I’ve been a proud capital ‘F’ feminist since I was 18, and I’m now 32. Back then, realising I was a feminist was a huge deal and it made me excited. It was a man who made me realise I was a feminist, because he told me he was one, and explained why calling yourself a feminist was a good thing, an empowering, positive thing. It meant, he told me, that we didn’t judge according to gender, that we celebrated the achievements of both sexes and that we were focussed on living our lives in an open, supportive and non-judgemental way.
That was 14 years ago. Since then I have been a writer for a feminist magazine, a feminist blogger and teacher of young people and adults; giving them a proud idea of what feminism means and encouraging them to live open, thoughtful, brave and respectful lifestyles. I have been naïve, I think, to believe that the world was on an upswing of realisation; that we were all, slowly but surely becoming feminists, same as we were all, slowly but surely working towards wiping out racism. Now, it seems, there is a new wave of angry young women fighting against traditional feminism; fighting against what is becoming known as the ‘Third Wave of Feminism’. I don’t really understand what that means and I’m doing my research, but until I really understand it, I’m sticking with the good old fashioned title of ‘feminist’ because I’m getting older and I like to keep things simple. Also, I don’t see a need for a new ‘third wave’ of feminism. I don’t like it when people are judged by their gender, same as I don’t like it when people are judged according to their skin colour. And I especially don’t like it when confused, uninformed people mess with a good thing.
A while ago, several women posted pictures of themselves holding up signs reading ‘I’m not a feminist because…’ and then posted their various reasons. For me, saying you’re not a feminist is like saying you’re a racist. As I said, I like to keep things simple. Saying you’re a feminist means you’re standing up for gender equality and fighting for men and women equally. Saying you’re not a feminist means you don’t want that. I am fully aware that the suicide rate of men between the ages of 18 and 35 is exponentially greater than that of women and that, as a feminist, concerns me deeply. The age old pressure on men to bottle up their feelings and regard asking for emotional help as a weakness is a feminist issue. The phrase ‘be a man’ is something feminists need to address; male and female. I have been in relationships with men who couldn’t share their feelings or fears – this is not something for Cosmo to tackle, it’s something for us all to tackle. I walked to my tube station in jeans and a nice silk top and a man shouted ‘sex on legs’ to me. That is something that both men and women should be offended by. Be aware, ladies, that the shouts in the street are not compliments, they are leers and they are not meant to celebrate you, they are meant to disempower and objectify you. I have a Master’s degree and I own my own home. I am interesting, loving, generous and funny and kind; I am worth more than a yell from a van because I am dressed nicely. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a straight, horny woman and sometimes when a gorgeous, well -dressed man passes me in the street I have naughty thoughts. The difference is I don’t shout those thoughts at him. I understand he’s a person (no matter how well those tight jeans fit him) and would probably feel a bit weird if I shouted to the back of his head exactly what I wanted to do to him.
All of this is old, and many times covered material. The reason I am writing tonight is because I am tired. I am so tired of feminists having to spend more of their time explaining feminism than living it. I’m tired of young women posting YouTube videos of their manifestos on why they’re not a feminist when the very act of them doing so is feminist. I’m tired of people bickering over what feminism is when we could be spending our efforts more productively in unison. I am so tired of having to defend myself when I say I’m a feminist when I could be having an interesting conversation with you. Why fuck with something that’s only there to help? Yes, the word ‘feminism’ implies female supremacy, but that’s the implication, not the fact. It’s just because it has the word ‘fem’ in it. Are those three letters really that scary? Are we going to fight and bicker and resort to YouTube because of terminology? Do you believe that men and women should have equal rights? Then you’re a feminist. Do you hate casual sexism? Then you’re a feminist. Do you feel under pressure to behave a certain way because of your gender? Then you’re a feminist. Are you concerned about the effect of the diminishing traditional male idea on our young men? Then guess what? You’re a fucking feminist. It’s not rocket science!
Please, please, please people; help a tired feminist out and just embrace the word and spend your time living a feminist lifestyle (respecting the talents and worries of men and women equally) and stop bitching about semantics. It’s a crap word, I grant you; but we’re stuck with it, and people died in defence of it. Honour them, honour the idea and shut the fuck up. Feminism should be the flag we all wave, not the stick we hit each other with.
(c) Jade Allen 2015