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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

International Women's Day: My Relationship with Feminism

I am a feminist.  For me, that means I believe that women are not men's inferiors.  I consider myself a liberal or 'equal rights' feminist.  In my head, this is all very straightforward, but I often find other people slightly more confusing...

For example, my students.  I look forward to being able to teach about equality and diversity - something which is easier for me, as an English teacher, than for some other subjects.  But then, when it comes to it, I find myself justifying the label 'feminist' to get away from the stereotypes that teens seem to have in mind.  I have been encouraged by the occasional response of 'but that's not anything -ism, that's normal', but for the most part, somebody in the room is always waiting for me to betray those man-hating instincts.

I've encountered others with odd (to me!) views too.  My postgrad studies included a Women's Studies element and I was surprised to find that some felt I didn't belong there - because I was (and still am!) married.    More recently, we've seen surprise in others as hubby stays at home full time with the kids and has done for almost 7 years now.  Whether it's fascination (does he do... washing, cleaning, school run etc etc) or pity (oh, can't he get a job), people react - which they probably wouldn't do so much if I did the house+kids thing while he worked.

Overall though, I still consider myself a feminist because we still have so far to go.  Obviously there are parts of the world which have a shocking record for women's rights, but even here in the enlightened West, there remain many inequalities, not the least of which is attitude.

The Penguin Atlas of Women in the WorldA great resource for exploring women's rights around the world is this Atlas of Women in the World, which graphically represents a range of relevant figures.  It's been a real eye-opener in my classes, as students discover statistics relating to literacy, marital rape and access to contraception.

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