Sunday, 13 January 2013

This is what I would vote for

I wasn't going to comment.

I'd been rebuked recently by the 'other side' and had learned that it was better to keep a low profile and stay out of political matters. It was a lesson I now intended to apply across the board. So, in my future life as a senior person of presumed wisdom and garnered experience, there would be no standing for Parish Councils, Local District Councils or Parliament. No serving community or country in any way, if it involved getting elected and a political process. Not even to become a representative for the kind of person that I am.

I saw that I wasn't cut out to be anything other than a private citizen. And I was content to be an unknown private citizen at that. My chief public presence was the blog, and I felt it was well lost among the thirty million other blogs out there. Similarly, I had a Flickr site, even more lost in the mist. Let it stay that way.


I read Dru's blog, then Jenny's, then Jane's, and now Andrea's. I saw the comments on the radfem site that had savaged me worst. It was all very disturbing. I thought: well, if you have any influence at all, however slight, now is the time to exert it and make a few points that might help defuse all this. Don't just turn your back.

So I read Suzanne Moore's article of 8 January, published in the New Statesman, and I didn't think it provocative. I read Julie Burchill's supportive article of 13 January, published in The Observer, and took on board both the outrage she felt for her friend and her message, even though it did not persuade me to her point of view. Neither article made me cross. But I could easily see why either, and especially the second, could inflame passions. And it seems to me that something has been set alight here which we should all - Ms Burchill included - do well to control before it gets truly out of hand. By which I mean lawsuits for defamation, and fines imposed on the media vehicles that carry articles of this nature. That will only play into the hands of those who want to curb free speech generally. Surely we don't want the New Stateman and The Observer shut down?

It's such a shame, all this conflict. What do modern feminists actually want? Isn't it more or less this:

# Absolute fairness and respect for all women, in every sphere. Not just equal pay. Or childcare that leaves them free to pursue a career on the same terms as a man. Or the instant and unquestioning support of the Police in abuse and rape cases. But exactly the same deal that a man gets in every aspect of life. As if we were all simply 'people' without distinction. Well, I want to see that.

# For women to have total control over their bodies - every opportunity for such things as abortion, no unreasonable hurdles to any surgery or facility for which men presently act as gatekeepers. No man to come near to their bodies unless they expressly give permission. And no man to come uninvited into their private spaces. I want to see that too.

# Absolutely equal opportunities for education, travel, jobs, business leadership, political leadership, and religious leadership...just as a man enjoys. And no exceptions. Well, I'd like to see that come about as well.

Any party that offered these things would get my vote.

It may be that a feminist reading this would say: Yes, I do see that you are sincere, and that you really would vote as you say. But you'd do it knowing that as a government-backed 'legal female' with a Gender Recognition Certificate, you would share all these benefits that only natal women should have. It's true: I could not be denied them.

The answer I have is this. If you have total equality, where the only thing that matters is your proven status as a human being, and possibly your age, then male/female distinctions largely become redundant. Everyone enjoys the same thing, to the same degree. So where is the issue?

I'm not sure that the average feminist would want this absolute equality. It wouldn't undermine the inner sensations of being a woman, nor indeed of being a man, but there would be no material or political advantage in being either sex, nor anything in between. It sounds utopian, but I'd be quite happy to live in such a world.

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Lucy Melford