How Women Can Win

In the epilogue to her 1992 feminist classic Backlash Susan Faludi writes:

The backlash watchtowers flashed their warning signals without cease, and like high-security floodlights, they blinded women to their own prodigious strengths. Women in the 1980s [and I’m sure in 2012] were the majority in the general population, on the college campuses, at the voting booths… they represented nearly half the workers in offices and were responsible for nearly 80 per cent of consumer spending…. Yet so often in this era, women seemed unaware of the weight and dynamism of their own formidable presence.

That women have in their possession a vast and untapped vitality also explains one of the more baffling phenomena of the backlash – the seeming ‘over-reaction’ with which some men have greeted even the tiniest steps toward women’s advancement… these men understood the profound force that women’s movement could exert if it got half a chance. It was women, tragically, who were still in the dark.

A lot of us still are. But that we can change. We have choices. We can stop reading self-hatred manuals posing as women’s magazines. We can stop being self-deprecating (read Lucy Mangen’s Stylist column on the subject. We can stop counting calories. We can stop waiting until we are richer, thinner, or prettier to love ourselves. We can stop having bad relationships. We can stop letting other people take the credit. We can stop feeling guilty about how we spend our time or money. We can stop apologising for things that aren’t our fault. We can stop bitching about each other. We can stop expecting to be rescued.

Once we do that, we will have the time, energy, and focus to deal with real issues. There are plenty of battles to fight: reproductive rights are under attack (prosecuting women who have miscarriages is one fine twist on that tale), women remain underpaid and ghettoised in low-status jobs, and violence is rampant. Which is precisely why those of us who are blessed to live in the first world, in the 21st century, have a responsibility to appreciate how good we have it, and not wallow in personal insecurities. Feeling victimised is not a way to make progress.

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