Whatever happened to feminism?

Okay, it’s a rhetorical question and it is certainly not meant to anger or alienate women. But, in so far as the gender wars are concerned, we do seem to be enjoying a pleasant lull in the trench warfare that characterised male-female relationships in the 1970s and for a lengthy time thereafter.

They were not easy times for either side of the chromosome divide. Women certainly had plenty to prove and their leaders set about doing that with gusto. The arrogant complacency that they felt characterised men’s attitudes towards women unquestionably needed revision.

Discrimination was rife, not only in workplaces but also in homes. And, all too frequently, violence – both mental and physical – accompanied those demeaning mindsets. Excuses were made but none held water. Not then, not now.

It was all a bit mind-boggling for blokes at the outset. We were suddenly under attack and most of us hardly had any idea why. The causes for complaint by women were just accepted as a given by us. Even those of us who were naive were still brutally arrogant in our acceptance of male superiority.

To be fair, we were not all misogynists. We were mostly raised and schooled in these attitudes. The primacy of man was a concept that had been gospelled for untold generations. Most of us just drank it in without thought.

Okay, so we were wrong for that. But we were quickly taught by courageous feminist leaders that being sorry was not in any way adequate. Cut the crap, guys, and let your actions speak equality, was their coda.

Initially it was all so confusing (for men who wanted to be liked by women, even without sexual overtones). We found that courtesy was rebuffed (by avid feminists) and we were offended because we thought we were doing the right thing. We learned, painfully, that sincerity and generosity of spirit were not going to right the wrongs of generations for many in the vanguard of feminism.

The reaction of many men, initially, was typical of the base problem and only served to highlight the unfairness and denigration that so many women felt in so many circumstances. I still cringe at scenes that were played-out at the time.

Even today, I can still cop a glare from a woman for holding open a door. But, hey, I do that for guys, too, and even people I don’t necessarily like so it’s not a gender thing, it’s just my way of trying to be a decent human being.

Learning to use language in a non-offensive way was a massive challenge. Like many males, I could not understand – at first – why some women found certain terms so inflammatory. I do now!

It would be wonderful to think that great injustices had been righted over intervening decades but, of course, they have not. While great gains certainly have been achieved for women, the world remains trenchantly skewed towards male dominance.

It seems strange to reflect now that the cause of feminism today seems quite muted. Looking back it takes-on overtones almost of a fad. Which would be a dreadful shame. As with democracy, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

There are many, many aspects of this topic which deserve to be teased-out. Any comments would be most welcome. Let’s do our bit to help ensure that hard-won gains are not lost through a lack of awareness.