I remember the 196o’s and what life was like for woman. I left school at fifteen and went straight into a factory, this kind of work being one of the few opportunities open to girls like myself.
Women's Liberation Movement with it legal abortion, albeit rather constrained and feminist values, brought equal rights and pay, along with more choice for women in work and society. Up unto the sixties woman where submitting themselves to back street abortions and the dangers of septicaemia and even death. To be an unmarried mother back then was cloaked in shame and disgrace with many girls being forced into giving up their babies for adoption. It seems that having a baby outside of marriage today is the norm. It was believed that the onset of the contraceptive pill would not only bring sexual liberation for women but also remove the need for ‘having to get married’ and indeed the need to have an illegitimate child.
By comparison however we see up and down Britain, in our town centres at weekends, young women strutting their stuff ,half dressed, like prostitutes or as one daily newspaper put it ‘porn stars’. Now it is not the contraceptive pill but the morning after pill which they carry in their bags. Not intent in finding a man to fall in love with, more likely one to have sex with in a darkened doorway. Young women, whom I can only assume have low self esteem, dressed in a provocative manner making a beeline for men who have little or no respect for them because of free and easy sex or at the very least a grab at bare flesh with some girl who is willing to snog a complete stranger. What does it say about the young men who also frequent these areas shouting abuse and obscenities at the young women they ogle?
Because of the emancipation of women in the 60’s the feminist movement argued that women were oppressed in a male dominated society and used as sex objects in advertising so it surprises me to see these young woman taking a backward step, inviting something in men that feminism fought to educate. The woman’s movement struggled to widen the horizon’s in life, to improve the quality of the work place, to find equality with their male counterparts and yet most weekends these young women totter the streets in skin tight mini dresses and plunging necklines revealing vast amounts of cleavage, usually getting drunk and falling down, sometimes lying in their own vomit. Some can be seen fighting, mouthing abuse at each other and at the police and slithering home like slugs with some man they don’t know. Do they see this as sexual liberation? Are they merely acting to impress each other and the men they attract? I believe that what they are doing is, in their world, a facet of liberation but also ignorance and lack of regard for self and other.
As a psychotherapist I would ask questions of these girls:-
What is it you want to gain from acting in this way? How is this fun?
Do you like or dislike yourself?
How do you feel about yourself the morning after the night before?
Do you know this is self harming?
Do you set boundaries for yourself?
A client once bragged to me that she looked forward to weekends so that she could go out and “get p*****” this was her goal for enjoyment. My response was how is self harming enjoyable? Her answer was “it deadens my feelings” There was much in her history she wanted to keep buried. This young woman wanted to escape from herself by her behaviour and I wonder is this a way of life for some young people today? Do they lack hope? Are they angry with society or life in general?
When we hear of woman being abused and raped as a weapon of war we are horrified and yet here we are faced with an element of our young women offering sex so openly, running the risk of not only pregnancy but sexually transmitted diseases and physical abuse. The feminist movement fought for abortion rights, violence against woman, constitutional equality, lesbian rights and economic justice all to protect women. In the interests of human dignity they fought to change the false image of women in the mass media; however even today there is contempt for women by aspects of society and even by women themselves. We are also seeing a revival in the media of the use of a woman’s body for the sale of goods.
Up unto the onset of the Discrimination Act in 1975, then modified to establish sexual harassment in 1986, a woman had no rights if a man ‘came on to her’ in the work place, feeling her bottom or making lewd comments was taken to be the norm. Until then a woman who was submitting to unwelcome sexual advances had little in the way of comeback or protection. Was all of that for nothing? How can we educate these young people into believing that giving up on one self is not the answer? Degrading and shaming behaviour in order to shock, I believe, is more to do with lack of self esteem and self worth, is that because they do not see a clear and positive future in our society? Is it because parents have rewarded bad behaviour as we see today clearly happening in supermarkets and shopping centres when a small child is instantly gratified by the chant of ‘I want I want’ or some rebellious acting out only to be given a reward?
Life for women before the 1960’s meant that anyone in a profession might be expected to leave their job when they married. It was assumed that the woman would look after the home whilst the man had his career. Women could not get mortgages, or credit without a husband or father acting as a guarantor. Thankfully we have come a long way since then but have we presented our young with a confusing dilemma, on the one hand, freedom of choice about how they live their lives but on the other no clearly defined boundaries of how to self regulate, self care and self protect? However can it also be due to the free flow of cheap booze that has helped increase hospital admissions to almost 1.2 million in the past 12 months including more than 7000 teenagers?