So, it’s International Women’s Day and in its build up, our councils and universities are figuring out the unique challenges of celebrating a sex class and a culture that no longer exist. Sefton Council waded, unwittingly, into a political scandal when they flew a flag bearing the dictionary definition of the word ‘woman’. It seems they had been hoodwinked by bigots into believing the definition of the word ‘woman’ wasn’t bigoted. Leicester University Student’s Union weren’t as easily fooled. Aware that the word ‘woman’ is triggering to trans peeps, they changed it to a word that doesn’t mean ‘woman’, or indeed anything.
It’s a formidable task, to raise awareness of women’s inequality without upsetting all the individuals, groups and brands that have a vested interest in destroying women as a sex class. To this end, I think U.N. Women deserve a special mention. In a sycophantic tweet centring transwomen, they got round the dichotomy, by redefining women as an entity without form or limit.
It’s bollox, obviously, though not literally. I sit here in my female form, with my limited body, analysing the implications of being without definition or shape within a political, legal and educational system that only serves that which it can designate meaning to.
It is reminiscent of when we used to put women on pedestals, keeping much out of their reach. You can call me out of touch for refusing to disbelieve my own existence and I will call you out for your hypocrisy.
Those of us older than ten can remember a time when the word ‘woman’ needed no complex definition. When everyone who was anyone, and all of the nobodies, could tell the difference between a guy and a girl. Co-existing with this period of history spanning all of history pre 2014, was an never ending list of gendered expectations placed on the sexed body of the entity that everybody knew was a woman. Be nice. Be Pretty. Be quite. And on it went, forever, creating the most bizarre expectations of how a woman might dress and behave, how she might think, if she could indeed think, and what her inner most desires might look like.
The most important thing you need to understand about this long list of non nonsensical bollox called ‘Gender expectations for a lady’ is that, like the Bible, it was written by blokes. Blokes telling you what she wants, what she really really wants.
Feminism, since its inception, has been about liberating the female body from the expectations of the male mind. Today, literally, we cannot speak the word ‘woman’ for fear of offending all the interlopers in our ranks, who find the word ‘woman’ coupled with meaning, exclusionary, phobic, even hateful.
And, as a woman, what the fuck am I supposed to do with that? Am I supposed to pretend that that I don’t believe in the material reality and commonality of the sexed body? Am I meant to swap my understanding of these truths for the incoherent ramblings of a morally vacuous media who present woman as esoteric?
We’ve heard it all before. Woman as Virgin. Woman as Whore. The Good Enough Mother. The fragrant Mary Archer. Woman as Thing so inexplicable as to be beyond the capacity of words to describe. Woman as Nothing.
My debut novel Nailing Jess re imagines womanhood in a Matriarchy.