This week at work, I grabbed a small bag of err… “lady items” from under my desk and strode past my team, exuding line-managery team-leadery confidence. I turned the corner to the loos, bumped into my director and then noticed him kicking one of my tampons across the hallway. He breezed past. Time froze as I realised I had been sashaying past my team shedding Lilets like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumb trail.
This kind of nonsense is so common for me I didn’t even blush, but instead just retraced my steps and gathered them up from the floor/the team-members who had picked them up for me.
Part of the issue for me is increasingly awful eyesight, but I still think the majority of my humiliation incidents are just fall-out from being a woman and a mother. Boob still accidentally hanging out after feeding: check. Skirt caught in pants after weeing: check. Half-shaved armpit/eczema cream in hair/mismatched earrings: check. Child unwrapping and partially eating your used lil…
OK, let’s draw a veil over that one. It’s too vile even for me to share. But you get the picture.
Perhaps the femaleness of someone’s body is essentially funnier, lesser, more embarrassing than the maleness of someone’s body. Boobs and vajazzles and cellulite and hair extensions: silly and impractical and vaguely humiliating?
And that idea took me to the thought that I rarely allow myself to have — that men, as a class, despise women, as a class. Or as another writer once put it “men, in essence, see themselves as 100% and women as 70%”. Whether it’s chuckles about women drivers or abuse within relationships, there is a shared root of superiority.
Now, I know (and hope) that most men of my acquaintance will balk at this, but I don’t think the men in my circle of liberal friends are necessarily representative, and a more global perspective is needed.
Violence by men causes more death and disability worldwide amongst women aged 15-44 than war, cancer, malaria and traffic accidents. At least 1 in 3 women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused, with the abuser usually known to her. In Rwanda up to half a million women were raped in 1994. In developing countries women produce 80% of the food but are more likely to be hungry than men. And even close to home: last year 1,070 men were convicted of rape in England and Wales despite the fact that approximately 78,000 people were raped – of which the vast majority were women and girl-children.
I often make a joke of the physical and social fall-out of being a woman, a lone-parent, a feminist. But perhaps, in the words of Morrissey “that joke isn’t funny any more”.
This post is dedicated to all the wonderful egalitarian men in my life.
Sources: World Bank Study World Development Report: Investing in Health, New York, Oxford University Press, 1993: General Assembly. In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary General, 2006. A/61/122/Add.1. 6 July 2006. Food and Agriculture Organization, The feminisation of hunger what do the surveys tell us? 2001, and The state of food insecurity in the world 2005, Rome: 2005, p17: Uk rape: MOJ, Home office, ONS