Forgive the following analogy, it sounded clunky even when I’d edited it 15 times, but it says how I feel; my discovering I’m a feminist makes me feel like I did when I got a new (old) car. Suddenly I was seeing them everywhere. Sadly I’m not seeing feminists everywhere but I am seeing sexism. Everywhere.
I have been energised and inspired by pretty much every feminist blog, article, interview (see @weekwoman on Huffington Live) and Tweeter that I’ve come in contact with over recent months. I say pretty much because there have been a few who have made me feel I’m not quite “feminist enough” and that I apologise for myself, for my comments. And this is where my historical fear of feminism comes from.
Look, I’m 37, I’m a wife, I’m a mother and I work in a male dominated industry (certainly when you’re talking about the more senior leaders of the company). I’ve been acutely aware of feminism and equality my whole life, it’s just until now I didn’t engage in discussion or expand my thoughts on the subject, or read further. So forgive me, angry women on my behalf, if I’m not quite angry enough for you (not referring to ANY specific person there BTW).
The point for me, is not that I’m not good enough a feminist, or angry enough, it’s that I’ve engaged in the discourse, there’s one more person challenging the everyday nonsense I see in my life. And it is NON SENSE. It makes NO SENSE to market toys to girls v boys. To market CHEESE and CHILDREN’S YOGURTS via a gender division, it’s utter madness. I get that marketeers think they know what people want, or more importantly what they want people to want, but marketing to what they think people inherently feel becomes dangerous when you dictate gender stereotypes in such an innocuous way.
I see division every time I spy teenage girls teetering home after a night out, why are they teetering at all? Why destroy your toes, rub your heels raw, make it so you couldn’t run away if you had to? You don’t see boys (or a minute few) wearing crippling footwear. It’s tantum out to footbinding-except they’re doing it to themselves.
Why do girls feel they have to accept beatings, sexual advances they don’t want, inappropriate “banter”, page 3, fewer career opportunities, higher expectations about getting married or having children, why are the vast majority of eating disorder sufferers women, why do we feel we need to be any particular weight barring health concerns? Why do all there inequalities exist? Well there’s the rub. They happen for a multitude of reasons, many of them complex and deeply rooted in our subconscious and it’s going to take more than intelligent debate to improve things. They don’t just happen because men want them to, some men granted, but not all men. I absolutely think there are plenty of men who are apathetic to the above and that’s no good thing, but there are plenty of women who are too.
For me, being a feminist is about calling out inequality in terms of gender when you see it. Not being afraid to say you’re not comfortable when you see oppression, but most importantly to support other women on their journey to learning more about their own desire for equality. So when I see tweets where women are being shouted down for their opinion it makes me uncomfortable. It makes me want to keep my mouth shut and it shouldn’t. We are allowed to disagree, have differences of opinion, but there are ways to do this, anger and vitriol isn’t the way.
I’m not going to like every woman I meet, that doesn’t mean I don’t care about her right to have an equal footing with a man, if that’s what people think then they’re missing the point. We don’t all have to be friends to make a collective point, to create a momentum that means women are given the same respect, opportunity and support as men. And while we’re at it, how about recognising the fact that we can’t do this one on our own in little silos; we have to work together. The sooner we start to appreciate this, the easier it’s going to be to show other women (many of them young, see #TwitterYouthFeministArmy) that feminism is a safe belief to hold, where debate is encouraged but bullying most definitely is not.