I used to write about feminism a little bit, back to a year or so ago, back when my eyes were first opened to the history of oppression and violence against women in our society and around the world. I guess once you start exploring any kind of injustice, it’s a bit like stepping through a door you can’t go back through. Because now I see it everywhere – I see women downtrodden, I see women under pressure, I see women being forced into boxes they don’t want to be in. We live in a culture that feels more comfortable with page three models than breastfeeding mothers – and comparatively, women in the UK have things easy.
I stopped writing about it because it was exhausting me, and because I knew other people were writing about it better than I ever could, and because I knew we were raising our daughter to understand this: that she can be whoever she wants to be and have whatever job or hobbies she wants, one day, that she can be strong and pretty at the same time, that her worth is not in her looks alone.
Last summer – whilst pregnant with a very obvious bump, and suffering from a dodgy pelvic joint that made my leg give way at random intervals – I went for a walk, and I got catcalled. It was a hot day and I was wearing a fairly short dress. I had, in a rare moment of energy during what was a pretty exhausting pregnancy, bothered to do my make-up. I felt quite confident (if a bit limpy). And maybe that confidence showed, or something, because I am not normally a woman that suffers from catcalling. I am a tiny, bespectacled, pale-skinned woman normally dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and a pair of slip on shoes that were once white and are now definitely not.
Anyway, some idiot leaned out of his window and wolf-whistled. Then he yelled something I’d rather not repeat here in case my Mum is reading it.
Far from being flattered (because being told, in a very aggressive way, that I am f***able by a strange man is not what I would call a compliment. I’ve kind of said it now, haven’t I? Oh well), I went cold. As in literally cold – goosebumps. I was walking down an alley, and there were no other adults around. It suddenly occurred to me that I was totally alone, with my tiny daughter, and my unborn child, and I didn’t feel safe. In the middle of the day.
I was angry about it. I shouted something equally unrepeatable back at him. And then I ran home. Dodgy hip and unwieldy bump and all. He yelled something slightly more threatening as I left.
When I got home I was really annoyed at myself. I should have said something better than that word I can’t repeat on my blog! (Maybe I should write a blog post called ‘bad Christians, put your hands up’.) I should have yelled something like ‘I’M NOT AN OBJECT FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT YOU EGOTISTICAL SMALL-MINDED SEXIST PIG!’. Or ‘STOP BEING SUCH A STEREOTYPICAL PRODUCT OF THE PATRIARCHY!’
Okay, I’m kind of joking with that last one.
But what I wanted to tell him was that I am a person, not a thing, and that his objectifying me wasn’t on, and that he needed to get with the program and realize that it isn’t acceptable to scream disgusting ‘compliments’ at people whenever he fancies it.
But I didn’t because I was caught off-guard and I am human.
Anyway, I was pondering this the other day, and trying to find the reasons why I’ve started rolling my eyes sometimes at other feminist issues. I occasionally lurk around a couple of message boards (it’s a bit less creepy than it sounds), and I find the ‘feminism’ topics particularly interesting (obviously). But I find myself, sometimes, totally alienated from it.
But that’s okay.
When we split ourselves into groups, as humans, there’s always a bit of in-fighting about what is acceptable within the group and what isn’t (which is why there are, at current count, approximately 41,000 Christian denominations worldwide). And there are always extremists. I’ve written about this before, but I wouldn’t want to associate myself with the Westboro Baptist Church people, for instance. Even though I am a Christian, I am not that kind of Christian.
I am a feminist, but I am not that kind of feminist.
The dictionary definition of feminism is this: ‘the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.’
So in case anyone out there is thinking ‘I’m not really a feminist because …’ or ‘I’m a feminist but I don’t feel comfortable talking to other feminists because …’ – here are a few of the many ways in which I am a particularly crappy feminist:
- I rely on my husband for income. This is a biggy. I am not financially independent. I am, however, in a loving marriage and I trust my husband with my life. But apparently, because we’re not financial equals, I shouldn’t ‘count’ as a feminist.
- I think ‘boys clubs’ and ‘girls clubs’ are fine, as long as the girls and boys have the opportunity to engage in the same kind of activities. I am not that one person that demands her daughter be let into the Scouts.
- I don’t see ‘girly’ things (i.e. – pink, sparkly, floaty, flouncy clothes and toys) as being inherently bad. In fact, I think categorizing those things as being ‘not of worth’ is actually damaging and kind of insulting. I just think, again, that children should have equal access to everything.
- I like men. (Apart from stupid catcalling men). I don’t think that men are scumbags. I don’t say things like that, either. I don’t think women are better than men – I think we deserve equal rights. Which goes both ways. I do care about boys being stereotyped, too.
- I don’t think men and women are the same. Sorry, I don’t. I believe children are individuals, and there’s nothing wrong with a girl that likes rough and tumble and a boy that likes to push a dolly pram around. But do I think there are fundamental differences between a man and a woman (other than the obvious physical stuff)? Yes. I do.
So there we go. According to some message boards, I should be kicked out of the Feminist Club, because I am not worthy.
It doesn’t mean anything.
Let’s stick to what’s important here: in the UK, the gender pay gap is the smallest it’s ever been. At the end of August, I casually popped along to my nearest church to vote in our local election. Why? Because feminists fought for it. Once upon a time, those rights did not exist, and now they do, and it’s all down to a movement that some people like to describe as a bunch of man-hating weirdos.
Women who came before me paved the way for me, and my daughter, and our rights, and I am grateful for it, and if the events of Hollywood in the past couple of weeks have told us anything, there is much work yet to be done.
Which is why I still call myself a feminist.
Even if I am a ‘bad’ one.
Would you call yourself a feminist? Have you ever felt excluded from feminism?