A Feminism Comedown
Until 2017 I saw feminism as something that was scary and unattainable. I saw it as something that would be completely isolating to my sociable, functional life. I wouldn’t have said that I didn’t believe in the advocacy of women’s rights and gender equality. Despite this, I would have never identified as a feminist, even though that is the exact dictionary definition of one.
Whilst in the midst of a bad episode of mental health earlier this year, a friend took me to pick out some books that I could get stuck into throughout my time off work. By chance I picked up ‘Everyday Sexism’ by Laura Bates and was attracted by its colourful cover. As I took the book to the till, the woman serving me told me how great it was. At the time, I brushed it off and started to think of my choice as being way out of my depth. As I look back I completely understand. The book managed to somehow ease me into feminism gently whilst simultaneously immersing me in all manner of arguments I had never even considered before, and would never be able to forget.
I felt absolutely empowered and at the same time, completely fucked over. Like I was realising for the first time just how much of a bad deal I’d got.
My new insights led me to seek to carefully filter what I was exposing myself to. I no longer checked toxic showbiz news apps, and unfollowed those on social media that perpetuated a ‘perfect’ ideal that was making me feel subconsciously terrible about myself. I started talking to my friends about the subject, armed with knowledge from podcasts by honest women that opened my eyes to so many things that had been influencing me without me realising. Podcasts connected me to a completely new medium to learn from a different sort of female role model that I hadn’t experienced much before. The Debrief Podcast that claimed to ‘help me navigate your 20s, one life crisis at a time’. Don’t Salt My Game by an amazingly funny and intelligent REGISTERED nutritionist whose mission is to improve wellbeing whilst dispelling all of the absolute bullshit trends that are causing far more damage than good to young girls. There was then the most popular Guilty Feminist, where I heard of VERVE for the first time.
With the high of discovering came the inevitable comedown of realizing just how prevalent and damaging sexism is for females, including myself and loved ones. Suddenly it was all I could see, a constant reminder that I and my fellow females were unfairly disadvantaged. Of course there is the issue of privilege and despite being a female with a disability, I still experience privilege through my race and upbringing that means I will not be able to relate with many other people that identify as female. This is a whole other kettle of fish that I am still trying to get to grips with. I started to feel that being armed with this knowledge came with a responsibility to never allow a sexist comment or action slide in my surroundings. If I let something go, if I ignored a throw away comment from my male colleagues, if I perpetuated sexism in any way shape or form I was an awful, terrible hypocrite. This paired with a heightened sense of awareness soon led to being completely overwhelmed by the prospect of a devastatingly skewed society, and when, if ever, this would change.
There’s a fine line between being realistic and pessimistic. It is vital for both men and women to recognise the patriarchy and how this has affected qualities of life for it to ever improve. However getting hung up on the past and present difficulties, rather than the prospect of a more equal future is counterproductive and inspiring to no one. I notice feminist issues constantly in the headlines now. This is sometimes encouraging, such as new advertising rules to prevent sexist messages, but more often than not they are negative and incredibly alarming. Trump’s global gag rule will be costing hundreds of thousands of the most impoverished women in the world their right to choice of abortions which in turn will lead to a massive increase in child birth deaths and life threatening injuries from DIY abortions. One of the most powerful political males in the world is literally passing a law that will cost so many women their lives. In the same week, the unveiling of BBC salaries has thrust the gender pay gap into the spotlight in a way that cannot possibly be argued against, right on our doorstep.
Having all this surround you as a new feminist is enough to make you feel helpless. My approach and mindset to the issue has had to change and I am thankful for this. I do the little bits I can. The little bits that are in my sphere of control and will influence others. When speaking to a young female intern at work, I tell her that yes, being one of the only females is difficult. You will have to work harder than a male to be seen as sub par to them. But things are improving, slowly but surely and each woman that is striving at her work is proving people wrong, each misogynist at a time.
When an acquaintance makes a sexist remark, I pull them up on it rather than ignore it because I now care more about educating these people than having someone think I’m a handful.
These are not things I find easy but I’ve never regretted acting on my feelings about the issue — I’ve only ever regretted actions that I haven’t done. This is my own way of muddling through this minefield. Yours will be different, and that is ok.
Article by Gina Chapman