I wrote this a while ago. For a multitude of reasons it wasn’t published. I thought, in honour of International Women’s Day, I’d pop it up here….
Friends, family, boys and girls, I think we need to have a chat. There has been a breakdown in communication. Our wires have got crossed. Things have got a bit lost in translation. I said, “I’m a feminist”, and you heard, “I’m an insane, militant aggressive man hater”. They sound so similar – it’s an easy mistake to make. But before you all run screaming from the room and strike me off your Christmas card list, I’d like to reassure you there’s no need to panic. I am still the same person you know and mildly tolerate. My bad for thinking we were all up to speed (it is 2013!), but okay, let’s tackle some of the myths and legends surrounding “feminists” together.
Being a feminist does not mean…
1. …I hate men.
I love men. Some of my best friends are men. I’m related to some men. I even married one. The idea that because I’m a feminist I secretly harbour the desire to destroy all men seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? I don’t drop rat poison in my Dad’s tea or plot to knock a radio into my husband’s bath. I am not covertly trying to sabotage all the men one by one. I mean, some men are jerks, but then so are some women. Being a jerk is not gender specific. So jerks aside, I like both men and women.
Feminism is about wanting equality, not female supremacy. It’s about wanting to be all in this together. But in a genuine down the pub sharing a packet of roasted nuts way, not in a Cameron, we’re all in this together, but I’ll just stand over here with my alma mater in the air conditioned VIP area way. Have we got that? Good. We’re cool. Without the air con.
2. …I am whining on about stuff that isn’t important.
Women have the vote. Women can legally have an abortion. We have the equal pay act. We’ve won. Feminism is no longer required. Everything’s rosy and marvellous and we all skip along holding hands in jolly mixed-gender groups. Right? Well…err… something’s niggling at me…
Is it that women are expected to remove acres of pubic hair from their bodies, else be deemed sexually repulsive? Or maybe it’s the lack of women role models in our society that don’t have breast implants, hair extensions and an engagement ring from a footballer? Or maybe it’s that female newsreaders over the age of fifty keep disappearing from our screens in a Logan’s Run-esque manner? Or perhaps it’s because despite statistically out-performing boys at school, girls go on to earn on average 15% less than their male counterparts?
Maybe things aren’t so equal after all. Oh yes, and what about all the other women around the world and their rights?
Lots of people will start shouting at this point. About personal choice. And the equally unfair expectations placed on men. And looking a certain way being part of a media job. And blah, blah, blah. I’m not going to tackle all those individually, I’m just going to ask a question. If you had a daughter would you be happy for her to base her worth on her looks, her career on who she married and disappear from view when she’s fifty? This is serious. Would you want your daughter to be Jordan? No offence to the mighty Katie Price, she has successfully played the system to earn a lot of money. Sure, she’s had to butcher her body, starve herself and strip to do it but that’s just the cost of success, right? I mean men do that ALL the time. Wait, hang on a minute…oh shoot looks like we do still need feminism after all.
3. …I’m just angry.
Okay you got me there, I am angry. I’m angry because of all the injustices mentioned above. And I’m angry because when I write a humorous piece highlighting some of misogynist bullshit, I get belittling jokes, patronising comments and generally more bullshit back.
We are all subject to the same socialisation pressures and have all experienced life under the patriarchy for some time. How about you read a humorous piece about the reactions I get as a woman driving a sports car and go: “Shit! I do make jokes about women drivers! I hadn’t thought about it that way!”
I’m not going to shout at you. I’m going to smile and probably get excited you’ve got what I’m talking about. What is going to piss me off is if you respond with “I’m not sexist BUT [select from one of the following: women aren’t very good at parking/there’s nothing wrong with telling jokes/you’re being too sensitive/all of the above]”. And generally getting all up in my face trying to distract from the fact that maybe, just maybe you think I have a point. At best you’re making yourself look stupid. At worst you’re making yourself look guilty.
4. …I’m making excuses for my own failures.
Seriously, a woman actually said this to me. She believes feminism is just an excuse for not working hard or not being successful. Like a sick note for getting out of life. “I’m sorry I can’t come into work today because I’m feeling a bit feminist.” In her eyes feminists are scroungers. Cheats. Con artists. I think she pictured people signing on for the dole, saying woefully, “I tried to get a job but I couldn’t because I’m a woman.” This notion is very easily dispersed: it’s bollocks.
Caitlin Moran, Grace Dent, India Knight are but the first examples that come to mind of successful, hard-working women who I believe would call themselves feminists. And what about those Vagenda girls, eh? A blog that’s received 5 million hits, columns and articles published across the world, a tasty book deal and they’re only in their early twenties. The lazy, whinging feminists.
5. …I can’t take a joke.
No, you’re right. Feminists have no sense of humour. Just look at this blogpost, look at Caitlin Moran, look at http://vagendamag.blogspot.co.uk/. What bitter, sad humourless excuses for human beings feminists are. God, I wouldn’t want to hang out with one of those feminists down the pub. It’s your round by the way. Pass me the nuts.