It’s been interesting reflecting today on the changes to the status to women over my lifetime. Many are positive, but in some ways, things remain difficult, complicated, and still require much change.
I’m in my mid fifties. I think my generation was probably the first generation to know we women would have careers that didn’t revolve around being a homemaker – if we wanted to. I’m a physio, and I’m a writer. Over the course of my life, I’ve had the opportunity to do many things that would never have been available to my mother or my grandmother. Young women today have even more opportunities.
I’ve recently been involved in a collaborative project which has involved significant research into the suffragists of the late Victorian era, and the discovery of the Rational Dress Society, which was formed in 1881 in London. You can read about them here and here.
I often think, however, that we could do with thinking about some of their aims again.
1. Freedom of Movement.
2. Absence of pressure over any part of the body.
3. Not more weight than is necessary for warmth, and both weight and warmth evenly distributed.
4. Grace and beauty combined with comfort and convenience.
5. Not departing too conspicuously from the ordinary dress of the time.
They were of course fighting against tight corsets, and long, cumbersome skirts at that time. Now, I feel we need to fight against high heels (and I do get that some people love them, but I reckon they’re instruments of medieval torture myself), shirts that want to explode their buttons, and swimwear that’s clearly not at all functional for actually swimming.
But more importantly, I think that women are still fighting for equal pay, equal opportunity in work and sport, and in society in general. In my own lifetime, I’ve had to persevere in volunteer emergency services to be considered as able as a man in the same position – despite being fitter than most at the time and passing all the relevant standards, been assumed to be a receptionist when I was the professional, and on occasion having to pull people up for what I like to call ‘casual sexism.’
Casual sexism is when people unthinkingly make comments reflecting their ingrained attitudes, without concern that said ingrained attitudes do not reflect reality or may denigrate someone else’s capabilities.
I look forward to a time when gender handicaps no-one. When casual sexism no longer exists, and when men and women stand properly equal in society.