I’m definitely guilty of being one of those people who like to post an inspirational meme or two. To me, words are powerful and I honestly find myself feeling buoyed, inspired or moved by some (usually mis-quoted) words of wisdom placed over a lovely background and shared on Instagram (yes, feel free to judge me, I do! 😉 )
One quote that I keep coming back to, especially since I’ve decided to really own my views and opinions – and be public about them, is the one that reads ‘Not everyone will understand your journey and that’s OK, it’s not for them’. For me personally this isn’t just a reminder to be steadfast about my direction of travel – I find recalling it helps me to avoid losing my shit in a spectacular fashion every time someone says that they “just don’t get it” the moment feminism is mentioned.
Argh – just writing it makes me angry – and it’s not just about feminism. I’ve often noted how otherwise perfectly reasonable, nice, educated people spout the “I don’t get it” response when faced with any acceptance/equality related topic they just don’t want to understand because it doesn’t concern them – LGBTQ+ issues, Black rights, religious tolerance, etc, etc, you get what I mean…
I wasn’t raised in a liberal, accepting environment which promoted challenging the accepted in the name of progress. Quite the opposite. My Father (who I am no longer in contact with), ruled the roost. The Daily Mail was the paper of choice, immigrants were the enemy, we were English not British, gay couples should not be able to adopt and women’s rights weren’t discussed, despite the fact in our house we outnumbered him 3:1. To get to where I am today I had to make a concerted effort to listen and learn from people who thought differently and I made a commitment to building my own opinions based on the world I experienced. My feminism took an almighty leap when my daughter was born; she’s amazing and I’ll be damned if she is held back or thought less of because she came into this world sans-penis! What I’m trying to say is that I get that progress of thinking takes time and it’ll happen at different times for all, I didn’t always feel this strongly so can’t expect others to be in the same place as me. What gets me is people’s refusal to think.
For feminism, International Women’s Day is guaranteed to bring out the best of the ‘don’t get its’. One particular post and subsequent stream of comments which I stupidly read though on Facebook could have been written as a parody (it was posted by an otherwise kick-arse woman who has two daughters, which always makes it sting that much more): ‘When’s International Men’s Day? This is sexist!’. Cue the responses of ‘yeah, this is bullshit’, ‘It’s ridiculous’, ‘it means nothing’ and my personal favourite ‘I support women, but this type of thing actually does their cause more harm then good’. Let’s just let that sink in for a moment – celebrating and recognising women and their achievements, to highlight the fact we’re equal to men, will damage our push for equality! Put differently – talking about our worth makes us less deserving of it. What. The. Actual. Fuck!?! This sums up the exact reason why IWD is needed – sod it – it’s so bloody necessary let’s do it twice a year!
The more I thought about it, the more it hit me that this is millennia of conditioning speaking and the words of people who just haven’t tried to understand because for whatever reason, they haven’t been compelled to. It hit me smack in the face – IWD isn’t just about women playing a role which has been constructed for them by a man, and that’s why it jars with so many. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone up in arms about Mother’s Day, I mean could you imagine if that particular day, which also celebrates amazing women, got the same reaction? No – it’s never going to happen because celebrating the fact a woman spawned, is perfectly acceptable. Try to celebrate those who have cured diseases, invented new technologies or changed the course of human history in some other incredible way, and I’m sorry that’s taking it a bit far – back in your floral boxes ladies – if it doesn’t involve your vagina in some way, then it’s just not palatable.
Now I’m not saying Mother’s Day doesn’t have a purpose – Mummy is the hardest, most demanding and testing role I play – I know I’m blessed everyday and I love my daughter more than life itself, but motherhood’s hard and requires a huge amount of sacrifice. Mums should be celebrated. But why do so many people find it so hard to celebrate women for all the other amazing things they are, and do? I’ve racked over this question in my head so much and the only reason I can come up with is because through the ages a women’s purpose has been clearly defined – by men – and that purpose has been firmly wedded to the home. Anything that moves a woman’s focus away from this makes men, and sadly lots of women, very uncomfortable, because we’ve crossed the line into ‘man-territory’.
Even in 2018, the idea of a woman being a mum is what we have been conditioned to believe is every woman’s purpose and goal in life. We can celebrate the achievement of motherhood because it’s natural and no one has an issue or objection to the idea of a woman wanting to be a mum – why would they? I take my hat off to any woman who is happy to run their home and raise their babies full time – those women are selfless, hardcore superwomen and I know I would not have the strength (mental or physical) to do what they do. Funnily enough, I believe these women should be leading the feminist march because despite the fact they do the hardest and most important job of all (seriously, what is more important than keeping little people alive and well!?), they are the least respected; just look how the terms ‘housewife’ and ‘homemaker’ are often said with a bit of a sneer, like these women have given up on life and resigned themselves to being in a subcategory of society. The irony isn’t lost on me that the role we’re told we should play, is also the one that keeps us reliant on someone else (a man!) and without much independence, respect or options….hmm, interesting!
Anyway – I digress – the point I’m trying to make is that we struggle to accept openly the celebration of women’s achievements when not related to ‘traditional women’s roles’ because to do so puts us on an equal footing with men. The very idea of equality scares those who benefit from inequality and for the women who side with those opposed to progress, well I think they’re – for whatever reason – happy to not think about it. I see it a bit like Stockholm syndrome – many women have been conditioned to think things are fine and the potential change in what they know is scarier than what confines them. And for others, their every day life is fine, so why battle on behalf of others for something that doesn’t affect them (*coughs* privilege).
Thinking back to the above-mentioned thread of irritation on Facebook I found myself in familiar territory – blistering angry response written – re-written without the c-word in it – rewritten again taking out most occurrences of the word fuck – and then deleted all together because you know what, that is not my battleground. I desperately wanted to point out that we need a day to celebrate women because of this type reaction but going there, especially angrily, would have resulted in a social media blood bath and if the time I lost my shit with a racist relative on Facebook has taught me one thing, it’s that that path does not lead to glory!
And anyway, I’d like to think I’m in good company – surely everyone who has ever supported changing the status quo has faced the passive ‘don’t get its’ as well as the violently opposed. I read recently that inequality thrives on apathy and I think that’s why the apathetic make me so angry – your ‘can’t-be-arsed to understand the issue’ attitude actually gives power to the oppressor and that puts us on opposing sides. But experience has proved that shouting your view loudly and angrily, does not help your cause, it builds walls and kills any chance you had of getting your points listened to (thanks for that lesson Brexit!).
So this blog is my space to (hopefully) rationally speak my mind and share my opinions and if I can help someone get it, then great. I will promote an inclusive version of feminism that doesn’t just work for people who look, sound and act like me – I won’t even limit my fight for equality to those who share my views (sorry ‘don’t get it’ ladies, I’m gonna get you some equal rights too, like it or not! 😉 ) and most importantly, I’m going to really really try not to get angry with those who are just taking a little longer to catch up, because there’s a lot of programming to un-pick. It’s not going to be easy – I won’t always succeed, but I’m going to try my hardest.
This is my journey and it’s OK if you don’t get it – it’s not for you…