genitalia!); which believes girls sit and play quietly and keep themselves clean and tidy, whilst boys shout and fight and get muddy; and in which casual sexism in images, throw away comments and attitudes is rife.  Inequality in roles, pay, dress and expectations remains a huge issue.  Even girl superhero toys have to wear short skirts, have long hair and interesting body issues!

How far have we really moved on?

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  1. As I said, this show was like '50 Shades of Grey' but featuring a more modern, 'career woman' type. I'm not sure who it's supposed to appeal to. Many people have fantasies about dark handsome strangers, fair enough. Though for me, the mysterious male character was more creepy than sexy.

    As for the rest, I completely agree with you! I'm intrigued that so many women want to change their names to their husband's when they marry. Respect for tradition can be admirable, but there are many aspects of tradition that seem outdated now.

    1. Definitely creepy. Even if she wanted a brief liaison, a proper conversation first might have been a better idea! Very odd.

      I certainly don't get the name changing thing, or the being an 'other half', own person thanks. There is so much in the terminology used, the way people address one another, and themselves even, that is outdated and part of the misogynist, patriarchal tradition, but no-one seems to notice and/or care! Then we wonder why women are still paid less, rape victims are still blamed, society is geared towards men etc etc etc. And don't even get me started on the insistence that hair removal, make-up, nails that make you unable to do much, shoes that prevent natural walking, ludicrous clothing, and fortunes spent on the same, are a pre-requisite of being female. Disturbing.

  2. I think a lot of people get het up about feminism or lack of progress. I don't know what was said re Teresa May, but I don't get offended by taking my husband's name. Does it bother me that it's essentially a tradition in being 'owned' by my husband. No. I earn my own money (more than him take home pay wise), we pay for different things - ultimately I've paid for our son for everything, I work full time, and he doesn't have a say in what I do (although we do have a bit of a strange relationship because he doesn't do anything with us, just works all the time). He's probably quite a traditional bloke (none of the women in his family work outside of the family apart from me, once having had children), but when I was made redundant and was looking for more work, I asked if he'd prefer me to stay at home more with N. He made no comment (maybe because he didn't dare). Yes I'd have maybe made a slight sacrifice after all I did choose to have a child, but I didn't choose to change who I was, despite taking his name. (It did help that I prefer his surname to my own, but I guess the alternative is double barrel or make him take yours like an old work colleague did. I don't believe getting married and taking his name changed our relationship (kids did that). And I can't believe the majority of men in this day and age would think it does.

    Personally, I think if people don't like the symbolism (even if it's not really the reality nowadays) of marriage, then don't get married, or have an alternative ceremony and choose your own vows.

    1. Absolutely, each to their own etc. For us, getting married was really important, but that didn't mean I needed to call myself by another name or become 'Mrs' anything, I stayed me but just chose to share my life with, and make a commitment to, Steve. Our cultural norms are based on misogyny, but that doesn't mean they can't be changed or follow the patterns that are the norm for many other cultures.


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