real life

Part-time chauvinism

Jeremy Irons says, “any woman worth her salt” can handle a pat on the bottom. After decades of political correctness, how much chauvanism will a modern feminist accept?

I was brought up in a strong female household where the women had more degrees than the males and we could carve our own roasts. Even my favourite childhood books were about a female plumber, “Mrs Plumb” and her house-husband, presents from my godmother and her girlfriend.

Which is why it surprised me recently when some out and out chauvinism made my day.

I had woken up feeling fat and ugly. Maybe not literally (with the benefit of hindsight) but I had one of the days when my hair, skin, face and thighs showed the strain of a few weeks of hedonism.

Instead of hiding behind tracksuit pants and a headscarf, I decided to address the situation head on and go for a walk.

As I took off wearing what I thought were some exceptionally unflattering lycra tights, I started the usual female self-abuse by mentally cataloguing all of my flaws and comparing myself to friends and celebrities wondering if my bottom had sagged so low it had hit my knees yet.

That was until I heard a car horn beep repeatedly and insistently. Oh crap, I thought, someone I actually know has recognised me – from behind no less. Could this get any worse? As I looked up ready to die with shame, a tradie van drove past, one young bloke yelling out the window at me and the other beeping and cheering. “Wooooo hooooooooo sweat heart, YEOOOOOW”.

Instead of feeling any form of sexism, objectification, or repulsion I felt good. I smiled in spite of my feminist self. And what’s wrong with that? Did I feel like a piece of meat? Hell no. It was an innocent 5 seconds of those two bloke’s day that made me feel a bit better about myself for the rest of the afternoon.

So what does that say about me? That I need a man’s approval to feel good about myself? Or that my worth is measured by my rate of attractiveness?

I think it just means I think too much. Sometimes it just feels good to feel like a woman, and the woman in me likes her men to be stereotypically men – or at least one from the 50s.

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I automatically smile femininely when a man holds open a door for me. I feel my eyelashes flutter lower when the butcher offers to walk my bags to the car.  But why do I feel guilty about becoming more feminine in the presence of masculinity? And it seems I am not alone. From a friend who admits to flirting her way out of speeding tickets (how I’ll never know) and an ex-colleague with an otherwise baritone voice who could reach a breathy pitch that seemed to render the male senior partner in her law firm incapable of refusing her blatantly excessive annual leave requests.

It’s time we started to take things less seriously.  I am no weaker as a female because I allowed a kind man to give up his place in a taxi line for me. And to be honest, I find it less offensive for the 60yr old male newsagent to call me “darl” than the 15 yr old girl with too much eyeliner at the coffee shop. Especially if it means I get served first.

I often think that, in many respects, many of the complexities of modern domestic life would be avoided if women performed the lions share of traditionally female “tasks” and men did the manly jobs.  I can guarantee I do a better job pruning and prettying the garden while my husband mows in a fraction of the time it would take me.  Plus he gets to use power tools and that makes him feel good.

Just as I am happy to do this dishes (read: stack the dishwasher to the brim) if he takes the rubbish out.  We play to our strengths and there’s no argument about who’s doing what.

So what’s wrong with that?  Am I a bad feminist, a hypocrite or perhaps as Madonna identified herself in the 90s, a “humanist”? It’s time we started playing to our strengths and acknowledging our weaknesses without thinking it makes us any more or less of a woman.

Let’s face it – it’s just too hard to take the bins out in high heels.

Am I a bad feminist, a hypocrite or just a typical female?

Julia Alexander is a former lawyer, stay at home mum, documentary producer and wannabe Alpha Wife. She is currently finalising her first documentary about a female body sculpter, Beauty of the Beast


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