Saturday, March 21, 2009

60 years of Woman's Hour

Some choice quotes and observations from the Woman’s Hour book (my version doesn't have such a crappy cover, although it is still pink. Why does everything for women have to be pink?!):

John Merrett – 19th December 1946
In 1947 Merrett and his wife co-presented a talk on the thorny subject: should women keep their jobs after they are married?

“What jobs in running a home can a man do best?.......For heaven’s sake don’t bring the question of whether its ‘a man’s job’ or not into it! That phrase died out with Queen Victoria……..The first thing that men discover is how badly women have been treated concerning their working conditions…..a woman spends a large part of her life in her kitchen. It therefore follows that the kitchen should be one of the best rooms in the house – bright, sunny and cheery….
Now you’re going to ask how I help my wife… I usually buy the vegetables for her….[lists heavy vegetables] – it all makes up quite as tidy weight – too much for a woman to have to carry [the grocers is half a mile away] if there’s a man who can do it for her…..
There’s one other job I’ll tell you about. Sometimes I clean the silver and brass as I sit listening to the wireless.”

Interestingly enough, throughout the collection of interviews (1940s through to 1970s so far) there is a recurring description of housework and bringing up the kids as being an actual full time job.

Vera Brittain, 4th November 1953
A writer, pacifist and feminist. Talking about conversations as a college student:

[Upon meeting a male married friend in the street]
He said: ‘Have you heard of our fiasco? Our baby arrived yesterday - and it’s a girl!’ Only a girl! How often did you hear that when you were young?......[Quoting from Lady Stephen] ‘probably only women who have laboured under it can understand the weight of discouragement produced by being perpetually told that, as women, nothing much is ever expected of them.’

Nancy Astor, 7th October 1956
The first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons, as Conservative MP for Plymouth South, in 1919.
[Recounting a conversation with Winston Churchill, Prime Minister during WW2]….
Churchill: It’s a very remarkable performance
Astor: What?
Churchill: You staying where you are
Astor: Well Winston, why on earth didn’t you speak to me?
Churchill: We hoped to freeze you out. When you entered the House of Commons I felt as if a woman had entered my bathroom and I’d nothing to protect myself with except a sponge
Astor: Had it never occurred to you that your appalling appearance might have been protection enough?’

Shirley Chisholm, 29 December 1971
Chisholm was the first African American women elected to congress. During her first term she employed an all-female staff. She ran for Democratic nomination for President in 1972.

Interviewer: If you became President of America, what would be the greatest achievement: what would be the greatest achievement, that you had got there as a woman, or as a black person?
Chisholm: I think it would have to be looked at in terms of two in one, because at this moment in America black people are saying, ‘Why not a black president?’ and women are saying, ‘Why not a woman President?’ I happen to be black and I happen to be a woman, so actually I would be killing to birds with one stone.

That's intersectionality at work folks. Now, since she ran for Presidential nomination in 1972 why the hell did I not hear about this last year? Nothing in the media coverage, that I saw, talked about her. I thought that Obama was the first black person to run for Presidential nomination and Clinton the first woman.

I would also like to add to this quote from a post made by Yuki Onna and found via Seeking Avalon:
"And when we see story after story that has no one like us in it, a book entirely without women, a TV show where white people speak Chinese but there are no Asians visible, a movie set in California without Hispanics, image after image of a world where everyone is straight, and when we are told that it's no big deal, really, there is no race in future societies, that it's not anyone's fault if all the characters are white, that's just how they are, in the pure authorial mind, that we have no sense of humor, that we are ganging up on people because we speak our minds, this is what we hear:

You do not have a right to live. There are no stories for you, to teach you how to survive, because the world would prefer you didn't. You don't get to be human, to understand your suffering or move beyond it. In the perfect future society, you do not exist. We who are colorblind, genderblind, sexualityblind would prefer not to see you even now. In the world we make in our heads, you have been obliterated--even better, you never were. You are incapable of transcendance. You are not worthy of the most essential of human behavior. If you are lucky, we will let you into our stories, and you can learn to be a whore, or someone's mother, or someone's slave, or someone's prey. That is all you are, so pay attention: this is what we want to teach you to be."

She explains so clearly what I have found very hard to articulate. I have been banging on about this issue over and over but I feel that she has got it in a nutshell.
I heartily recommend you read the rest of the post.

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