Random thoughts

Fifty Shades yet again

On my continuing journey through Fifty Shades of Feminism, edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes and Susie Orbach, I have just come across a new highlight. It’s Susie Orbach’s contribution, entitled ‘A Love Letter to Feminism’. Like some of the other authors, she thinks back to the 1970s and how women were ‘daring to think and enact new ways of learning and living’.

I was particularly interested in her reflections on the fears these women had to face. ‘We began to appreciate how much patriarchy was a structure undermining us’, she says, ‘within and between women, as much as a political force outside us’. And again: ‘Internal psychological chains kept us in check and away from being as full as we could be.’

Orbach notes that she could have lived like so many women before her. But she counts herself lucky that she didn’t. Feminism, she says, gave her a proper life:

Without feminism, life’s challenges could and would have stained my individual experiences – as [they] for so many of my mother’s generation – turning them sour and bitter, rather than into places of learning. Without feminism I couldn’t have understood my personal dilemmas. Nor would I have had the capacity to reflect.

I was also moved by her comments on friendships that made it possible for her and other women to ‘think and enact new ways’:

exhilarating friendships took centre stage. They were a hammock underpinning our personal and collective struggles. We helped each other find and tell our stories as we were reshaping ourselves. Inside friendship we found ways to tackle our hesitancies, our fears, our insecurities, our shame and self-doubt.

Random thoughts

A deeply contested demand

One of the fascinating aspects of Fifty Shades of Feminism, edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes and Susie Orbach, are the reflections on what has been achieved over the last few decades.

Liz Kelly, for instance, in a contribution entitled, ‘Changing it Up: Sexual Violence Three Decades On’, talks about ‘the deeply contested seventh demand’ of the British Women’s Liberation Movement regarding violence against women. The demand was:

Freedom for all women from intimidation by the threat or use of male violence. An end to the laws, assumptions and institutions which perpetuate male dominance and men’s aggression towards women.

That this should have been ‘deeply contested’ almost seems bizarre today. And indeed Kelly goes on to say:

In thinking about this piece, I tried to remember just why this statement was considered so divisive in the late 1970s: few would contest its content today …

One would hope so and yet the idea of male dominance sadly seems difficult to eradicate in some parts of society.