I’m a fairly average English woman called Cherry Austin. I’m very concerned about women’s independence and freedoms, and the fact that it’s getting harder to find accurate information about being a female human. I started That Woman as a resource, hopefully useful for girls & women of all ages, colours and classes.
I think younger women might be throwing away recent gains without realising just how recent they are. It often feels like we’re all equal now (we aren’t yet!) and there’s no reason to worry about being treated as a sub-standard human. The very idea! But recent gains are fragile. We must protect them.
It’s taken about 150 years to win basic rights and freedoms for women & girls. Each gain was a massive fight: people who’ve got total power don’t like giving any of it up! Women couldn’t have done it without some men helping them, and there are still plenty of men who work towards a fair world for everyone. But there are many more who desperately want all the power back. They’ll try anything to get it. You need to keep resisting. Your daughters need you to.
If your grandma’s British, she grew up in a world where women had to leave their jobs when they got married – and men were shamed if their wife worked. If she battled on regardless, there was no paid maternity leave. She wasn’t allowed to run her own finances; she needed a man’s written permission to have a bank account or own property. There was no support for single mothers: no refuges, and child benefit (family allowance) was paid to the husband. It was extremely difficult for women to have any independence. We were no longer a man’s property in law, but the world acted like we still were.
If your mum was born in the 1960s, this is the Britain she was born into. Things were about to change. The Pill gave us control over our own fertility. That freed us up to take a look around. We didn’t like what we saw, and fought – hard – for better conditions. Women of your mother’s age won equal rights to work and (theoretically) equal pay, female-friendly conditions such as women’s toilets at work and guaranteed maternity leave. They built refuges and got the benefits rules changed so that mothers could leave abusive men. But marital rape was still legal and the police wouldn’t prosecute a wife-beater.
Always about sex
Getting pregnant is often the thing that prompts us to get interested in our rights. It can be a bit of a shock introduction to the realities of living in a female body, and there’s another shock when people start treating us more like public baby-making property than individual humans. Medical science is only just catching up to the fact that females aren’t small males with a uterus thrown in (really!)
Women managed to get an equal, happy, independent sex life for a few decades in the mid to late 20th century. These days, porn’s another big influence on the way we understand our own bodies and how the male world sees us. Online media give both boys and girls a very particular view of sex, in which men do it to women, and women hurt. It’s a fake view, but it’s big business because of all the men who want to grab back the power.
It’s worth learning some facts about just how different – and clever – our bodies are. I’ll provide as much reliable information as I can. And, I hope, some inspiration!