Last week, Rebecca asked who wanted to write a piece on feminism as a dirty word, after some girl who used to be on X Factor was stopped (by her PR) during an interview when she was asked whether she was a feminist or not.
I jumped at the chance, because I just love stuff like this. I get all self-righteous and militant and start shouting things like ‘feminists are cool, too’ and embarrassing anyone in a 10-mile vicinity of me. But I have put off writing it, because I just don’t know what to say.
I can’t believe we are still having (or not having) these conversations but I am loathe to criticize poor Ella Henderson for not fighting against her PR’s strict instructions to not answer the question. Because, at 17, I don’t think I called myself a feminist either. This makes me really sad, and a bit embarrased, but I’m pretty sure is the truth.
People often ask me how and when I came to self-define as a feminist activist, and I can’t remember because it doesn’t seem important anymore. Fighting for and writing about gender liberation and equality is such a concrete part of my identity these days that it seems irrelevant when I first used the f-word.
But I do remember, as a teenager, having a disagreement with a friend of mine when I wouldn’t call myself a feminist because I said that it implied that I hated men and I was terrified of being seen as anything other than a desirable, sexual being who just loved guys. For me, as a 17-year-old-girl, the two things were disanalogous and there weren’t a lot of people telling me otherwise.
Learning how the empowerment of women was my empowerment, too, was something that I discovered as I discovered who I was, as I sought out different media, as I found books that I loved, as I learnt what being a woman meant to me.
I didn't pick it up at my all-girls school, where the only woman who spoke about feminism was our History of Art teacher (who we all cruelly laughed at, as teenage girls do). I didn't get it all at once. And I'm okay with that.
The online revolution has, I think, done wonders for women. I am a part of communities where women like Emily talk about how they like men coming on their face in the same breath as gender equality. There is a world of diversity available to me, and that is fucking cool, feminism doesn’t have to be a monolithic order of lipstick-haters.