Sunday 1 August 2010
Feminism dominated relationships in the 80s. As usual, in theory it made life better, and in reality made it impossible.
The theory said that men and women were equal. They weren’t. They still aren’t. But you had to pretend they were.
The feminists behaved as if they had already won, and they policed the language and behaviour of their “sisters”. There were so many things you couldn’t discuss – couldn’t even say. You weren’t even allowed to see obvious differences between men and women – men like sport and keep their CD collection in alphabetical order; women like knitting and gossip. This would have sent the wrong message. Everything you said and did had to be propaganda (more later).
The feminists wanted to “liberate women from sexism”. (Did we really talk like professors the whole time? We did.) They did this by imposing a whole new set of restraints.
Perhaps they secretly admitted that men were never going to become more like women – so we had to become more like men. Girliness was not allowed – you had to be rather mannish, despite a lot of rhetoric about wimmin having their own way of doing everything that was just as valid as men’s.
The feminists would help you do anything you wanted – but not if what you wanted was “get married and have children”. Housework was demeaning slavery so you couldn’t be houseproud. “How can you be a feminist and knit?” “How can you read Woman’s Own – the stories are terrible!” (Ie they were stories about women falling in love and getting married.)
They talked as if gender inequality was going to be sorted in about six months. They’d say “Women still can’t ask men out”. (40 years on they still can’t.)
We were leading the way – the institution of marriage would soon disappear. “It starts when you sink into his arms and ends with your arms in his sink, ha ha ha!” They had a point in the 70s: marriage had drawbacks for women, but most of those inequalities have been removed.
No-one would talk about marriage – and they certainly didn’t talk about love. They wouldn't use the words "girlfriend" and "boyfriend". If people got married it was after much “discussion” about what it meant and use of the word “commitment”. I suppose if you make a commitment you’re a free agent. God forbid that you should get married just to be like your friends.
They claimed women didn’t need men any more now that they could have jobs and careers (ignoring the working-class women who had worked down mines, in shops, in factories, in the fields, in other people's houses since time immemorial). But living alone costs £250,000 over a lifetime.
You weren't allowed to worry about a lonely future on a single salary with no-one to look after you and no pension (or house, or dosh) to inherit. Women – feminists – fought for decades to make marriage a fair deal for women, including rights over your own children and property. Now we have a system of insecure, undefined concubinage which gives cohabitees no legal rights at all. Which is nice for men! Weren't we fighting to stop stuff like this?
In the place of marriage and children – in place of warmth, affection, love, companionship, social acceptance and security – they offered "strength". On your own you were a "strong woman". Well, thanks a bunch! They condemned romantic gestures as “patriarchal”. Or were they just towering snobs?
And why, if men and women were (or were about to be) absolutely equal, was I always being told: “Oh, you can’t say/do that – men might find it threatening.”
The Eighties Continued
Quotes about the Eighties
The 10 80s Commandments