Wednesday, 8 March 2006

Congratulations, fellow sisters

It's International Women's day today.

I don't actually see myself as a feminist. I live under the happy illusion that women should be recognised because they do well and work hard, not because they just so happen to be women.

I would never send my child to a single-sex school, as I think that just breeds misunderstanding and potential social awkwardness.

I have friends who never realised men are people too until they went to university, and by then it was too late to learn that men and women can be great friends as well as sexual partners.

I don't think the sexes are completely equal; men's football is more fun to watch because they run faster and have nicer legs. If you don't believe me, just compare the brushing speed of male vs. female curling teams.

However, I realise the reason I never felt the need to be especially feminist is because I grew up in a relatively egalitarian environment, where all my male friends cooked better food than I did, and girls didn't shriek when they played football.

A while ago I was working with a central Asian man, who was staging a party at his flat. To his credit he did do all the cooking himself, but on the day of the party he approached my (male) friend and lamented in all earnestness that he really "needed a girl to lay the tables".

This, of course, is only a very mild and even almost humorous indication of what some societies still think of women.

My Pakistani friend was married for the second time to a man from her parents' native country; he came over, put her in debt, tried to beat her up and cheated on her while she was pregnant, then claimed she couldn't throw him out of the house she owned because he was her husband.

I'm not saying that a Western man wouldn't have done the same, but I don't think a Western family would have expected the woman to put up with it in the same way.

And that happened here in Britain.

Here in Britain, where parental leave can still not be divided between the parents at will. Why should the mother have more leave than the father, especially here where so many women choose not to breastfeed? It beats me.

So maybe on just this one day a year we should look around and refuse to clean up after the men in the office who leave their dirty dishes in the tea kitchen sink.

We shouldn't go home from work and immediately start tidying, whilst our partners get to sit down and read the paper.

I'm not saying to go on strike, but maybe we should just sit down, think about the situation of women close to us as well as further away, and what little things we can do to improve their situation.

Whilst eating a whole tub of Hagen-Dazs all on our own, of course.

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