Jun 30, 2008

Why Feminist is NOT a dirty word

I've never read any of Isabel Allende's books, but I caught her interview with Andrew Denton on "Elders" this evening.

In one elegant, prosaic statement, Allende - who was one of the first feminist writers in Chile before fleeing into exile when Pinochet took power - sums up perfectly why I call myself a feminist, and why all women should do the same:

I think that young women today don't want to be called feminists because it's not sexy and they think that their mothers and grandmothers have achieved everything they want. They don't know how poor women live, how women in rural places live, how 80 percent of women in the world are the poorest of the poor, how still today there are 27 million slaves, most of them women and girls. Two thirds of the work in the world is done by women. Women own 1 percent of the assets. Young women are sold into prostitution, forced labour, premature marriage, forced to have children they don't want or they can't support. They're abused, raped, beaten up. Domestic violence is supposed to be a cultural problem. They are the first victims of war, fundamentalism, conflict, recession. And young women today who have access to education and health care and have resources think that everything was done, they don't have to worry. Well that makes me really angry. I feel that I have to shake them and say, "No, it's your responsibility to make things happen." The women's revolution, the women's movement was something extraordinary that changed a generation. It began the movement. We still have a lot to do.

I call myself a feminist - but I know there's still much I have to do before I truly earn the title.


  1. yes arnt women lucky 2 b living in australia let alone the western world?
    here you have the rights u deserve unlike most if not all islamic countries where women in the main r seen only as a tool 4 procreation..
    and most certainly not allowed any assets..
    and prostitution and slavery being almost out of control in mainly african countries..
    yes western women r very lucky indeed..australia would have 2 b probably the most tolerant country on earth..unlike countries such as iran, syria, iraq, arabia where women are still being stoned..
    and that disgracefull hatefull human being germaine greer being so full of despisement for males of the western kind..
    i sometimes wonder how she feels about islamic males in islamic countries?..interesting..
    im quite certain if she sprooked her hate in those countries she wouldnt b alive 2day..

    wat a lovely thought..

    if your politicaly correct?

    then your not correct..

    geoff carindale

  2. oh

    and by the way

    i have neighbors from iran..they r the loveliest people..

    they r proud muslims and im proud 2 call them my friends..


  3. Hi Geoff,

    I have to take issue with your description of Germaine Greer. Sure, she's a polarising character. But I admire many of the points she raises.

    I think it's very easy to say "Men in the west are good; men in the East are not". It over-simplifies matters. Yes, absolutely, we need to improve the treatment of women in countries such as Iran and Syria.

    But it's not all rosy in the West. There is still much domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape - then entering the corporate sector and you still have sexism, the glass ceiling, patronism of females.

    I think Germaine Greer does a lot to point this out.

    For example - I have many male friends and love them dearly. It would not occur to most of them that my being female prohibits me from certain roles. But occasionally they might refer to a woman as a "slut" or "whore", perhaps in jest, perhaps not. Occasionally I do this myself!

    It's really appalling behaviour, and is very insidious.

    One of my recent pledges to myself was to not use those terms at all when describing other women.

    There are chicks out there whom I loathe - but I loathe them because of the person they are, or the actions they've taken, not because of their sexual history, so it's incredibly wrong to label them with such terms.

    The fact that what a woman does with her sexuality is still up for so much judgement is evidence biases still exist, and should be fought!

    Thanks for commenting.

  4. Nat, what is a feminist in your eyes today?

  5. sure nat.,.

    i dislike those terms..words..slut / whore..horrendous...but at least your not walking 6 feet behind the man..arnt allowed 2 talk 2 other males and r allowed religious and sexual freedom here in the west..

    over simplify?..well..would u prefer to over complicate things?

    germaine greer is an ugly human being..
    full of hate..spite and vindictiveness..

    her comments re. steve irwin were a disgrace..

    being a feminist is certainly not a dirty word..

    i believe today most feminists distance themselves from greer...

    thats definately a step in the rite direction..


    your old fart friend


    p.s.r gail and david watson related?

    gooo the marooons

  6. Hey clumsy, you should check out this excellent blog thing over at Slate.com - it's pretty interesting, and relates to what you're talking about here.


    And I can't back you on the Greer thing - one seminal work doesn’t give you a life pass. She's been struggling for relevance for a few years now.


  7. 'Seminal' definition - "highly original and influencing the development of future events"

    If this is the definition of seminal you are talking about then she really does have a life pass.

    If her earlier ideas were highly original and influenced the development of future events then the only reason you can write what you have written is because of Greer.

    If she influenced future events (the future now being NOW) then she is still relevant.

  8. I'll have to disagree -
    What she wrote THEN has an influence now and is still relevant. What she wrote last week has almost no meaning. In fact it kind of takes away from her past writing. So the book gets a life pass, she does not.
    In the UK she is a bit of a rent-a-headline for feminism and Australian events. Like a left wing version of a shock jock they wheel her out to say something outrageous so the Daily Mail (or the Courier) has something to complain about for a few days.