The moment I decided to come out to my dad was, if nothing else, an anti-climax. “Dad, there’s something you should know…” I began with the sombre self-realisation of a 27 year old about to dump a life-shattering bombshell at her father’s door “…I think I’m a feminist.”
There was a pause. Followed by a suppressed snort of amusement. “Um, love, we’ve known this for about 12 years.”
…hang on, What?? Why the hell didn’t someone tell me?!
There was a reason I had taken so long to realise what was so obvious to my parents. For most of my life I had been sold a rather narrow view of what a feminist was supposed to look like. There was a list. And my personal CV just didn’t match up:
I don’t want to burn my bra. Years ago a well-meaning relative told me that “A feminist is someone who burns her bra in public”. Being twelve, I didn’t actually own a bra so this immediately presented a barrier. By the time I did, I’d already had enough underwear-in-public shaming incidents for one lifetime.
I’m not raging with anger. I never thought I could be a feminist because I just wasn’t angry enough. And I had been told once, by a boy I fancied, that all feminists were crazy, extreme angry people with bad haircuts. I’ve only ever angrily sworn at another person twice in my entire life – once when I got plastered and spent a full hour drunkenly shouting at God, and once when I mustered up enough spite to call my brother…brace yourself folks… a “bloody boy!” Yeah, you read that right – Bloody. Boy. – words so badass they make the recipient’s toe hair shrivel up in fright (…or just cause them to laugh in my face, resulting in me running away. Crying.)
I am not invincible. I hate hate hate walking home alone late at night. I struggle with heavy boxes. I cried at the end of Terminator. Twice. I suck at team sports. Sometimes I require the help of another person when over-optimistically scaling the park wall at ten to midnight and getting stuck on top of the fence.
Occasionally I find myself wishing I were built of unscratchable, unbreakable, ‘I don’t need nobody, damn it’ stone. But then I realise that a life like that would be really boring and require almost no courage whatsoever.
I like God. Even when I’m spewing drunken swear words in his general direction, ultimately I’m still a fan. In fact, I don’t think I would ever feel comfortable enough to get drunk and swear at someone I didn’t like. If I ever swear at you, by the way, you’d better damn well take it as a bloody compliment.
I like men. There are men in this world who have inflicted horrific oppression on my gender. But there are also men out there who have championed the end of exploitation, inequality and abuse. Some of my feminist heroes are, in fact, men. If we’re going to truly stamp out violence against women it’s going to take all of us – men and women – to bring about lasting culture change. The appalling suffering directed towards my sex isn’t just something that women should grapple with. It presents an issue for humanity as a whole.
In addition, men can grow all kinds of awesome facial hair – shadow, stubble, BEARDS!! C’mon, people!
The other list
However, there is another relevant list: Sexual violence. The 55% pay gap between men and women in the finance sector. Forced marriage. Porn which depicts sex as something ‘you do to’ rather than something ‘you do with’ a woman. Female Genital Mutilation. Honour killings. The fact that many women in the public eye are judged first by their appearance, rather than their policies, achievements and character.
This list may not make me rage with hatred, but it makes me feel pretty sad.
I think a woman should never be beaten with sticks for simply uncovering her arms. It’s gutting that little girls in some families are sold off to brothels because they’re not valued as much as their brothers. I think men should seek to protect, and partner with, the women in their lives, not beat them to a pulp.
I don’t think we should settle for how things stand at the moment.
And that is why I, ladies and gents, am a bra-wearing, fence-scaling, man-lovin’ feminist.