I was 14 years old in my English class when we were asked to write a response to an article.
It was from an education body that were planning on changing the GCSE coursework to exam ratio in reaction to the girls repeatedly outperforming the boys.
If I remember correctly, it said some other stuff too but it was the first I had been aware of gender inequality. Or rather, inequality that directly affected me.
Nerves were nonexistent as I stuck my hand up to read my response. All I could think was that I wanted to say the words aloud. The geeky girl at the front of the class whooped (later, as a thank you, I would throw my copy of the Handmaid’s Tale at a bully who picked on her) the boys rolled their eyes and the teacher smirked happily.
From then on I began noticing everyday sexism and gender inequality that completely baffled my young brain. One day, after learning about how us ladies had got the vote, I felt so much rage that I tried to bleach the words Suffragettes into a pink t-shirt. Upon discovering me nearly in tears (the bleach ran and made the t-shirt yellow) My Dad said ‘You know, it’s ok if you’re a lesbian?’
Good old Pops.
Still, at that point ‘real’ sexism seemed like a far away problem. But as I got older, went to University and later moved to London I learnt that the UK is still a long way from equality. I was so passionate about the issues surrounding female inequality that when I was asked if I was a Feminist I felt relief to be able to say, YES!
Feminism groups together all of my beliefs, identifies my attitudes and gives me the freedom to explore things that in regular life are taboo. It’s an ideology that is constantly evolving and expects to be changed. The only rule is equality, how we get there is up for grabs.
It allows you, as a woman, to challenge inequality. It gives me comfort and authority to say ‘I’m a Feminist’ but it’s not always the easiest thing to say or talk about. It can be the instant reaction of some to physically recoil.
One client at work nearly fell off his chair when I said ‘I mainly blog about Feminism’ After gathering his thoughts for what seemed like 5 silent minutes he said ‘No you’re not. You’re wearing make- up and have your nails painted’
The conversation, led by him might I add, turned into him telling me that where he is from Feminists hate men and all live alone on an Island together- that reminds me I need to look into that island. Sounds like a hoot.
With that kind of reaction in mind, I don’t wear a t-shirt with ‘I’m a Feminist’ on every day but calling myself a Feminist does make me challenge things everyday which I might otherwise accept as normal.
Still, it can be awkward as shit to bring them up to people though. That I won’t deny.
How to…not feel awkward as shit and challenge sexism/inequality?
I shall let you into a little secret, next time you’re trying to build up the courage to bring it up, just say in your head…loudly…
‘IN THE NAME OF FEMINISM [enter your own line here]’
It makes the thing that comes out after it a lot easier and you sound less like the stereotype of ‘angry-manic-feminist- woman’ after already you have already screamed in your head*
*sometimes you need to scream out loud but be selective is all I’m saying, yeah?
To get you started, and to celebrate International Woman’s Day (Whoop!) here are some of mine.
IN THE NAME OF FEMINISM…
…pay me the same as a man, if I’m doing the same job. IT’S JUST SIMPLE LOGIC.
…can we just work on the fact that if I get raped and go to report it, I have more than a 7% change of persecuting my attacker?
…I would like a world where my children will not grow up believing that women are a commodity to be bought and sold.
…why the FUCK does Female Genital Mutilation exist?
…It is not ok to grope me, shout sexually explicit things or intimidate me just because I’m a woman.
…how can you say we don’t need Feminism when in the UK alone, 24 women have been killed this year of suspected male violence? (It’s March)
…don’t try to control my sexuality. I’ll do, wear and gyrate as I please. (and it STILL isn’t an invitation for grope, sorry)
…if tits are crammed into every advertising space going then surely it must be ok for women to breast feed anywhere they GOD DAMN PLEASE!
Give it whirl.
Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to use the Feminist label to bring these issues up.
Of all of the things related to Feminism that wind me up, there is one thing I don’t care too much about and that is being personally attack about the ideology of Feminism itself (and the scoffs you get when you call yourself a Feminist)
Come and talk to me, shout at me, laugh at me – I welcome the juicy noise of Feminism dancing in the air in any debate.
I didn’t always feel this way. Trust me. At first, I couldn’t understand why the idea of Feminism was being criticised or how a woman, who in the words of Caitlin Moran, wants to be in charge of her vagina would opt out of Feminism.
It’s a case of ‘each to their own’ I say. Forcing people to label themselves isn’t what I’m fighting for.