Thursday, 14 July 2011

Second class workers, second hand clothes, second class citizens?

Not all movies that inspire vintage lovers were made in the era whose fashions they showcase. Films produced now should get a mention too. And especially those that remind us there are women to whom we owe a great deal. A great deal of our pay packet in fact.

When Made in Dagenham came out, I was excited for two reasons:

1. The late 60's fashion we'd get to see on film, of course, I dressed up in a yellow 60's shift when I went to see it.
2. But more importantly, the reminder that inspirational women stood up and fought for equal rights and equal pay.

As a self declared feminist, I am frequently disappointed by women who refuse the title, ascribing it to hairy unattractive women who probably hate men anyway. Not. The. Case. Bill Bailey (pictured below in a Fawcett Society t-shirt may be hairy, but...)

A feminist is a person who believes in equal and fair rights for men and women. And that is what the women in Made in Dagenham are all about. We can learn more from them than simple fashion lessons. We can learn how to fight, why to fight and what the outcome of victory could mean for women kind and human kind for years to come.

I raise this now because we are at a time when feminists are needed. Political, economic and cultural changes mean that we are not at a point when we can take our eye off the balls (couldn't resist).

If you're in doubt, consider what has been happening in the UK and further afield over the past few months:

- Kenneth Clarke, our Secretary of Justice, implied that date rape was not 'serious rape'. This is not just a matter of semantics. Until 1991, a husband could not rape his wife, marriage meant an agreement by the wife to have sex with her husband. Having an exemption like this turned over in the courts requires a ground swell of citizens, and a strong government who understands the complexities of rape. This change happened 20 years ago. If Ken Clarke had been in power then, would it have happened? A man who fails to label date rape as serious. What would he have done when faced with a marital rape case?

- Only 31% of councillors are women. If progress continues at current rates, it will be another 150 years before women are equally represented.

- The recent much criticised Slut Walk was first organised by a group of young women in Canada, angry that their Chief of Police told them to dress modestly to avoid rape. The media treated this as a joke, and many failed to grasp or explore the real freedom and rights these women were marching for. If you want to get an idea of the reaction, just read this piece in the Spectator. The writer likens a woman wearing a short skirt to leaving your window open at home and expecting not to be burgled. Seriously.

- And if you want to get back to the issue of equal pay, women are still paid an average of 15.5% less than men. This is 40 years since the Equal Pay Act which the brave women portrayed in this film fought for

I am sorry that this post has turned into an unashamed feminist rant, but surely we should all be angry right now? And yes we can dress like vintage sluts at the same time.

If you need any more convincing, or just want to find out what you can do, then get to The Fawcett Society- read, support, join.

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