“Does my feminism make you uncomfortable? Great, I’ll shout louder”: Augusta explains, why the f word shouldn’t compel people recoil into a shell of isolation, but should be celebrated.
The f word. A dirty word. A divisive non-issue, if you would believe the rhetoric espoused by some. But in a year where the funding of women’s health has become topic of political debate and the number of women assuming political office has been an upward trend, it’s important that we ask ourselves: has the battle for female equality entered into a new phase?
The raucous surrounding the funding of Planned Parenthood, a subsidiary of general Women’s Health in America, was a surprising regression in the fight for equality. From dubious claims roared by Carly Fiorina that the funding was aiding a dark organisation in which aborted foetus parts were sold to amoral medical researchers, to Rick Perry’s controversial call that states should defund abortion clinics: it’s clear that, in America at least, women’s rights to reproductive freedom remains but a lovely thought.
An ideological conflict? Nah, it’s a case of the same old same old..
It’s difficult knowing where to toe the line: as feminist but also a religious conservative, my conflicting opposition to abortion is clear, but I cannot help but feel that wider opposition to women’s health goes much deeper than moralistic objections to abortion. It belies a greater epidemic in America, in which individuals and organisations still feel as though as they have a right to dictate what a woman does with her body. And if we follow the oh-so infamous ‘locker room talk’, it is clear that women do not have such rights, especially if and when a person decides to “grab her by the pussy”.
What was most baffling about coverage of these stories was just how partisan they were. There wasn’t a unilateral condemnation of the abridgment of women’s health over a “technicality” *, it was a condemnation of principles; political idealisms, and a perspective that belies greater failings in the feminist movement.
Now here come the gross anecdotal generalisations…
Women and young girls still feel embarrassed to associate themselves with feminism. As with most organisations, the feminist movement features both moderate and radical agendas, yet for most women we’re all hairy, self-indignant lesbians: angry with the world with a genetic propensity for making mountains out of mow-hills. I remember having a conversation with a female friend who said to me “I care about gender equality, but I wouldn’t call myself a feminist”: as if these two ideals are mutually exclusive?!?!
In fact, in my short time at University, I have received a greater show of solidarity on issues relating to the feminist movement from my male friends, who wear the label with pride than any of my female peers. I could not and still cannot understand this reality: why is that post-pubescent men are more willing to talk about these issues than girls who have faced these hardships from the moment it was discovered they sported a ‘flower’ and not an ‘eggplant’?
A very British problem
When British political leaders donned their ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ T-shirts in 2014, the scandal surrounding the sweatshops from which they were produced was front page news: yet no one dwelt on the irony of these fictitious pledges of support when politics over the last decade has been greatest affront to equality. An affront more insulting than ‘Blair’s Babes’ of 1997. It’s bizarre how the British media willingly cower behind stories of international misconduct in order to avoid discussing the gross violations persisting on their own back door.
A quick answer to that points to diminished market for domestic gender-related news stories. Talk about sex selective abortions in less economically developed countries, and see the media respond with condemnations about the barbaric actions of these primitive nations, but when a Western Parliament votes to force girls to pay taxes for bleeding out of their vaginas each month , we simply get a raucous Twitter response, a cute online petition and not much else. (Yes, I know it’s been reversed and that ‘cute’ petition was incredibly effective, but grr… still mad)
To be fair; Davo’s ‘calm down dear’ remark did receive some traction, but not as much as ‘the masochism’ blunder. Which leads me to ask: is it that much easier to entertain talk of sexual fetishes than to cover and critique loaded sexist dismissals?
We march for foreign and international affairs. Sign onto petitions for re-votes in democratically decided referendums, but cannot be bothered to stand and talk about the violation of women’s fundamental human rights? It’s disgusting!
Dangerous ranty territory
And the biggest villains of all? (Western) Millennial women and girls. More specifically millennial women and girls my age. An infuriating, but sad truth. This demographic seem so greatly offended by even talking about this subject, that is until Kim K and other models post frontal nude pictures on their Instagram accounts– then maybe, you know a woman’s right to bodily autonomy isn’t such an embarrassing issue. Their lackadaisical response to the oh-so real issues of lad culture, rape and the invariable double standards women face in the world today, seemingly leaves them unaffected… until something happens to them. At which time, it is expected that all sects will band together to support and uplift these women in their hour of need.
But why should they? Why should I? When it is their dismissals, their invalidation of the agendas of this movement, that spurs on male hate groups to further undermine and stagnate this movement’s progress. It’s ridiculous! Your ability to have open and casual sex with numerous partners without the (uncontrollable) surge in slut shaming abuses comes from the deliberate efforts of organisations working to change the conversation around sex. The privileged votes and political conversations that you have decided to stay away from, is a direct result of women who have laboriously petitioned and were trampled on (by A HORSE no less) to ensure that women and girls are included in political discussion.
Each time you laugh at a tweet from the misogynistic Meninist account (parody, yeah mate because you’re hilarious), or join in a conversation where a boy comments that a girl’s a bike or that he’d love to ‘do her up the arse’, YOU are perpetuating an ideal that the fights and concerns of this movement are unfounded. That we do not have the right or entitlement to be seen for are brains and not just objects of sexual desire. That we do not have a right to speak out against the maltreatments and dangers some women face when boys take a request that they wear a condom in sex as a suggestion, or when a girl does not take too kindly to being groped or catcalled at as she walks down the street.
So stop for a minute. Forget your baseless concerns about your image or being that cool “girl mate that’s part of the lads” and start thinking about what you can do to make sure that we move the conversation along, so that we can make society realise that whilst the glaring issues of denying women the right to vote, and legalistically recognising that a man can rape his wife (Thank God for revised precedents) have (for the most part) been dealt with: we STILL have to deal with the subtle injustices we face today.
Yes, I am 100% aware that the tone of this article is belying that of the “crazed” angry feminist many are so frightened of: but these things need to be said. I am genuinely concerned about the future of this movement: I have no idea if it will be here when I’m a 40-year-old political lobbyist, sipping her glass of pinot from her the balcony her weekday apartment, but I hope it does. I hope people stop cowering away and stand up and talk about these pressing issues.
There is so much I could comment on, but alas, I fear that I don’t much space left to write, save to say: Hurrah! To the millennial women using their social media platforms to share their accounts of sexual assault. Hurrah! To the twitter movement from a girls’ grammar who stopped wearing bras to school in protest of the tedious ‘bra strap’ policy. Hurrah! To the 500,000 Brits and millions around the world who took part in the Women’s March on London (can you tell that this article has been edited?), you’ve reinstilled me with hope in the future of New Age feminism. Lastly, I say welcome: to the young boys and girls; men and women who have faced trauma, or simply have growing resonance with this movement and want to wave the banner for equality- this article is an ode to you.
At the heart of it all…
The F word: Feminism, isn’t about hating men. It’s not about vigilantism or the anarchistic rejection of the status quo. It’s about waking up each morning, looking in the mirror and saying: “today, I will challenge this normalised ‘pussy grabbing’ culture” or saying: “I will not high-five a man who grabs a girl’s ‘pussy’” and spending the result your day safe in the knowledge that you’re doing your part to bid farewell to this normalised ‘grope culture’.
Because if we continue to cower instead of embracing the word “feminist” in all its glorious forms, it is only a matter of time before all our metaphorical “pussies” will be grabbed: and collective violations is the highest affront to freedom of all.
*Give me credit please, I used “technicality” in jest, it’s ridiculous I know.