So today is International Women’s Day and this year is the first year my news feed has been full of it. In recent years 3rd wave feminism has occurred and everything is pushing in the right directions. Advertisers, who in my mind are the biggest shapers of society are getting on board and making more empowering ads, more like ads aimed at men. I should be pleased! Mostly I am, but I also have this irritableness that it’s all a fad, a bandwagon and all too celebratory, without true progress or meaning.
This feeling is very negative. I think the issue is that the battle(s) I’ve been fighting has gone mainstream and I’m not as unique as I once was. Not only that for my generation of women we were pretty much all closet feminists from the push back of 2nd wave feminism. There are pretty obvious signs of push back now, with Trump and Russia, trying and in some cases, succeeding in reinstating backward and ignorant laws that make women more vulnerable.
There are these traps that we women fall into, in being the only one. As one blogger put it – it’s like in the film highlander (I wish I could find that post)
There can be only one
Or as female film critics put it the Smurfette syndrome. This is the idea that for a woman to succeed amongst men, there can only be one. And in the Smurfette version must also be attractive.
Margaret Thatcher was one example of doing this deliberately. She said once that she did not consider herself a feminist and she did not help or appoint any women into her cabinet. She also maintained and promoted ‘the women can do it all mentality’. Despite this she was a woman that inspired me, the first female English prime minister. An act that said yes it can be done, a woman can do anything a man can do. So she was quite a strong role model for me. I know a lot of people hate her and think she single handedly ruined this country. I can’t help feeling that if she had done the same things as a man the vitriol would be much much less. I think she was aware that to succeed she needed to be the only one, she even had a dress code of wearing the opposite colour of the men.
Geena Davis has been working to break these poor representations in media and has set up among other things The Institute of Gender in Media using her fame to promote it. One of her campaigns is See Jane
If she can see it, she can be it
I do feel that just being a female martial artist does inspire young girls to stay and continue. I don’t even have to be any good for this to help, of course it is better if I am. For both me and girls and women looking at me. It’s exciting to see them come up through the ranks, but then I have to avoid the trap, the trap of wanting to be unique, be the only one. I am not the only adult female dan in our club, but I often feel like it, as she cannot attend as frequently as me. I did grade before her, but I was not the first exactly, the first left before I hit brown belt.
I still see her sometimes and she said she sometimes felt she didn’t deserve her black belt and that it was an honorary one. I don’t agree but I do know other people (men) who also thought that. I am in no position to judge, but I do know she gave me a trail to pick out and follow. So even though I am considered the trailblazer for women in our club, I think it is important to recognise her contribution, and her help toward me.
There were other women ahead of me as well who could have easily beat me there and girls with natural talent and more energy who could have done the same. It is these girls that made me aware of the highlander trap.
They had got to brown, nothing to do with me, or to do with seeing me, I think more to do with a friend who was a junior black belt. She has the evilest little punches ever. Brilliant.
Anyway back to the trap, one day I was paired with them. We were supposed to be working together, I wasn’t a teacher then, but I felt the need to assert my dominance and authority, as a higher grade (only one or two grades), and as their elder. I’m not proud of it. I don’t even remember what I did and they may not have even noticed it, or cared. However it did highlight my need to be better than them. To be the only female worth looking at. I am not a queen bee type like the other female adult dan, I’m not popular or easy to get to know, pretty average in intelligence and looks, so I felt this was mine, my thing, other women/girls can’t have it. I felt threatened. I feel it with the other female adult dan too, a need to be competitive. I haven’t asked her if she has the same issues. Maybe I should.
Another blog post I read some years ago (which I also can’t find) discussed the Queen Bee effect in how we are often jealous of women who do better, are better looking, more graceful, more popular. That post put it in such a simple way. This post, eliminate girl hate, is quite good. This was way worse than the girls. I struggled with this relationship for a very long time, made harder by the fact we had to nearly always train together, being the only two women on a fairly regular basis. I think it is made worse by the fact, these attitudes are so ingrained in our society, half the time we don’t even realise we are doing it. I also think that guys encourage us to be competitive with each other. Envy was/is the biggest issue for me and the stupid thing is, none of the things she has, that I feel are better than me, are things that I really want. Other things like intelligence and skill we have in different areas so we could easily help each other.
I actually worked with her tonight and all the old feelings of inferiority were still there but somehow I have moved to a point of so what, and all I wanted to do, today, on women’s day, was be supportive of her. Which is how it should be.