For this weeks Feminist Friday, I wanted to take you back to the first post where I unapologetically called myself a feminist. I’d had some years that I’m not proud of where I both feared and loathed the label, I wanted equality, why did I need to be called a feminist? Weren’t most of them all angry and man hating (a common misconception). I’m not the first young woman to have felt that feminism wasn’t for them, and I wouldn’t have been the last BUT in the summer before my final year I read a lot (what else is new) and I found what I’d been looking for. I found other women who initially thought the label was too much but then realised there was so much BS in the world if you’re a female. So I wrote this blog and I hope that I’ll show that feminism and feminists aren’t as scary as people make them out to be. We just want equality and we don’t hate men (well no true feminist does). Enjoy my archive post titled ‘I am a Feminist’, because now I’m so damn proud of that label.
A lot of people may see the title of this post and think, so what? I’ve thought about writing this for a while and put it off for no reason other than I didn’t want to get this wrong. I am publicly declaring I am a feminist and anything I thought or wrote before is now over written. I’ve always been a feminist but I hadn’t always liked or used the word. I’ve been a feminist since I was a little girl where I’d shout GIRL POWER at everyone while wearing girl power temporary tattoos and would play armies at school and take charge. I’ve been a feminist since I got bored of barbie and used to sketch out my own dolls who could do anything and be anything. I’ve been a feminist since I was a passionate and angry teenager determined that women could be and do anything and later as an excited 17 year old who saw a poster for the feminist society at university. Then something changed. I came to uni and got in an argument with a male feminist about how oppressed and angry I should feel. As a rule I hate being told what I should and shouldn’t do or feel, more people tried to fit me into a mold so I decided I didn’t want to be a feminist if that’s what people expected of me.
For a long time I, like a lot of young women, refused to call myself a feminist. I didn’t like the way the word had ugly connotations of man hating, being angry and not wanting to shave or wear a bra. I hate body hair on any human and I love a good bra (let’s face it, exercising without one is just damn painful). I’d say I was a humanist and other things like that, I got in arguments at uni and a lot of ‘feminists’ made me feel like I had to conform to their way of living and thinking. Fast forward to when I broke my spine and had a lot of spare time on my hands and something changed. I picked up a copy of How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran for my Writing Women class and it spoke to me. I suddenly felt like I belonged and I could be a feminist and still be myself.
I read and continue to read every book on feminism and strong women that I could get my hands on. I got more interested in politics and women in an international context. I was happy talking about feminism and debating with others. I wanted to be part of a great group of men and women who wanted positivity and empowerment. I’ve said too many that I feel feminism is something you need to discover for yourself and not just tell people WELL YOU ARE, that just pisses people off. I found, fell in love and embraced feminism. I love women like Roxanne Gay too who question what it means to be a feminist in her book ‘Bad Feminist’, because I don’t think there is one true way of being a feminist.
I’m all for women going out and getting a career but I’m also totally supportive of stay at home Mums. My first female role models who I spent time looking up to were my Mum, my Aunt and my Nanna all three are incredible, powerful, kick ass women and all three were stay at home Mums. I also admire working women too, I’ve learnt a lot from my boyfriend’s Mum, who’s always worked. They’re all different and all deserve to be respected for different things.
I also feel that a woman can do what they like with their bodies. I’m not against glamour modelling or the porn industry. Don’t get me wrong there are issues and that’s a whole blog post right there, but if women WANT to do that to their bodies then who is anyone else to dictate to them? Because to me feminism is all about having a choice.
image from Pinterest via Popsugar
I could go on and say all the things we need to fight and put right in the world gender stereotypes, rape, female education around the world, the children debate, etc. I could write about all the men on Twitter, when I posted about equality, who told me I was wrong that the pay gap was a myth and feminism wasn’t needed anymore. I could apologise for being young and naive when I said I wasn’t a feminist. Really though, I just want to say that I’m a big fan of feminism and other women. I don’t want to get angry and compete with them or knock them for every little thing. I certainly don’t want to stand up and go well women are better and men suck, I love men!
I’m writing this because I felt like it was the right time for me to say. I’ve been thinking about feminism instead of sleeping and looking up more books to add to my collection. I know there are some fantastic women out there who I’ve yet to meet and I also know there are people who will judge me first on being a woman before anything else, but you know what I’m excited. I’m excited that I’m a part of this community and that we live in a time where there are so many people working for equality and hopefully less hatred.
So there you go, I’m a feminist, how about you?
It’s hard to have missed two huge news stories in the past few weeks. While this might be an uncomfortable topic, I want this blog to be honest and unflinching. We need to talk about Sexual Assault. Late last month the world was horrified to learn that a 16 year old girl had been recorded being gang raped by up to 30 men, it was then uploaded onto social media. As if this wasn’t bad enough, this week the media gaze shifted to the United States after a young woman had been raped while she lay unconscious behind a bin. The rapist was found guilty, but still the media focused on what he had lost. They focused on his athletic career and even his own father wrote about how his life had been ruined by ’20 minutes of action’, with no insight into how the young woman’s life had been changed after her ordeal.
This isn’t the first time this year we’ve been talking about sexual assault. Kesha is still battling the man she accuses of raping her and has been blocked making music unless she works with him. Lady Gaga stood up and wrote the beautiful song Til It Happens To You (above), performing it at the Oscars surrounded by fellow survivors of assault. With all this talk in the media, surely it has to get better… right?
It wasn’t until I came to university that I fully understood the extent of women being affected by sexual assault. On nights out girls were touched again and again, even when they said no. Guys would come up behind me and try and dance against or touch me, something I’m deeply uncomfortable with. They would shout remarks on my way home or try and grab me and then laugh. I know too many people who’s drinks have been spiked or who have been so drunk they could hardly speak, but were taken home by someone and had sex with.
The worst thing though? The worst thing is when you’re told that you’re making a ‘fuss over nothing’. When you’re told it’s sports night and they’re just trying to dance close to you. When you’re told that boys will be boys. When you’re told that when you launch someone across a dancefloor for touching you in a club you’re the one who needs to lighten up and get a grip. It’s still made out to be your fault. I was made to feel bad by other people for being angry that I’d been touched by someone and I didn’t want them too. I was pressured by classmates in my teens not to report someone when they thought it was ok to slap my butt and make comments because I was the only girl in class and couldn’t I take a joke? When I was 11 and the guys told me to go ‘suck it’ or when one boy pushed me up against a wall and was inappropriate, or when he beat me up my school didn’t care. We reported it but we were just kids this didn’t mean anything, he was just a naughty boy. So I just got on with my life and shouted when I got mad, every time I got told by someone in authority that I needed to ‘calm down’. Luckily that’s not how my family raised me.
It’s hard sometimes because you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. If I tried to report someone touching me up on a night out, nothing would happen. When we read about women getting attacked in the media the questions asked are ‘what were they wearing’ or ‘why were they alone at night’. When we read about a man getting attacked (because don’t forget, they do too) it’s made into a joke about how they should enjoy it. Recently a teacher was arrested for raping her 13 year old student, people were saying how ‘lucky’ he was. It was rape, he was a child and he was groomed and raped. That’s it.
While I appreciate that this is a heavy topic, it’s been tearing me up inside, reading all these reports. I don’t want to demonise men, not at all. I do, however, want to contribute to tackling the way rape and sexual assault are seen in the media, because only then will be get more convictions, more education and more support for the women and men who have faced such a terrible ordeal.