How can I unlearn this toxic lesson when it’s so deeply embedded in our everyday lives?
I have a confession to make. A pretty serious confession. Despite fully considering myself as a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man (my four year relationship might negate that statement), despite frequently raging at the misogyny inherent in society, despite having actually published an article in The Vagenda, I am still reticent about calling myself a feminist. Seriously.
I say shit like:
“Oh, I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I kind of agree with everything that they stand for”.
“Oh, I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I really enjoy having all these rights to play with”.
“Oh I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I would really love to live in a society where my possession of a vagina doesn’t affect the way my life is going to turn out.”
What, in the name of Betty Friedan, is that all about? I wouldn’t call myself a feminist? Why the hell not? I’ll tell you why. And I want you to prepare yourself, because the answer to this question is mind-bogglingly stupid. Because I’m afraid. And actually, I am afraid of criticism from both sides of the fence.
Feminism is a bad word, whether we like it or not. Feminism is constantly portrayed as being hysterical, trivial, man-hating, and just generally batshit insane. Even people like myself who have feminist beliefs have a knee-jerk negative reaction to the word.
I had a male friend who famously exclaimed that he hated feminists. Upon being asked how he would define a feminist, he responded that it was someone who believed in equal rights for women. *Pause for facepalm*
The stigma attached to the word “feminist” is so strong that it can make someone believe that equal rights for women is a daft idea. I was afraid that defining myself as a feminist would make people think differently about me.
But there’s another, even more ridiculous side to my coyness. With all the ruckus in the media of late about what a feminist actually is, whether we’re allowed to wear heels and stockings, whether we’re allowed to be funny, whether we should do nothing but march and protest, our armpit hair blowing jauntily in the breeze, I’ve actually started to worry: what if I’m not a real feminist?
What if the Grand High Feminist Council turn around and sneer at my bald legs and made up face? What if I fail the entry exam because I haven’t read How to Be a Woman and instead spend my time watching Don’t Tell the Bride reruns?
Thank God feminism has solved all the big issues like sexual harassment, victim blaming and the glass ceiling. Now we’re free to alienate one and other by proclaiming ourselves to be feminist-ier than thou.
The truth is, well, I think the truth is, that there’s no such thing as a “real” feminist. I may not have a vast working knowledge of classical feminist theory, I may depend on my boyfriend for things like jar opening and high-shelf-reaching, I may even reward him for said tasks by putting on a sexy assed dress, but I can assure you, I’m definitely real. I have a vagina and everything.
And as of this moment, I am coming out of the closet. Ladies and Gentleman of the jury, I am a feminist. I hope that you’ll all continue to love me just the way that I am.
Maybe, instead of feminism changing the way people think about me, I can help change the way that people think about feminism.