I need feminism because EVERYTHING

So recently my university has been taking part in a nationwide campaign run by student unions (though I think it started as a tumblr), where people of all genders are photographed holding up signs that say ‘I need feminism because…’, and filled out however they like. (My sister’s university also took part a month ago, and it made me insanely excited to hear her talking about how inspired she’d been.) The tumblr is here, and I’ve been following it for a while, but it was really fantastic to actually be out there doing it, and seeing people I knew taking part as well. There are dozens of things I could have said, but I couldn’t write all of them, and so since I still don’t have time to do a post on any proper topics, I thought I’d jot down a few of things I definitely wanted to say. Oh, and the series as a whole is brilliant, with lots of people being far more powerful and inspiring and articulate and hilarious than me, so I would definitely recommend taking a look. Okay, here goes.

I need feminism because wanting to be treated like a person does not make me ‘crazy’.

I need feminism because she was never ‘asking for it’.

I need feminism because you can make your own damn sandwich.

I need feminism because men are ‘players’, but women are ‘sluts’.

I need feminism because I said no and he didn’t stop.

I need feminism because your ‘intellectual debate’ is my real life.

I need feminism because my sexual orientation is not for anyone’s entertainment.

I need feminism because I love sex, and won’t be made to apologise for it.

I need feminism because I am more than a sex object.

I need feminism because people like this still exist.

I need feminism because my right to choose is not up for debate.

I need feminism because feminist men are better in bed.

I need feminism because someone else’s gender identity is no one’s business but their own.

I need feminism because I wear short skirts and corsets for me, not for anyone else.

I need feminism because I won’t always be there to protect my little sister.

I need feminism because ‘almost equal’ isn’t good enough.

I need feminism because I still need to remind myself to check my privilege.

I need feminism because I don’t know if I want children.

I need feminism because it shouldn’t be controversial not to shave or wax.

I need feminism because I know men too afraid of being mocked to call themselves feminists.

I need feminism because there are so many people out there who think it’s irrelevant.

I need feminism because I care.

I need feminism because I expect more.

I need feminism because I haven’t given up yet.

Guinea pigs and Pervocracy

Okay, so this is one of the times when I’m not writing because too much exciting stuff is happening. Like writing my thesis and looking for jobs and also getting way over my head with the kink scene. All of the awesome things! And I am making notes of posts I want to write, all about rape culture and relationships and life goals and fetish clubs and online dating and kink stereotypes… and then I spend all my free time sleeping in because otherwise I can’t function.

So until things calm down or I get better at handling six different sides to my personality, here is an amazing post from Pervocracy. It’s called “How can you be a feminist and do BDSM”, and effectively sums up most of what I feel on the matter, including the great comeback “it’s like asking how I can be a feminist and keep guinea pigs”. 

One of the things I really like is the way that post deals with all the problems that you do get within BDSM culture, pointing out that they’re all the same problems you get with sex, and with society in general. But higher risks mean the people who engage in such activities actually need to think about what they’re doing, how it feels and what the consequences may be, and that’s something that gets missed out far too often in vanilla, ‘normal’ interactions.

Anyway, go read the whole thing. I’ll be back when I’ve had some sleep.

For confident and assertive girls who don’t “need” feminism

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to be a feminist in ‘real life’. A mixture of student journalism and seminar-style work has given me the opportunity to put a lot of what I throw around here into practice, and that’s been really awesome and helpful, both for me and (hopefully) the people I’ve been talking with. I’ve been sharing my personal experiences and also broader views, and as such I have been consistently labeled as a feminist. Sometimes a sex-positive feminist, sometimes an LGBT+ feminist, and sometimes just a girl who’s really into women’s issues (which I know isn’t exactly the same thing, but if the shoe fits, etc.). While I generally don’t believe labels are all that helpful, I’m proud of that one, all the more so now that it’s become a dirty word that is so often used to dismiss arguments (‘crazy angry man-hating feminists, of course they’re going to get their panties in a twist over the coverage of the Steubenville rape case’, and the like – yes, I think it’s horrific, no, I don’t have anything new or insightful to add to it).

The upshot is that one of the things I’ve been told a lot is that I sound like I’ve always been a feminist, that I have the kind of confidence and assurance in my views that makes my arguments compelling. And I couldn’t be more flattered to hear this. But it’s got me thinking about when and how that came about. More specifically, it’s reminded me of a moment I thought I’d forgotten, a moment I am certainly not proud of.

I was fifteen, recently out as bi at school, and still working out this whole sexuality thing. I was definitely into LGBT+ rights though, and talked passionately about things like gay marriage and homophobic bullying in schools. One of my friends from the scene was chatting to me online one day, talking about how she’d had a really awful day, being overwhelmed with news stories full of misogynistic bullshit, and how it was really getting her down. I don’t know how we got onto whether or not I was a feminist, but I clearly remember dismissing her. No, I’m not a feminist. I just don’t think we really need all that anymore, do we? Women have equal rights now. I just think there are more important things.

I cringe to remember that, my fifteen-year-old self parroting a line I now wince to hear, a classic trolling argument. There are so many things wrong with that statement it embarrasses me that I once believed it, especially given how progressive I thought I was. I don’t recall what happened, but I think my friend backed off pretty quickly, shocked to have someone she thought was an ally turn against her so obviously.

The thing is, when I was fifteen, I really didn’t have any reason to believe otherwise. I was raised by liberal, open-minded parents. My mother had a successful career and had never changed her name when she got married (one of the reasons I laugh when people tell me I ought to change mine when the time comes because ‘it’s nice to make everyone feel like a family‘ – right, because I clearly didn’t have a family). More importantly, they’d sent me to a fantastic school, one that had been set up on the principle that girls were just as intelligent as boys, and deserved exactly the same chances.

While I know that there can be many problems with a single-sex educational environment, for me, going to an all-girls school was amazing. I know how privileged this makes me, but before I was seventeen (when I first started meeting boys), I genuinely believed that misogyny and sexism were over. Men who believed that women were less competent or ambitious or successful were something we studied in history lessons. There was never even the slightest hint that science and maths were ‘boys’ subjects’ – the most popular subject for A-level was maths. I was taught from my very first day that I was going to be academically successful, as successful as any man, probably more so. I was taught confidence, self-assurance, how to present my views, argue my case, speak with passion and with conviction. I was taught to value myself, and I was surrounded by highly intelligent women, both teachers and students, who thought the same.

I was lucky, and I was privileged. I owe my parents and my circumstances a huge amount for my education, and for the way I am now. But the thing about privilege is that most of the time you don’t realise you have it. That’s one of the privileges. I’d never met anyone who treated women like second-class citizens, like sex objects, like baby-making machines, like children, like collections of hormones – in short, like anything other than full and equal human beings. I knew the history, but I thought it was just that, history. I thought sexism ended when women got the vote. And worst of all, I thought women who thought otherwise were whining and overreacting and acting like victims.

That’s why, when my friend asked if I was a feminist, I denied it so strongly. It took a lot to get me from that to where I am today, a lot of I’m not a feminist, I just believe women should be treated equally, a lot of I’m very much for equal pay and abortion rights, I’m just not one of those crazy feminists. Beginning to understand rape culture took three horrible direct encounters with it, and even then it was a year before I properly began reading and connected what had happened to me with all this ‘feminism’ business that was floating around. (How that came about is the subject of another post entirely, but is just as important.) In short, it took work.

I love my school, and my old teachers. I owe them a lot, and the more I think about it, the more I realise how lucky I was to have been brought up that way. But in a conscious effort to raise young women to value themselves and to never doubt that they were worth as much as any man, they missed out something crucial. They never taught me that this was an effort, and that, in the real world, life wasn’t like that. In all honesty, I was probably happier that way, not knowing. But when people act surprised that I have such conviction in what I believe now and the confidence to express it, it makes me think about how I learnt that confidence alongside being taught that the issues I am so passionate about didn’t exist.

I hope there’s a middle ground, somehow. I really, really want to find it.