I have recently decided I will not engage in politics or general conversations about beliefs at work after a grown up colleague confessed to having a Justin Bieber poster on her wall. I am a music snob, I won’t deny. And as much as I live and let live, I just find grown ups having pop star poster on their walls somehow baffling. Regardless, you can agree to disagree with people you just happen to share an office space with.
My beef with Bieber is mainly about his attitude towards women – many passages have been written about his songs perpetuating rape culture and I do not need to repeat them. This is not a piece on Bieber though. This is a piece on feminism.
Feminism became a very dirty word, despite many affluent celebrity endorsements in recent years. We’re still associated with bra-burning and man-hating. And I am myself not the greatest fan of some periods of feminist history. Second wave? Bitch, please – as the youth of today would say. This was probably the loudest and, most likely for that reason, the most memorable period in the history of feminism. Why do I have a problem with it? Because it was so fucking exclusive. It literally pitted women against one another. It was feminism taught by white, educated, straight women. Even among homosexual feminists the femme lesbians were excluded for still allegedly adhering to beauty standards set by men.
And then post-modernism came along and post-modern feminists made everything right again. They made it about genuine equality. All of a sudden men’s studies became a part of the feminist curriculum. LGBTQ movement wouldn’t have been a thing without the third wave. Finally we had women who were simply advocating for everyone to be who they want to be and to be given equal chances as human beings. You’re a woman who wants to dress in power suits and take on men in the highest offices? Be my guest. You’re a man who’s tired of the macho stereotype and being called gay just because you are not afraid to have feelings? We’re here for you. However if you happen to actually be gay – we’re here for you too! But it’s fucking important to know the difference between a gay man and a straight man who just doesn’t fall under one blanket archetype of masculinity.
I studied the history of feminism closely associated with cinema as a part of my film theory degree. ‘American Psycho’ as a book, but more so as a movie due to its visual impact, broke so many stereotypes of masculinity at the time, it doesn’t even strike us as odd these days. Because we got used to it. We’re used to seeing men’s cosmetics in stores, a good moisturiser is simply a part of everyday grooming. These days we’re all about male make up inclusivity – that’s how far we’ve come.
But this was meant to be about women. Remember the Bieber-loving colleague? Well, it happens to be a coincidence we had another politically charged conversation at work. You might be aware that there was a certain General Election in the UK recently and whether one likes it or not – the conversations about how people were voting happened. My employment history features many a department store and being the token odd one out when it comes to most cases, I tend to keep my beliefs to myself while at work because I don’t want to let other people’s beliefs affect our professional relationship. I am quite feisty, you know, and if I fundamentally disagree with someone, I find it hard to get past it. There are instances where ignorance truly is bliss. However when conversations happen, I am incapable of stopping myself from eavesdropping.
And here we were, with the said colleague confessing she didn’t vote because she didn’t feel educated about politics enough – politics is all very complex and all the politicians say the same things – you know the drill, you’ve heard it countless times yourself. And because we all heard it countless times, I had to say something. I started softly, simply mentioning that they certainly don’t say the same things, but she would find a counter argument to that (‘they just say what people want to hear and they all break their promises’). So I said that as women we should make a point of voting because a hundred years ago we didn’t even have the option of deciding on our own futures. To which she replied ‘Don’t tell me you’re a feminist’. I said ‘Damn right I am, and a fucking raging one’. To which she said ‘I fucking the feminists.’
I could write a whole passage starting with ‘Let me tell you why I have a huge fucking problem with women who hate feminists’ and go on about all the principles. But we’ve heard it all before. However a penny dropped today when I was watching a movie. Movies are a big thing in my life, as my degree might have given away. I put on ‘Miss Potter’ because I needed some comforting background noise – I watched that movie a good few times before, but never after being told a fellow woman hated feminists.
Beatrix Potter was a woman who not only ended up being the best selling children’s book author of all time, but thanks to that was able to provide for herself, purchase several farms and conserve them through land preservation trust. Her conduct at the time was controversial to say the least. At 32 she was unmarried and had to be accompanied everywhere by a female companion. Can you imagine not being able to leave the house on your own? Not to mention meeting a man! We’re a generation used to going on tinder, finding the next good looking person who happens to conveniently live a couple of streets away and going out whenever we fancy, having a terrible one night stand and forgetting they ever existed. The 32-year old best selling female author was unable to meet her publisher unaccompanied.
We are still fighting battles. We got the sexual liberation just about sorted out (there’s still the issue of women being called sluts and men being called top lads, but we’re getting there), we’re getting to grips with the idea that a woman doesn’t have to have be in a relationship with a man in order to be a valid member of society, we’re not quite there yet when it comes to children – still childlessness is a foreign concept for many to comprehend. But these are tiny obstacles compared to NOT BEING FUCKING ABLE TO LEAVE THE HOUSE ON YOUR OWN. Not to mention have a career, fuck forbid in creative arts!
So dear women who hate feminists: wake up. Wake up to your fucking privilege. You’re still a fucking minority, you’re still unequally paid, but you have the right to education, to a career, a right to vote, a right to marry whoever the fuck you wish – or not marry at all. You have the right to have how ever many babies you had in mind – but there are choices should you not wish to have any. You can be whoever you want to be – and you hate the humans who essentially want to be regarded as equal to those other 50% who happen to have a penis.
It’s not the feminists you should be hating.