21 May 2008

Billy Piper stole my baby

Well, what a week for Women! Parliament has been awash with controversy this week, as MPs debated and (thank god!) voted against reducing the 24 week abortion limit to 22 (or less, or none, if the vile Dorries had got her way). What's more MPs voted to remove the awkward question that Lesbian couples and single Women are asked when discussing IVF treatment: how they perceive the lack of 'a father or a male role model' will effect the child. Aside from the frankly mad interjections of Iris Robinson, who really has no place in the HoC whatsoever if she honestly believes herself to be the descendant of a barbeque snack item (and a man's at that) the debate managed to raise a number of important issues that need to be addressed by Feminists.

Now I've no personal objections to the family as a social unit but lets be frank its as good as any other collection of individuals, such as a football team or a church choir. In fact perhaps not even as good as the football team, seeing as the prescriptive role allocation in a family entrenches its members in tired gender positions, such as 'Mum' (or 'mom' abroad) 'dad' 'Daughter' 'son', etc whereas football teams have relative fluidity in the allotment of positions - I mean what difference does it really make if a centre midfield plays right back? Its not flipping neuroscience, run around and kick the ball boys! As far as church choirs go my guess is as good as the next Woman's.

What this landmark shift in law denotes is a landslide shift in perception - firstly of course of a Woman's right to choose and of her capacity to want TO WANT to produce a leettle person all on her own (or with another Woman) without her prime motivation being the perpetuation of some guy's genes. So no more saying 'Here I am, an animated womb, please incubate your seed in me until it becomes a person who can have your surname after, of course, I have forced it through my uterus." Now women are, officially, agents of free will. And this has taken how long?

But what is the real problem with a lack of a father figure at all? Are the mystical qualities a father is supposed to bring to the unit really something beyond the capacity of a Woman? I'm not trying to say that modern Women have become emasculated, far from it; rather that the characteristics of father and motherhood have come into question themselves as discrete categories - what is it about Daddy that makes him Daddy? Does it make a difference that he's a man? By saying 'Mummy can't do Daddy stuff', or vice versa, aren't we locking our children into gender stereotypes which will last them their whole lives, possibly ruining their future relationships (assuming they're straight, which of course I'm not) by cleaving polarities into the most basic of connections, that between themselves and a member of the opposite sex (again I am so NOT expecting my children to be straight, but if they were they might have some serious problems).

People should be people - and they generally are people. Problems only occur when you start dividing them into little boxes, like boxes marked nationality, race, religion or culture. Just because gender boxes are the biggest it doesn't mean that they're not just as silly and arbitrary. If we got to the stage where we could think without about each other without gender differences featuring altogether, would that really be such a bad thing?

But what does this mean in the wider world? Isn't preaching the transience of gender roles to Lesbian couples and empowered single Women somewhat akin to baptising the converted? Or buying hers and hers towels for the converted, buying them self-help books, sending them on weekend 'empowering' retreats. As Feminists, resting on our laurels has never been an option. If it had, we'd have never done a thing after we got the Vote. So I say fight, sisters and brothers, to be People first, Women and men after!

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