My Struggles with Modern Feminism
I am a Feminist. I am. I’m a massive Feminist. Phew, feels good to get that off my chest.
Not a surprise, is it?
Yet you will be surprised that I have found myself reluctant to say it, and when I've managed to get the words out they've never sounded as strong and certain as I've wanted. For some reason, there lives in me a shyness about my Feminist beliefs. And it gets worse because ‘Feminist Me’ then makes ‘Shy Me’ feel guilty about it, and then I feel shameful, and the cycle goes on and on.
I suppose my reluctance to stand completely proud comes from a lifetime of preconceptions about Feminism being a dirty word, being something that meant you were angry and militant about. It made you hate people that weren't like you. It meant you had to carry out extreme acts in order to prove your Feminism. It was all about pushing back with a cricket bat in one hand and a photograph of a vagina in the other.
But Feminism isn't like that (most of the time), and it’s not like that if you don’t want it to be - because that’s what Modern Feminism has evolved into. At least that’s what I want and hope.
I like to believe that Feminism is an ever-changing beast; it will snarl and bite when it has to, but will let you cuddle up close and read a book whenever you want. But most of all, Femi-Beast accepts everyone and no longer feels the need to so viciously fight the ‘other’ in order to exist.
In Feminism’s early days the distinction between ‘them’ (men) and ‘us’ (women) was necessary to define what it wanted, and what it was there to achieve. Over the decades, and various waves and forms, the reasons to so solidly define the groups of people Feminism did, and did not apply to, have lessened. Today Feminism is less about tackling people, and more about people’s attitudes. Feminism isn't a fledgling fighting back against an immovable wall of ‘no’, it’s co-existing with many other beliefs and values all mixed together. The belief that a person is inherently anything (strong, weak, clever, racist, superior, worthless, male, or female) is disappearing and paving the way for world where you are what you are. It’s admittedly a long way off, but the basics are there and are being talked about more and more. Whether you believe this, or not, is fine by me.
For me, this ‘you are what you are’ idea is what makes Modern Feminism worth the time and effort, because it takes away the pressure to reject anything. It takes away the need to reject men and the masculine from the Femi-Beast because it recognises that there is nothing inherently wrong with these things, it is things that commonly surround them that get its hackles up. It takes away the need to reject Trans People because whatever sex or gender, you are, or identify with, does not destabilise the idea of Feminism because it no longer rests on the concepts of binaries, ‘othering’, and having female genitals. It takes away the need to reject anyone on any basis because no one is automatically anti-women, they decide to be.
That’s not to say that there aren't people so submerged in their woman-suppressing ways/cultures/beliefs that they become the very epitome of what Feminism is striving against. These people are the reason Feminism is not scampering along quietly in the background poking at people, reminding them, and pushing forward with more, but less groundbreaking, change. However, I’m not talking about Feminism as a Human Right Warrior; I’m talking about it in the casual, everyday. It’s easy to shout about the awful – the rapes, the murders, the suppression and submission – but it’s harder to remain constant with the mundane, ingrained, and plain stupid. The latter requires a slow-burning form of Feminism that I’m still try to grasp at because I've got something stuck in my head that says ‘don’t do it by halves, people died for this’.
Modern Feminism has managed to use social media to find this constant discussion it requires. The latest Twitter explosion #YesAllWomen is powerful, and I have hope that these narratives will continue to expand the acceptance and evolution of Feminism. If there’s one thing we can do easily now-a-days, it’s share stories. We need to talk about harassment. We need to talk about abortion. We need to talk about body image, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, domestic abuse, and bullying. But we also need to talk about cakes, piercings, babies, pubic hair, makeup, tights, tattoos, and hair dye. We need to reveal what it has become to be female. And we also need to talk about what it is to be male, because men have become subject to their own set of damaging expectations. But living in a world that is based upon the patriarchal, the narrative for men can now only be accessed through Feminism.
So, if that’s how I see Feminism, what’s going on in my head? Why do those words do a minor wobble when I say them? Maybe I don’t want to keep trying to define everything, or maybe I’m still scared of verbal attacks as to why I am a Feminist. Perhaps I’m tentative because most people have mixed up Feminism with misandry, or that I feel eventually Feminism won’t mean anything anymore – it’ll be a bunch of people, as Caitlin Moran says, just not being dicks to each other.