On 8 March 2012 Linda Grant Tweeted about a summary of an argument she had been posing to young women who say they are not feminists and owe nothing to feminism: “for you I’m-not-a-feminists, in 1979 aged 28, when I applied for a store credit card the form had to be signed by my husband or father”. What happened after resulted in thousands of responses from women and men about how they have experienced sexism and patriarchy in society. Check out some of the responses here.
The following is an excerpt from The Guardian’s Twitter’s Tale of Sexism by Linda Grant.
Feminism has been the greatest and most successful revolution of my lifetime, the single most significant achievement of my generation of babyboomers. It has altered women’s lives beyond all recognition. Young women today have little or no idea of what it was like to have to seek permission from a father or husband to sign papers, get a loan or a mortgage, to be forced out of your job when you married or had children, to be denied contraception because you were single, to be thwarted in ambition. A story I wrote for the Guardian in the mid-90s revealed that girls routinely scored higher grades than boys in the 11-plus, but as there were an equal number of places for boys and girls, boys were passing with lower marks than girls consigned to the secondary moderns. Until 1974, there were only five colleges offering places to women compared with 27 for men, and some employers only recruited from Oxbridge wanting “the best and the brightest”. I remember being told that the best way for a woman to become a producer at the BBC was to enter as a secretary and get promoted. What, I wondered, were men advised?
Much of the struggle for women’s rights today is taking place in countries where girls are denied the right to go to school at all, where their bodies are being mutilated by clitoridectomy and their lives stunted by forced marriage. Worse things happen to women every day including rape and domestic violence, than being snubbed or ignored. These horrors indicate the continuing vast inequality between the sexes. No, it’s not the worst thing in the world, but that doesn’t mean you can pretend it’s not happening. I hope that athousandreasons.com will serve as a free resource for students, academics, teenagers, mothers and fathers, to examine everyday experience, not rhetoric or theory, but the very air we breathe, the way we live, yesterday and today: the small indignities, the opportunities denied, the insults, the patronage, the dismissal, the ignoring, the diminishing, the low expectations, the whole indignity of sexism, including the relentless jokes about it, jokes that are rarely made in relation to racism.
And waking up to it all, and thinking, as you look down at the application form where your husband or father is supposed to give you permission to spend the money you have earned, “I’m not putting up with this.” And I don’t care if some people think feminism is a dirty word, because without it, we’d still be back where we were, stuck forever, too scared to open our mouths in case men think we’re not feminine enough. Enough of cupcakes and high heels, they have their place, but they didn’t win me the right to buy them.