One white wedding & two babies later. Am I still a feminist?

Art+Feminism, Boston MA

I remember arguing with a sixth-form classmate whose sole ambition was to get married and have children. “How can you want just that?” I screamed? “There’s more to life than that! What’s the point of you being here if that’s all you want?”

I’ve always considered myself a feminist.

Cue one night at a dodgy cabaret show in Blackpool. Me, husband (then boyfriend), Mum and Dad. Dad had booked the ‘magic’ show. The magician was half-cut and an endless troupe of semi-naked, borderline-underage girls ‘helped’ him with his act.

I turned to Dad:

“Why did you book this, Dad? You know I’m a feminist!”

“You can’t be. You’ve got a boyfriend.”

“No Dad, you’re thinking of ‘lesbian’”.

“Oh.”

… Fast forward five or so years, I was writing my PhD thesis on Renaissance Florentine women. Or ‘handbag studies’ as my friend liked to call it. Often. I only punched him the once.

Perhaps that shows I’m not a real feminist after all.

Amidst the academic voices of doom and gloom about how awful life was for women in the 1500s, I found a thread of optimism. A glimpse at some of the happinesses of that female life back then. Glimmers of a rich female culture that revolved around marriage, children, faith, and friendship.

Of course these women didn’t have equal rights. Christ, we still don’t have them. But I wanted to talk about what they DID have.

Does that make me post-feminist?

I had just handed in my thesis to my wonderful, inspirational (feminist) advisor. I invited her to my wedding. She wouldn’t come because she did not agree with marriage. Ultra-feminist to the core.

Meanwhile I allowed myself to be excited about my white dress, my thoughts consumed with table runners and peonies.

Not very feminist.

And as my body clock ticked on, I started to feel the pull of hormones. A gut-wrenching desperation to have babies. Tempered by an intellectual desire to achieve. To create. To be somebody.

I remember vividly walking around an antiques fair with my husband. He got a call from friends telling him they were expecting another baby. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I couldn’t feel happy for them. I felt vilely envious.

I now have two beautiful children. I have the creation I craved. The achievement. The wanting-to-be-somebody part of me is satisfied (most of the time).

I have grown two human beings. That’s more miraculous and important to me than any book I never wrote.

Feminist? Not really.

And now I face the latest challenge to my feminist ideals. I have been diagnosed with PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), a horrible hormonal imbalance that means I live a double life every month. Energetic, enthusiastic, creative for two weeks of each month and then angry, depressed, anxious, paranoid and exhausted for the other two.

I cycle through moods as if in tune with the moon above. I am PMT on steroids.

I (and 5% of the menstruating population), am proof that men and women aren’t the same. But then you knew that already, right?

I admit that my hormones affect my concentration, my thought processing, my memory, my energy levels, my mood — God yes they affect my mood — my temper, my body, my appetite, my personality.

Feminist blasphemy.

So why did I reach out to the Women’s Equality party recently, asking them to share a petition to get PMDD taught in UK sex education?

Because no one is talking about this condition. Or at least, no doctors, no teachers and no MPs.

Because girls need to understand what’s happening to them and get proper treatment rather than being palmed off with anti-depressants and the Pill.

The Pill, by the way, is like the devils work for many of us PMDD-sufferers.

Double feminist blasphemy!

I guess I wanted to hit up as many sympathetic sisters as I could at once.

I was p*ssed off that the petition had only mustered 250 signatures in 7 MONTHS!!

There’s a petition on there demanding that cats be treated the same as dogs in road accidents. It has nearly 150,000 signatures!

We’re talking about your sisters, daughters, mothers here. Come on people! Please sign.

I sent them the link in Messenger and posted it on their FB wall. Nothing. It only later dawned on me that they COULDN’T help me because doing so would mean admitting that some women (5% of us at least) aren’t equal to men all of the time.

We’re not always rational. We’re not always calm. We’re not always level-headed. But are they?

They would also have to face up to the disturbing fact that the Pill has actually done a lot of harm to some of us. That its artificial hormones wreak havoc on our mental health.

So I’m left screaming in the dark. Because if the sisters won’t help, if this problem is too icky and anti-feminist, and hormonal, and inconvenient, and difficult to talk about with other women, then how are we ever going to sort it out?

So, here you go. I’ll make it a feminist issue…

“Women are diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder at three times the rate of men. There is much evidence to suggest that women with PMDD are most commonly misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder.”
 Gia Allemand Foundation.

That’s gender discrimination right there, folks. By NOT talking about this women are being misdiagnosed and mis-prescribed anti-psychotics.

Here’s another one:

“Women (11%) are more likely than men (6%) to be taking antidepressants.”
 The Health Survey for England 2013.

Hmm. let’s look at those figures. What’s 11%-6%?

Oh yeah, looks remarkably like the 5% of us that have hormonal imbalance and are palmed off with Prozac. Freaky coincidence.

So there it is. Rant over.

Yes, I’m angry. And HELL YES I’m hormonal.

Stick that in your feminist pipe and smoke it Women’s Equality Party.

Looks like I’m still a feminist after all.

If you liked this please check out my blog:

Under the green fig tree

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