Feminism has become fashionable.
There’s a delicious irony there, surely.
After years and years of ‘feminism’ effectively being a synonym for ‘angry spinster’, the marketing gods of the world have worked their markety magic and feminism is now perfectly on brand.
Every high street store out there has created a millennial pink slogan tee demanding equality of the sexes, although admittedly they haven’t always got it right – I’ll remind you of Misguided’s misguided attempt (aha I’m funny) last year when they forgot to make their ‘feminism’ t-shirts for any woman bigger than a size 12. (Basically, be a feminist, just not a fat one).
For the most part though, I’m not knocking it. For the most part, I love it.
The fact that feminism has become fashionable is nothing short of brilliant; little girls are seeing everywhere that they are wonder women, that they have power, that they are amazing. Who knows, maybe one of them will believe it.
We are interested in powerful women in a way that we, collectively, have never been before. We’re here for the speeches, we are actively hunting down role models, we want to know more and be better. We are fighting and we are being helped to do it; society is finally helping us.
Feminism is in vogue. Finally total equality feels possible.
The only bugger, of course, is that I write this as a millennial; a blogger no less with an obsession with slogan t-shirts. I write this as the main demographic, the only demographic. I write this as a woman who makes a living out of encouraging women to believe in themselves and to fight the good feminist fight.
I’m allowed to be a feminist. That’s what it feels like. People expect it of me.
I was inspired to write this article after my sister suggested I do something of this nature. She’d had an argument with our brother about something, her desire to watch Ru Paul’s Drag Race every night and his not to I think. Anyway, she was frustrated because she felt that she wasn’t able to relay her feminism properly and to explain WHY she found the show so important and empowering.
It’s all well and good feeling sassy and powerful online, but how are you supposed to bring that into your every day life?
She made a REALLY good point. How are you supposed to do that???
Online, surrounded by other women and other feminists and other people who have bought the same shirts and who watch the same things and share the same articles and love Ru Paul as much as they do, it IS easy.
Sure, you come across a toss pot or a Trump supporter (often they are one and the same) from time to time, but for the most part you move in your own circles and you choose your own circles and normally everyone in your circle is singing from the same hymn sheet so it’s all good.
In real life though, it’s a really different story.
In the same way that you can upload a photo of yourself to Instagram these days with the caption ‘I’m feeling hot tonight’ even though you probably (definitely) wouldn’t say it out loud irl, least of all to a collection of basic strangers, feminism is something that a lot of us have a very different relationship with offline.
It’s one thing to wear your t-shirt with confidence on Instagram, but another to call out a man in a room full of people on a night out for a sexist comment. It’s one thing to share Oprah’s speech onto your Twitter feed with all 240 fire emojis, it’s quite another to confront your boss on his old school way of thinking. It’s one thing to share your story of sexual harassment to a group of empathetic and helpful individuals via a screen, it’s quite another to recount your story to a group of people who you suspect won’t believe it to be ‘a bigger deal as you are making it out to be‘.
So how do you make the transition? How do you take the ballsy-can-do-attitude of the fiery feminist you are on Facebook and make it your every day life??? How do you relay what you are passionate about to people who don’t really want to hear it??? How do you take the inspiration that you are given so often online and make it something good and practical and useful in the real world???
Well I have some ideas…
DEALING WITH MANSPLAINING
By now we have all seen the best cartoon ever made, the one that featured in the New Yorker of a man and a woman out for dinner, the caption underneath reading: “let me interrupt your expertise with my confidence.” By now every woman reading this will have been mansplained to at least once in her life. (It will have happened considerably more than once).
If you’re anything like me you will do one of two things when somebody’s confidence interrupts your expertise, or your opinion at any rate.
- you will back down, shut up, roll your eyes but accept that this is a lost cause.
- you will be angry or hurt and you will react in a way that the person pissing you off wanted you to do, by raising your voice/shouting/or worse still getting emotional.
Both make you feel like shit, the first makes you subordinate (not a trait of all the ‘best feminists’) and the second sees you branded with words like ‘shrill’ and hysterical’ which, as we know, are the enemy of any feminist debate.
It’s a fine line to tread, between not backing down and not going totally batshit, but it’s just about possible. When I manage it (sometimes I don’t), this is how I do it:
- Find out how they became such an expert
You can do this in a nice way, you don’t need to sound utterly patronising as you do it, but it is an effective way of shutting down a tosser particularly when, like you suspect, they have no expertise at all.
- Talk it out
Keep questioning, keep the conversation going, don’t roll over and let a person get away with talking to you like you are a child, all the while not falling out or making a mess or a scene (if you don’t fancy one, if you do, rock on).
- Offer to explain mansplaining to them
Always a viable option and not necessarily a bad way to stop them doing it ever again (womansplaining is much more fun anyway).
- Use what you know
Chances are you know what you’re talking about (if you don’t, my next point is a useful one) and statistics, facts, true stories cannot be argued with. Keep a couple in your back pocket.
Remember, when talking to a mansplainer, that what you have to say IS IMPORTANT.
Don’t let some idiot silence you.
And don’t you ever for a moment be hurt by someone else’s ignorance.
READ EVERYTHING, ABSORB IT ALL.
“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”
The best thing about moving in girl-power orientated circles online is the amount of resources and information available to us at the click of a button. ABSORB IT ALL.
My favourite feature on Instagram is the ‘save this post’ option, I do this with my favourite quotes. I regularly screen grab portions of articles or make a note of things that have taught me valuable facts. I read all the books I can, I save everything (big up my new iPhone and it’s much better storage capabilities – it’s helping feminists everywhere I am sure).
There is so much out there and that information is free to us, we can take it and harness it and use it and be confident in what we know and what we believe and that is a GOOD thing. You will feel 100% more confident having a discussion with anyone about equality or feminism or even just your position politically if you feel like you have something in your back pocket.
Sure it sort of sucks having to act as if life is some big exam and we are constantly revising, but then, if you think about it, the more people that pass this exam the faster we will find ourselves living in a fair and equal world, so, y’know, probs worth it.
HAVE THE DIFFICULT CONVERSATION
You don’t want to be that girl.
You don’t want to have to deal with mansplainers.
You don’t want to become the girl that ‘no one can have fun around because of their aggressively feminist beliefs’. I wish that wasn’t a sentence that ever needed to come out of my mouth, sadly though, it is. I know this because around a few people I know, I’ve been that girl.
And I know the men that say it to me are wankers and that the problem is with them and not me, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.
It also doesn’t mean that you should be afraid to have the conversation.
At the end of the day, you don’t want to sit by and let people chat shit and know that you have done nothing. You don’t want to be a fire breathing feminism obsessed lover of equality online and then a person who let’s it all go at the pub because CBA. You don’t want to be the person who has ‘girl power’ written on her t-shirt but has been made to feel as powerful as a mouse by a man who thinks it is okay and right to treat you in a way that they wouldn’t treat a man.
Don’t be that person, I have BEEN that person, and if I have learnt anything it is that it’s always worth having the conversation.
BATTLE YOUR INTERNAL CONFLICTS
None of this can be done however, until you have made peace with yourself.
When I first started my ‘feminism journey’ (because it is a journey, sadly we are not all born with a desire to see women as equals) I was really conflicted. I wrote a lot about this in my book; my problem with the word ‘feminism’ and the connotations that come with it (namely that we are all bra banishing angry lesbians who HATE ALL MEN), and I think taking that label and running with it does rely on you getting to know yourself a bit.
Can I still be a feminist if I shave my armpits? Can I still be feminist if I NEED my boyfriend? Can I still be a feminist if I wear makeup?
Obviously the answer to all of these things is OF COURSE YOU FUCKING CAN, but that is something that you need to work out for yourself, not least of all because the mansplainers of the world will be all too quick to bring up these pathetic attempts at ‘tripping you up’ should you ever find yourself in a fight with one of them.
You can be a feminist and do whatever the fuck you want to and with your body, remember that and remember to make peace with it.
Feminism is becoming much more accessible and that is GREAT. The more people that wear it on a t-shirt and put it in their twitter bio and buy it on a print and put it on their wall the better, this is a wonderful wonderful thing that is happening, I’m so excited by it.
But I think there is a difference between the feminism on your t-shirt and the feminism in your office. It can be difficult to articulate your point, to maintain a constant stream of passion, to be the only bloody fish swimming against a tide of boring, boorish men who just don’t seem to get it.
It’s worth it though, that swim up stream, it’s always worth it.
Oh, and if none of the above work, I have one final suggestion:
Get one of these prints and pop it up somewhere where you will see it E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y.
The back wall in my work space is a shrine to feminism. A SHRINE. And I adore it.
These are from Desenio, the place where I buy all of my art and I am very excited because I created this post in collaboration with them. (I was kindly gifted £100 to spend on prints and posters).
Because they are total babes they have created a special discount code for you guys to use:
Just pop in ‘prettynormalme’ at the checkout for 25% off posters* between 24th-26th April.
*except for handpicked/collaboration posters and frame”.
You don’t *need* to go full girl power if you don’t fancy it by the way, they have a huge range of products and I am currently covering my house in every print they have ever made. Follow @Desenio for a bit more inspiration.
If you want to read more about my feminism journey I wrote a blog post a couple of months ago questioning my feminism and explaining why I want to be a better feminist – check it out here.