I WANT TO BE A BETTER FEMINIST.

Are you a good feminist? Is your feminism something that you are proud of? Do you feel like you are doing enough? Do you even identify as a feminist at all?

I only ask because I’m not sure I’ve been a very good feminist recently, and I want to talk about that.

Despite having been described as a ‘feminist writer’ before now (a bit of a humble brag there), I’m the first to admit that I am often lacking in confidence when it comes to fighting the feminist fight.

It was International Women’s Day this week (since you don’t live in a hole, you will already know this so thanks Em, for pointing out the bloody obvious), and I am ashamed to say that when the chance to shout my little feminist head off came a-knockin’, I was absolutely not ready for it.

I managed a measly Tweet and a last minute Instagram post celebrating the breathtakingly inspirational babes I’m surrounded by and felt shame creep in as I realised that I should have been taking that day as an opportunity to do so much more than just jump on a hashtag.

Laziness? Nervousness? Fuck knows, but I’m not proud.

Did you know that only 34% of people identify as feminists? Since the definition of feminism is simply: ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’, that statistic is enough to make your shoulders sink to your ankles, ammi right?

At least, I tell myself, I’m doing better than the 66% who for !some reason! don’t want this.

This is an issue that I have talked a lot about in the past (guys there really is quite a lot to say); it was something I focussed on heavily in my book Can I Speak To Someone In Charge? (yes, I’m plugging, get over it).

For one reason or another, there are so many people out there who are not identifying as a feminist. I suspect it has a lot to do with the connotations; we are considered to be a certain type (read: have armpit hair so long you can plait it), to hate all men, to be bolshy and rude and sometimes aggressive, to be staunchly argumentative, to be tiresome and tedious, to be loony liberals, to not be able to take a joke etc. etc. etc.

I know, we’re a barrel of laughs, where do I sign up???

Although most people would happily agree that they believe in equality of the sexes, they seem to have a problem with the word ‘feminist’ (I really do write a lot about this in my book).

And whether we like it or not, that does put a bit of pressure on those of us who are willing to brand ourselves with the f-tag.

Going out with a group of lads when you’re known to them ‘the feminist one’, makes you feel a bit like you’re a teacher sitting in the pub with a group of your sixth form students. Or that’s my experience at any rate.

I’m the feminist friend, love it or hate it, that’s what I am.

I’m the best feminist, because I’m the only feminist. And whilst it’s absolutely not a competition, it only takes a couple of minutes of mingling with other feminists for me to realise just how not-the-best I am when it comes to feminism. And when you realise that you’re not the best, it’s only a small leap for someone with an anxious mind, to realising that you’re the worst.

For years I was the lion in the zoo. The best lion, the only lion. Now it’s like I’ve been returned to Africa only to find that there are so many other lions out there, and it’s brilliant, I love the company, we’re so much stronger together, but I see for the first time that there is a lot of room for improvement.

2017 was a massive year for feminism and 2018 is set to be another belter. Women are speaking up against sexual harassment and assault in a way that we have never done before. There is a light being shone on corporations (*cough* the BBC *cough*) who are not paying their employees equally.

We are louder and braver and stronger than ever and the movement is growing with great speed.

And in lots of ways that has made feminism much easier. It is, after all, much easier to be one voice in a sea of voices than a lone one. It is easier to join the ranks of thousands the go into battle alone. Safety in numbers, always.

In some ways though, for me at least, it has made it much harder.

Because it has never been easier to get feminism wrong.

As a white woman I am riddled with privilege. A privilege I am lucky to have, oh so fucking lucky, but one that often makes me feel like I am not only not a welcome addition to the feminist army but that I might even be a bit of a hinderance;

‘Oh great, just what we need, another middle class white girl speaking out against inequality when she is so comfortably part of a society that has propagated it for so long’.

It feels ugly as hell to write that down, but it’s a feeling I am faced with a lot of the time. Made worse by the fact that I think it wouldn’t be an unfair comment to make, at times I AM wasting that seat. I’m using the hashtag, but my heart isn’t always in it. I’m taking this privilege, greedily, and I feel as if I’m failing to make a return on it.

I don’t know enough. I haven’t read enough. I haven’t listened enough. I haven’t fought hard enough. I haven’t done enough.

If we go back to the teacher in the pub analogy, it might be easier to explain…

That teacher, surrounded by a group of school kids, is arguably the most intelligent, the one with the most authority and more likely to know certain things than any of the people she is with. In that context, she is really useful. But if that teacher were to then go out for lunch the next day with a whole group of other teachers, she would no longer be the most intelligent, she would no longer have the most authority and she would be no more likely to know anything than anyone else around the table. Sure, she’s nice to have around, but she’s not bringing much is she???

When I was sitting at the family table, or indeed at the pub with my own sixth form friends, as the one with the most interest, I felt a lot of the time like the ‘best feminist’, I knew more than the others, I was therefore in the best position to articulate my points and change somebody’s mind on something.

As I have grown, as we have all grown, and I have found myself working in an industry with women like me and, dare I say it, many, much wiser than me, I all of a sudden find myself riddled with insecurity and not feeling remotely good enough, I’m not only not the best feminist, but I’m not much of a feminist at all… am I?

And although that sounds like I have not only lost the plot but totally missed the point, my relationship with feminism does rely heavily on my confidence. In order to be a valuable member of any team, surely you need to bring something that others can’t bring. By knowing as much or as little as anyone else, what use am I to the feminist fight???

I spent a long time believing that when it came to feminism it was impossible to get it wrong; I thought that anyone joining the ranks was surely a good thing, and maybe it is.

But is it good enough???

I’ve spent a lot of time this week, since my pathetic attempts at pushing the feminist agenda on Thursday, looking at myself and the responsibility I have bestowed upon myself by openly supporting feminism.

I have long since identified as a feminist, I have followed and supported the Me Too and Times Up movements with such passion and enthusiasm, I have had huge, catastrophic arguments with family members and friends even when I feel that sometimes my trying and arguing is futile.

And I’ve been doing a good thing. By doing anything at all, I’ve been doing a good thing.

I’ve been a drip, a tireless and constant drip in the ears of people whose opinions might just be beginning to change. I’ve been a drip, among so many other drips, that is finally creating the most beautiful wave. The wave that has brought change, and will continue to bring more.

By doing anything at all, I am responsible, in part, for the change.

But I’ve decided that I want to do more.

I’m one of the 34% and, as one of the minority, I have deemed it my responsibility to work twice as hard to use my voice.

And so that is my plan, my pledge and my promise.

I am riddled with privilege and I feel like I’m wasting it.

There is so much to learn, so much I need to know, so much that I am not doing. I am going to change that.

Follow:

4 Comments

  1. Natasza
    March 11, 2018 / 7:33 pm

    While I appreciate your pledge and I think it’s beautiful, I can’t help but to think that there are people who made you feel this way (“other teachers”). And this is something that annoys me the most amongst feminists – competition. Someone is better, someone is more hardcore and someone else is advocating in a completely different way, so she “cannot sit with us”. I remember participating in one academic conference in London with a presentation on glam rock and alternative masculinity and I was shred to pieces by “better feminists” for using the term “alternative masculinity” in relation to white men breaking gender codes, like they did not deserve it and I’m a racist idiot because apparently there were SO many glam rock bands in the 70s Britain comprised of people of different ethinicity (?!?). So, never, EVER feel you’re not “feminist enough”. What you’re doing is important and great and don’t let other people tell you otherwise.

  2. Kerri
    March 14, 2018 / 3:30 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I share all of your concerns and it’s refreshing to hear someone bringing them up. Keep talking, that’s the best thing that you can do.

  3. Niccia
    March 14, 2018 / 8:00 pm

    Are we ever great feminists – do we ever have the insights we need? I think as people start to speak out and we start to realize more, we learn how much we don’t know. Change starts with us, and when we’re in that space of crisis, that space where we learn what we don’t know – then this is the point where we transform ourselves. We might be privileged. I am. Even our knowledge of feminism makes us privileged in many ways. But when we start to change and we embrace the crisis, start to listen and embrace new ideas – that is when we grow. As feminists and as people.

    One of the most amazing facilitators I have ever spoken to shared that he gained wisdom when he stopped trying to control everything. He said he started to listen, to allow other people their stories, and to stop needing the answers. We don’t know anything. But I think that true insight starts when we realize how much we don’t know.

    I think you’re doing great.

  4. April 12, 2018 / 10:52 am

    I just bought your book and reading this as well, I have to say that you are a great observer and also a person who can boldly write the obvious. First of all, I think this is exactly what we need, talking/re-talking about things boldly. What is feminism? How can we make it more visible at the public space, dare I say beyond me too movements, which I firmly support. I think all women are struggling with feminist advocacy because the moment you say something which might sound “radical“ to people, even to those people who know nothing about feminism, gender equality or simply the status quo, you are tagged as an aggresive feminist, bitch etc. This happens even when we say logical and simple things like women and men should earn the same money for doing the same job. Such a pressure is not something easy to cope with at first, it needs time to get used to, at the end of the day we are all human beings. Having said this, I think that the education systems should find a way to educate people about the necesity of gender equality and feminism for the creation of equal societies, which I hope we all strive for. It will not be easy because feminism actually means changing this system and reforming it for making it more inclusive. I have the impression that sometimes instead of feminism, people are more afraid of change, it makes them anxious. It is weird to observe that those people and particularly politicians who firmly defend equal market participation, equal marriage and even drugs tolerance are struggling to openly define themsevles as feminists because this might be too “radical“ or “extreme“. My argument to this is always the same, 200 years ago, slavery was also something which was normal but we evolved and came to the conclusion that it is morally wrong. We are still evolving and gender equal societies and feminism are simply part of this evolution and societal progress.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: