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Hadley Freeman: 5 tips for being an awesome feminist

(118 Posts)
HannahMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 25-Apr-13 15:40:29

Shakespeare once wrote that 'the path of true feminism never did run smooth' (or something similar). So to help us on our way, Guardian columnist (and author of 'Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies') is sharing her 5 top tips for the woman of 2013.

"Not all women are feminists, and not all feminists are women, but one generalisation you can make about feminists is that they all aspire to awesomeness. That is because feminism is the fight for that most awesome of things: equality. Yet sometimes even this seemingly most straightforward of aims can become a little confused with well-intended but ultimately self-defeating gestures or simple confusions. But that's OK, nobody gets it right all of the time. Heck, even Germaine Greer went on Celebrity Big Brother once.

So in order to help keep you on the path of awesome feminism, here is a quick little guide to the matter:

1. Stop being so hard on yourself.

If feminism is about the fight for women's rights, then the most important woman whose rights you need to fight for are your own. So stop being so self-deprecating; stop beating yourself up for being too fat / ugly / forgetful; don't go on any ridiculous diets that sap you of your energy; don't be scared to speak up or to try things that you've always wanted to do; only talk to yourself in kind and encouraging tones. Give yourself a break, OK?

2. Don't be so hard on other women, either.

This doesn't mean you should always support women simply because of their gender (that is faux feminism), but be careful of holding women to higher standards than men. So many women do this unthinkingly, it's up to awesome feminists to break the habit.

3. Fight for women around the world to have access to contraception, sex education and abortion.

Yes, abortion is a sensitive subject but this is really a non-negotiable belief when it comes to feminism. Contrary to what liberal blogger Mehdi Hassan wrote last year in a much discussed article, you don't need to be pro-choice in order to be a leftie, but you do need to be pro-choice in order to be a feminist. Feminism is about enabling women to live to the most of their abilities and the most important factor in this is giving them control over their fertility. Abortion is not a pleasant procedure but it is a necessary one in a world in which people have sex and aren't always as careful as they should be. Moreover, women will still have abortions if they're not legal, just using more dangerous methods. There is no wiggle room here: awesome feminists need to fight this fight.

4. Motherhood is not a game of one-upmanship.

Motherhood is wonderful. Motherhood is tough. One thing motherhood is not is a competition. There is no 'right' age to have a baby, no 'best' way to give birth: only ways to work for individual women and individual children. There is no one way to be a woman and there is definitely no one way to be a mother. So don't talk in a way that insinuates the contrary and, if you hear anyone else talking that way, calmly and gently correct them. It's hard enough being a mother without mothers being hard on one another.

5. Please don't ever go on a reality TV show predicated on humiliating its contestants, especially if you were once my idol. (NB: that instruction is perhaps less generally applicable than the others as it is really directed at one person. But it remains true, nonetheless.)"

What do you think - do Hadley's rules of thumb match your own? Let us have your thoughts - or alternatives - here on the thread. And if you blog, don't forget to post your URLs here on the thread.

'Be Awesome: Modern Life For Modern Ladies' by Hadley Freeman is published by 4th Estate price £12.99.

Trill Fri 26-Apr-13 13:46:20

If you truly believe that a fetus is a person just as much as anyone else is a person, then you could be anti choice but still a feminist.

I don't agree with you, but I believe that it could be consistent.

The rights to your own body stop at the point when exercising those rights cause certain death to another person (even if it will cause massive inconvenience and upset to you, and even when there is a risk of injury or death to you, if it causes certain death to another person, you shouldn't do it).

I don't believe that a fetus is a person in that sense. But I can see that if someone did, it would not be inconsistent to be against all abortion, while still maintaining that you are a feminist.

However, if you claim to be against abortion for that reason, and you are not a rabid promoter of free contraception for everyone, and better education on contraception, then I call bullshit. If you believe that a fetus is a person then you should be doing your very best to make it so that no unwanted fetuses come into existence.

Trill Fri 26-Apr-13 13:47:57

Instead of saying "you have to be pro choice to be a feminist", can we say

if you are anti choice and say you are a feminist, you should have a good look at the reasons why you say this and check whether your reasons are actually anti-women, because there's a good chance that they are

Trill Fri 26-Apr-13 13:48:35

In the majority of cases, the wish to deny another person an abortion does not come from a place that is consistent with being a feminist.

WadsCollop Fri 26-Apr-13 13:49:16

This is my point. My twin babies (I think the wrong end of stick was got there - no abortion in question, DTD2 is alive and well) and particularly the prematurity made me realise that a baby is a baby. If it is plucked from your uterus in horrible conditions at 32 weeks, born on due date or terminated at 32 weeks, it's still a baby - a real live person.

msrisotto Fri 26-Apr-13 13:50:34

I don't think I am being rude. By being anti choice, you're telling me what I should and shouldn't do with my own body in my own life which is nothing to do with you. That is rude.

It isn't relevant because you are talking about two free thinking adults who have lived in the world reliant on their own body. It's just not comparable. I'm sure it's an interesting debate though.

Who made up the laws which govern over women's bodies?

BasilBabyEater Fri 26-Apr-13 13:58:09

I don't for one moment question that a baby is a baby.

TBH I'm not interested in the semantics of whether a baby becomes a baby at 6 weeks, 24 weeks, 28 weeks, when it's born etc. - I don't think it matters. A baby is a baby. But a woman is a human being with rights over her own body just like men. I don't deny that a 32 week fetus is a baby, if it helps women to think they're fetuses, that's fine and if it helps to think they're babies, that's fine too. For me, it's not about how far developed the fetus / baby is, its about whether you believe that women should have their basic human rights to have full control over their bodies suspended at a certain point in their pregnancy or not. For me, I don't believe they should ever be forced to surrender that control, unless they are genuinely mentally unable to exercise that control because of whatever reason.

BasilBabyEater Fri 26-Apr-13 14:09:07

Trill I find your post v. interesting and want to ask you about one point about this:

"The rights to your own body stop at the point when exercising those rights cause certain death to another person (even if it will cause massive inconvenience and upset to you, and even when there is a risk of injury or death to you, if it causes certain death to another person, you shouldn't do it)."

What if you're in a hospital, there's someone needs a blood transfusion and your blood is the only suitable stuff around (unlikely but bear with me).

If you walk out of that hospital without giving him a pint of blood, he'll die because the nearest alternative source won't arrive till after it's too late.

Do you have the legal and moral right to keep your own blood and walk out of that hospital without surrendering your blood? Should you have?

I don't know what the answer is tbh. I feel instinctively that you should have, but you'd be a pretty awful human being if you did. grin

msrisotto Fri 26-Apr-13 14:11:51

What if donating your blood could kill you?

Trill Fri 26-Apr-13 14:24:36

We're getting into philosophy here - the difference between taking action to cause a death and letting a death happen by inaction.

I'm not saying that I have the answers, I'm simply saying that I believe that someone could have an internally-consistent belief system that said that abortion was morally wrong, but still call themselves a feminist.

I think the list of "you can't be a feminist if..." is incredibly small, and that the issue of abortion is not on that list.

garlicyoni Fri 26-Apr-13 14:47:26

Trill, I agree with others that your statement - the common position of anti-choice campaigners - is flawed.

The rights to your own body stop at the point when exercising those rights cause certain death to another person (even if it will cause massive inconvenience and upset to you, and even when there is a risk of injury or death to you, if it causes certain death to another person, you shouldn't do it).

If I'm stuck in a disaster situation with one other person, and we are both starving, should I let my companion eat me? Even if they're more starving than me?

If, in this two-person disaster, the other is too severely injured to seek help, should I leave them to the elements and forge on? Even if they're going to die?

An unborn baby is not capable of independent life. It is, basically, parasitical until almost a year after birth. I don't feel its rights exceed those of its independently-viable host.

WC - you're using the false premise of all anti-choice campaigners, that choice = imposing abortions on others. It doesn't. The only faction that wants to control other people's bodies is the anti-choice brigade. Feminists believe in a woman's right to control her own body. It's very simple.

Trill Fri 26-Apr-13 14:56:05

An unborn baby is not capable of independent life. It is, basically, parasitical until almost a year after birth. I don't feel its rights exceed those of its independently-viable host.

I don't either.

But I believe that some people could say that its rights are equal to those of the independently-viable host, and they could do so in a way that is not anti-feminist. Of course it's not actively feminist, but there is a logical argument that someone could mkae

LandOfCross Fri 26-Apr-13 14:58:44

The problem is that people who are opposed to abortion are portrayed as picket waving, Westboro Baptist activists.
When in reality we are nothing of the sort.

BasilBabyEater Fri 26-Apr-13 15:33:57

My problem with the causing death by action rather than inaction, is that I think you have the right to take any action with your own body you want and if there happens to be someone in your body that you don't want to be there anyway, you still have that right. Because that person has no right to be there without your consent IYSWIM.

It ties in with the arguments around rape and women's autonomy. It's about women's absolute power over their own body. For me, it really is philosophically simple, though of course in practice it can become fiendishly difficult.

There have been cases in the USA where women who have tried to commit suicide while they were pregnant, have been threatened with being tried for murder because in attempting suicide, they would have killed the baby. (I don't know if the trials were ever carried out.) This is a stark reminder that if you elevate the baby in a woman's body to having the same rights as a woman, what you are in fact doing, is depriving women of their rights.

I wish there was a compromise about this, but there really isn't. Either a woman is a full human being with full powers over her own body, or she isn't. Either she should be punished by the law for exerting illegal control over her own body, or she shouldn't.

WidowWadman Fri 26-Apr-13 15:51:41

100% agree with seeker "I'm saying that you have a perfect right to be anti abortion for yourself, and remain a feminist. I really don't think you can be a feminist and deny another woman self determination.

I do find this very difficult indeed, and I have struggled with it for nearly 40 years. But difficult or not, I believe it to be true"

I do believe that the feminist spectrum is a very wide one, but the second somebody suggests that a woman should not have the right to decide what happens to her own body, you drop off the feminist spectrum.

msrisotto Fri 26-Apr-13 15:52:26

Of course Basil. There are also women suffering miscarriages and being charged with murder here for those interested

garlicyoni Fri 26-Apr-13 16:21:07

shock shock shock MrsR!

At least 38 of the 50 states across America have introduced foetal homicide laws that ... are increasingly being turned by renegade prosecutors against the women themselves.

Women are not people, they are propagators under public control. Apparently. angry

msrisotto Fri 26-Apr-13 16:28:50

When access to abortion is threatened, pregnant women die.
This is why it is important not to legislate over other women's bodies. Fine to be anti abortion for yourself but leave others be.

YoniMatopoeia Fri 26-Apr-13 17:45:02

MrsM that link on prosecutions in America is horrific

msrisotto Fri 26-Apr-13 17:51:13

Terrifying i agree!

WadsCollop Fri 26-Apr-13 18:34:09

I am absolutely not saying that choice = imposition, other than that it has effect outside of just the woman involved. In my opinion the baby is also a person, and whether 'parasitic' or not, has rights. Right to life is, in my opinion, paramount over right to choice or bodily autonomy.

WadsCollop Fri 26-Apr-13 18:39:07

And anyway, back to the OP... I'm sorry to offend the blogger, but I think it is base. 'Awesome' is unlikely to be something that many self-respecting feminists would choose to describe themselves as.

YoniMatopoeia Fri 26-Apr-13 18:41:41

One of my mum's friends was called by a hospital to give blood. He had a very rare blood group. They had nothing suitable for a casualty who had been brought in. He was on call to them (some years ago)o

Should he have been forced?

WadsCollop Fri 26-Apr-13 18:45:00

And yes, it is awful that pregnant women die when denied abortion. It is also, IMO, awful that children die during abortion.

I suppose the real question is about value of life. Someone above mentioned adults, implying that their needs are greater than an unborn child's. I'm sure I see things differently, but in my mind the child in the equation has greater need of protection than the adult. But I'm still very confused as to where that line should be drawn. Definitely well before birth though, I am sure of that.

WadsCollop Fri 26-Apr-13 18:46:17

Did your mum's friend engage in an activity that forced that person's existence? No?

WadsCollop Fri 26-Apr-13 18:49:14

And (sorry o rant) as for the 12 month parasitic state thing... Does that mean that breastfeeding mothers of newborn should have the right to kill their babies if it doesn't suit them to look after them? What nonsense!

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