Tag Archives: gender equality

I’m female, get over it!

I meant to write this post last week but life got in the way.  As you know, I recently did a talk at a Camera Club in Scotland.  I started off by talking about my experiences of being a wildlife photographer, and did a small section on the hurdles faced by female wildlife photographers.  I talked about wanting some camouflage trousers and finding just what I wanted in the men’s department, but only finding pink lycra camouflage in the women’s.  I wanted a Timex Rugged Expedition watch (mud, shock, drop and water proof) and out of the 20 on the Timex website, 19 were for men and only 1 for women – the men’s had stop watches, compasses, altimeters……..and the women’s told the time, no other features not even the date (I actually wrote to complain to the head of design for Timex and to point out that women lead very active, outdoor lives but didn’t even get a reply).   I also talked about the fact that I have a pop-up hide for my wildlife photography which has a lovely comfy chair, but when I sit in the chair I can’t see out of the view holes because they’re designed for much taller men – not a single photography hide is made for women and even if one were available I’m fairly sure it would be pink.

Left: male Expedition watches   Right: female Expedition watch

The question I’m most often asked about my creative photographs is “where do you get your ideas from?!” so in the second half I talked through the inspiration behind some of my photos.   One of my pictures was inspired by the fact that all the books I read as a child had women trapped in turreted castles waiting to be rescued by a man on a white horse and I commented that it is great these days that girls get to read books where they are Dora the Explorer or Rebecca the Steam Train (although it did take 70 years for Thomas the Tank Engine to get a female counterpart).  Another picture was about the myriad of hurdles faced by women every day and which even we don’t notice, for example supermarket shelves which are too high for women to reach, the fact that an average 5.5″ mobile phone is designed to fit in one male hand but is too big for a female hand, DIY equipment only sized for men (everything from safety gloves to screwdriver handles) and the fact car seat belts aren’t designed for pregnant people.  About my niece who became a police officer last year and who has to wear a stab vest all day designed for men not women with boobs, despite the fact we’ve had female police officers for over 100 years now (some female police officers have resorted to surgery to reduce their breast size due to the pain!) and the fact that since the Thalidomide scandal 70 years ago 99% of drug testing has been done on men, even though we know men and women metabolize drugs differently.  That last statement was one too many for some of the men in the audience, one of whom muttered loudly “it’s 60%!”  No, mate, it’s not.  Even when drugs are on tested on mice in a laboratory they are male mice, not female.

At the end of the evening, I overheard one woman in the audience say “I thought I was coming to a photography talk, not a talk on feminism!”.  Well fuck a rubber duck.

It astounds me that some women will defend the male world we live in.  They say it hasn’t bothered them.  My response to that is you need higher standards.  You need to have more self esteem and to demand to live in a world which is designed for both genders.

A man came up to me after my talk, trying to be helpful.  He was small for a bloke, about 5ft 4″, and told me of this particular shop where I’d be able to get camo trousers to fit me because they fit him.  I thanked him politely, then walked away shaking my head.  Has it escaped his notice that even if we’re of roughly similar heights we are not shaped the same?  Does he think I have a male, 32″ waist?!  FFS.  “Unisex” clothing means the clothes fit men, and we women are just supposed to lump the fact the sleeves and legs are too long, the bum is too tight, our boobs are flattened and the waist is like a boat.

Body shape front   body shape side.jpg

I’m not a feminist, whatever one of those is.  I just believe men and women are equal and should be treated equally.  Which isn’t to say we’re the same.  The women who get ahead in life have to behave like men to do so, which really pisses me off.  Women like Karren Brady (Vice-chair of West Ham Utd football club) and Angela Merkel (German Chancellor), who are called “ballsy” even though women don’t fucking have testicles!  Even the adjectives given to successful women have to be male.  I want to live in a world where a female Prime Minister doesn’t have to wear power suits – she can rock up in a floral dress and still be taken seriously.  We’re not there yet.  Not by a long shot.

We’ve had 2 millennia of hearing about the world from a male perspective and it turns out that in the 21st century we still can’t even stand 90 minutes of hearing about the world from a female perspective without feeling the need to denigrate the speaker.  It makes me furious and just really, really sad.

 

Strong Women

As some of my readers know, I was really struggling with the situation regarding my alcoholic Mother last Christmas so paid to see a therapist.  I come from a working class background (both parents worked in a factory and don’t have a qualification between them) and live in a farming community – if you have a sensitive disposition you’d sink where I live because swearing is the order of the day and men dominate.  And I do mean dominate.  Everything from their wives to the Chamber of Trade which as far as I know doesn’t contain a single female.   In my local newspaper 80% of the editorial is written by men – the only page dedicated to women is the ‘Women’s Institute’ – jam and craft making.  Yay.

One of the things the therapist said to me which really struck home was that I am a strong, intelligent woman and it appears that my whole life there has no been no place for that in my family.  How right she is.  Men can be as dominating and rude and dismissive as they like, but if women speak up they are classed as “opinionated”, “troublemakers” or just plain gobby.  I have been accused of all three on several occasions.  I rail against the differences in how the genders are perceived because it makes me furious.

To live an entire life so torn between conforming to the expected norm yet feeling the exact opposite has been confusing to say the least and has left me with huge inner conflict.  Take what happened at our Club dinner on Friday night for example.  I hated the seating plan.  To be told who I could speak to at a social event like I was 5 years old irritated the fuck out of me, so I told the organizer I wasn’t happy.  That’s all I said “I’m not happy” and all hell broke loose.  I then felt so guilty for upsetting the organizer that I was tearful on the way home, yet I had a valid opinion which I should be able to vocalize.

I’m still stressed about it nearly a week later and as stress badly affects my health I’ve barely slept or eaten all week.  I now face having to attend a committee meeting and put my views to the organizer who is a formidable, quite frankly rude and dominating personality.  Part of me wants to simply not do it while the other half knows I have a sodding right to my opinion.  However, when you’ve been told your whole life that having an opinion makes you a troublemaker the desire to just roll over and bow to other people’s wishes is overwhelming.

My best mate said to me once that for someone who hates conflict I seem to be involved in it a lot and she’s right.  I hate conflict – it genuinely makes me ill – but despite that I refuse to act like I don’t exist.  My needs, views and desires are as important as anyone elses.  So despite what it takes out of me I stand up for myself, and in doing so for women who don’t feel able to stand up for their selves.  But it makes for a stressful life.

When I first joined my Camera Club I realized that 98% of the judges were male and that while photos  of steam trains did really well in competitions more feminine pictures of flowers for example did badly, which disadvantaged women photographers.  So I challenged the status quo, which let me tell you didn’t go down well.  One of the male camera club members said openly to me that “I prefer women like x, who just quietly get on with their photography without making a fuss”.  Yes, I’m sure you do.  However, it’s a good job not all women go about their business not making a fuss otherwise we would never have been emancipated and we’d all still be tied to the kitchen sink, the property of our husbands, without the right to vote, be educated, hold down a job or attend a Camera Club for that matter.  I’m still convinced some men mourn the old days where they had absolute power and women had none.  Four years later I’m still teased at the Club for “throwing my toys out of the pram” because some judges didn’t like my pictures.  How to not get the fucking point about gender equality and be patronizing to boot.

Because of the domination of men the only way women have their voice heard is to be LOUD which is then seen as aggressive.   Men of course can be loud and it’s just seen as normal!  Will we ever reach a time where women can gently and quietly have their viewpoint heard without having to shout?  I hope so.  And I hope I can one day put forward my opinion without feeling guilty for even having one.