I was doing some reading recently that suggested that all cultures are created by men. Now, I would agree that, as far as we know, most cultures predominantly value men and the things they do over those of women. But, historians actually spend quite a lot of time discussing ‘women’s cultures’. They may not have had broader cultural or social significance or authority, but, women, in their various denominations, often had cultures, based around work, leisure, support networks, children and much more. These networks or groups allowed women to share resources, gossip, stories and to create their own values that were distinct (if not entirely removed from) patriarchal culture. They were often a place of power for women, even if that power restricted, and could also work to support women in their interactions with men.
So today I was in Halfords and there was a HUGE range of accessories for cars in, you guessed it, pink. And not a nice tasteful pink, but that particular shade that seems to predominate when things associated with men are girlified. And I thought, who on earth buys this stuff; I could barely walk down the aisle holding it. And it got me thinking about female culture. Do women buy into ‘pink’ merchandise or other similar facets of femininity in attempt to create a shared female culture? Can we see it as an attempt to create a distinct ‘women’s space’ that is exclusive to women and from which they can draw power (through excluding men and shared sisterhood), even if this power is restricted?
Now, I am not really suggesting that pink is the new feminism. Its association with girls, and thus its infantilisation of adult women, plus the fact that it is not a women-created culture, but one placed upon women by merchandisers, make it more than a bit problematic. But, perhaps, it is time to start claiming power in women’s cultures; to stop buying into a value system that trivialises anything associated with women and femininity; to ask what it gives to women and do they gain strength from it, before we castigate it as ‘womanly’ and shun it.
If we want to move beyond gender, then we need to think about what we want a new world will look like, and, perhaps it’s just me, but I tend to be suspicious of a vision of the future that buys into a world where women and anything associated with them is automatically shunned.