Feminism. It is for everyone. It is important. It shapes who I am.
What is it? How did I discover it? Why is it important? Why must it be intersectional? How does it affect my day-to-day life?
I have several blogs in the pipeline, but it occurs to me that a lot of them are around a similar theme: Feminism. So let’s take a quick look at what it is, and what it means to me.
I’m going to take a wild guess and say that if you’re here, on my blog, you’ve a vague idea of what Feminism is – and you’re more than likely a feminist yourself, judging by this Twitter poll:
But just really quickly for the people at the back.
FEMINISM = EQUALITY.
Got it? Need to write it down? I’ll wait.
One thing I am told from time to time is that, as a feminist, I am sexist myself. I am pro-women and anti-men. Which is, of course, bullshit. I love men. A lot of my friends are men. I’m even married to one. But I do not love men who hate women. So before I get on to my personal experience with feminism, I have borrowed a quick explanation from FemBotMag:
So why “feminism”? Why not “equalism,” “egalitarianism” or another name with a similar connotation? Feminism is a movement centered on advocating gender equality. Not only does feminism seek to elevate the status of women in society, it seeks to bring justice to people who have been discriminated against in terms of their race, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, and much more. Seeing that females have suffered from oppression in our patriarchal society, I think it’s okay that one movement is more associated with the oppressed gender, especially considering how it’s one of the only things we have to ourselves. Had males historically suffered the same amount of discrimination at the hands and will of women or from a matriarchy, perhaps the name meninism would be acceptable. However, males, especially white, straight males, have not suffered at the hands of sexism to the degree females have.
Feminism seeks to balance the scales, so to use fem in the ism, is to give females the boost we have been deserving of all this time, but have been consistently denied. Feminism doesn’t just seek to discover equality between all genders, it seeks to give back women everything they were denied; this is why it’s called feminism.
I’m aware this blog could get incredibly lengthy, so I’m going to try and keep it short and sweet.
How Did I Discover Feminism?
I discovered feminism as something I identified with when I was given Caitlin Moran’s book How To Be A Woman by my friend Lee-Anne. “It’s about feminism,” she informed me, “but it’s not all man hating and not shaving your armpits. I actually think we might be feminists.”
How right she was. Whilst I’ve always believed that women can do whatever they want, and that we should all be paid the same, and all the stuff that to any normal person seems like logic, I did spend a few years of my late teens as that utter dick who considers herself ‘one of the lads’, and who ‘hates girls’ because they’re ‘so dramatic’. What a prick. This book kick-started my feminist journey and taught me just how much more there is to do.
Why Is It Important?
Feminists aren’t angry lesbians with hairy legs who hate men. We’re men and women with consciences and an awareness of societies’ bias and white male privilege. Yes, we’ve come a long long way, and things are so much better for (at least cis-gendered) women than they were even 20 years ago. BUT. There is still a 23% pay gap. Women hold less than 20% of seats in US Congress, US Senate, US House of Representatives. They hold less than 30% of seats in the House of Commons. (When I first found these stats they were 3 years old, but upon researching further this is still, disappointingly, the case.)
Women are still taught to feel shame when they are raped and sexually assaulted, whilst men such as Brock Turner get off with light sentences because of their ‘bright futures’.
Female Genital Mutilation happens to girls as young as 5 months in 29 countries across the world. 120 countries don’t have law against marital rape.
Because when Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom faced off in the Tory leadership battle, the questions coming up surrounded their family situation; something which never would have happened to a male candidate. (side note, they’re both terrible, but that’s got nothing to do with their vaginas.)
Women are under-represented in the media, in industries, in boardrooms, in comedy. It’s getting better. But we aren’t there yet.
Fuck, a man who has openly bragged about sexually assaulting women can still be elected to the most powerful seat in America, I mean fuck.
As Joss Whedon stated when asked why he writes such strong female characters, we need feminism “because you’re still asking me that question.”
And I haven’t even begun to talk about trans women, gay women, black women….
Why Must It Be Intersectional?
There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all feminism. We’re in danger of becoming oppressive in our feminism, which sort of defeats the object, no?
My problems as a white, able-bodied, bisexual woman (in a heterosexual marriage, so let’s face it I pass as straight) do not fit one cookie-cutter type of feminism that would also fit those of a black woman, or a trans woman, or a disabled woman. To quote Kimberle Crenshaw, the American professor who coined the term, Intersectionality is:
“The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples include race, gender, class, ability and ethnicity.”
If we’re talking about equality, we have to look at it from all angles of oppression, and from all angles of inequality. So I’ll end on a quote from writer & comedian, Ava Vidal, which sums it up better than I ever could:
To me the concept is very simple. As a black feminist, I do not condone Chris Brown physically assaulting his (then) girlfriend Rhianna, but I will object if someone describes him as a ‘black b*****d’, as one white woman did to me. It does not mean that I support domestic violence as she then accused me of doing. It means that I, like the majority of black women, don’t support racism.
The main thing ‘intersectionality’ is trying to do, I would say, is to point out that feminism which is overly white, middle class, cis-gendered and able-bodied represents just one type of view – and doesn’t reflect on the experiences of all the multi-layered facets in life that women of all backgrounds face.
To sum up. Intersectional Feminism, or GTFO.
How Does It Affect My Life?
I find myself getting angry more often lately. It’s a smorgasbord of Trumpy Brexitty Moronic Cousiny madness that envelopes me, and gives me the drive to write blogs like this, to knit pink hats with ears, to go to protests and to argue and shout and stamp and wave my arms around and make my little, human sized person BIGGER AND LOUDER AND MORE NOTICED.
Since discovering feminism, I’ve discovered body positivity and overcome years of self-confidence issues. I’ve found new, amazing friends to fight alongside. I’ve changed the why I write both at work and in fiction. But it has destroyed some relationships. It’s made it harder to respect some people. It’s made me disappointed in others. It’s a belief that I subscribe to so strongly, and I feel that – if you’re an ‘anti-feminist’, despite knowing what it stands for, then we really have nothing in common. And that’s been a big realisation.
Tell me your Feminism story in the comments!
Disclaimer: I AM STILL LEARNING, just like the rest of you. I read and research and listen to what others have to say to make sure I’m accurately reflecting my beliefs, and that my beliefs accurately reflect reality. I’m totally open to discussing all of the above, so Tweet me or leave a comment!
You can also join in the live Poll Thread over on Twitter. Tell me about your feminism
Are you a feminist?
— Georgia (@UpAndGeorgia) February 13, 2017