“You’d make a lousy feminist!”
My son’s words followed me down the garden path as I left. As a child of my generation, I am used to the changing face of the familiar, but his throwaway comment of, ‘It’s a female Doctor!’ had shocked me profoundly.
‘I suppose it had to happen eventually…’ and ‘Shouldn’t be allowed…’ were my immediate comments upon hearing the news. The thought of a female Doctor just seems plain wrong to someone who was around for the very first episode of Doctor Who. William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, John Pertwee and Tom Baker… it was bad enough when the face of the Doctor changed back then, but to have a sex change as well just doesn’t sit right, even though I know the storyline allows for it.
Personally, I gave up on Doctor Who after Tom Baker, though I did see the odd episode here and there. Even so, and although opinions vary on the acting, production and characterisation, Hartnell remains the Doctor for the child in me.
The parting rejoinder from my son, though, did make me think. He is quite right. In spite of the many battles I’ve fought for equal rights over the years, as a worker, a woman and as senior management, I would make a lousy feminist.
While I am a firm supporter of equal rights and the continuing need to address the political, economic, personal, and social discrepancies that still exist between the sexes, I am also of the opinion that the same level playing field should be extended beyond gender to include all human beings, not just women, regardless of ethnicity, religious affiliation or any other of the false separators that currently cause the divisions and inequalities between us.
I have been refused jobs on the stated grounds that, being a young woman, they wouldn’t want to waste their time training me, only to have me go off and have babies. I have been given jobs where I earned three quarters of the salary of the men I was employed to train. I remember the bra-burning years, when women fought to be allowed to do ‘men’s jobs’ such as working on building sites… and even demanded the right to work shirtless like their co-employees. I agree with wanting the right to be able do so, but have to question the practicalities of bra-less building, if only on safety grounds.
In the same way, the morals and social mores that have been acceptable for the male of the species from time immemorial should be equally permitted for women… sauce for the goose, and all that… but there are few things more unattractive than a drunken young woman, senseless and vomiting in the gutter outside a bar. Just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should… and it certainly doesn’t mean you must. Equal rights, in essence, means having the legal, political, social and economic right to make that choice for yourself.
I do not see roles as gender-defined… there are women who can hold a household together through the darkest times, wield an axe or a power drill, or reach the top of ambition’s ladder, just as there are men who are more tender mothers than their partners, and others who lead armies, in the workplace or on the battlefield. Who we allow ourselves to be should not depend upon the body we wear, its gender, age or race. The expectations of societal norms are moulds made to be broken.
The thing is, I suppose, that I have never seen women as being inferior in the first place, except in legal and social terms, but as equal partners in the dance of life and creation. The gifts and strengths of the sexes complement each other; we are not opposites, but necessary parts of a whole.
Being male or female is not only a physical attribute, but an energetic one too. There are feminine women with a dynamic, masculine energy and as many strong men with a receptive and gentle aura… and both are as valuable in the wider world as their more stereotypical counterparts.
The moon could not illuminate the night without the existence of the sun… but the sun does not shine at night. The brilliance of the stars could not be seen without the blackness of space, but would we be aware of the darkness without the light it holds? Strength that does not know how to be gentle becomes brutality, just as emotion without discernment descends into sentimentality. Each one of us is a unique cocktail of masculine and feminine elements and, when we can accept those elements for the gifts they are, they enable both ourselves and those around us to shine.
My son is right, I am a lousy feminist, I am more egalitarian than that. The human race is a single picture made of a myriad small pieces. Subtract but one piece and the picture is incomplete. Seek to change one piece and you change the whole…and in that lies hope for the future and equality of humankind as well as possible seeds of destruction. Change your piece of the picture and you can begin changing the world for the better, but devalue any piece and you damage the whole.
It all comes down to having the right to choose…and even in the most restrictive societies, we each have the right to choose what is in our own hearts, where no legislation is needed, nor can it be imposed unless we allow it. We travel together on a journey through life and time, companions on the road. There are those upon whom we can lean when our steps falter, others to whom we extend a helping hand and yet others who make travelling a chore or a delight… but we all share the same journey in the end. Man, woman, young or old, it matters not at all… unless, of course, you happen to be playing the new Doctor Who.