I have a confession. I’m going to come out publicly. I am a feminist. There, I’ve said it. I am a feminist. Phew, that feels better! Now you know. I no longer have to hide it. I’ve said the F word.
I’ve joined the ever-growing number of women who have, across the centuries, stood up, spoken up and burnt our bras. I’ve questioned my salary, my need to wear make up, to look sexy, to shave my legs, armpits, and anywhere else. I’ve celebrated Pankhurst, Oprah, Ellen and Beyoncé mentally holding them aloft like champions. I’ve read countless articles about the battle of women across the world, the fight against female genital mutilation, domestic violence and mental abuse. I’ve listened and sung along loudly to songs about being strong and independent, ‘Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves!!!’ We sure are, sister! I’ve balanced parenthood with my career, I’ve embraced my womanhood, climbed to the highest hilltop and shouted I AM A FEMINIST!!
Aren’t you proud of me now? I would bet my bottom dollar, you probably don’t give two hoots. Another bloody feminist. She’s probably gay, no doubt. She’s probably a man hater! Please sit down, for Gods sake! Just be quiet! If I hear that word ‘feminism’ one more time, I will…
Ok. Let’s start again. Let’s say I promise not to use the F word. Is that better? Ok, deal. No more saying the F word. Let’s call it something else. For arguments sake let’s just call it equality.
I recently wrote a blog called ‘Does Feminism Need Rebranding’ I, fairly confidently, sent it to the new publication, the ‘Feminist Times’ (an imaginative name chosen by a its readers) a new publication borne from the original feminist magazine Spare Rib and now ‘put on ice’ by its editor the famous feminist and writer Charlotte Raven. Shortly after my submission I received a brief email explaining that it ‘wasn’t for them’. May I somewhat smugly and cockily say that the magazine is now ‘on ice’ which, to me, pretty much says it all about the state of feminism today.
Technology is moving at an astonishing rate. In my lifetime alone, we now have the PC, laptop, smart phone, smart TVs, 3d printing, augmented reality, the internet, we’ve landed on the moon, cloned sheep, discovered Higgs Boson, the list goes on. We discover new ways to use technology every day. Why then are we still so unsure about gender equality? It’s not rocket science. It’s the simplest thing in the world. Why then is it still out of whack? Why even today are women still paid less than men? Why is the world of technology and science arenas where women are a rarity? Let’s go back. No, back further. A little more. Right, let’s start here. Day One. A newborn. A girl! Congratulations! A pink dress!! Oh thank you! That’s so pretty! And a cute doll oh, and it sits in a pushchair. She can push it around! Thank you! A princess dress! A cute little oven with little saucepans, food and a tea set too! Oh, lovely we can serve tea to the teddy bears! Another baby? A boy this time!! Fantastic! Here’s a cute car with his name on it. A little helicopter! A plane, some Lego to build a house! A football! A lovely blue sweater as well! Too kind!
I recently saw the label on my nieces blue sweater ‘Zara Boy’. My brother pointed it out and we laughed because he had bought her a ‘boys sweater’ I guess it was a boys because it was blue? I guess so, I can’t think of any other reason. It was just a cute sweater, same as any other. But Zara specified that this sweater was for a boy not a girl. Go into any department store or kids clothing store and you can pretty much tell where the girls and boys clothing is because one half is primarily pink and the other blue. The toys shelves are filled with shapely Barbie dolls, dressed in tight fitting dresses, sitting alongside Ken proudly behind the driving seat of a plastic sports car, baby dolls, pushchairs, princess dresses and a myriad of other toys in pink plastic. The boys toys are action figures, sci fi regalia, remote control cars, trucks, swords, guns, cowboy outfits.. You get the idea.
When I was eight, I asked for an action figure of the ‘Six Million Dollar Man’, I’m showing my age now! It’s still a funny, novel little story even now. Everyone laughs! How funny! So no Barbie then? Oh sorry, I didn’t know I was meant to play with Barbies. I was always a bit of a ‘tomboy’. I climbed trees, played football, rode my bike everywhere. Did that make me ‘boy like’? Isn’t that the behavior of a girl, then? Ooops, sorry about that! Again, I didn’t realize! I didn’t realize I had to act like a girl. In my defence, no one told me. Lets fast forward a bit. School was fun. I enjoyed netball and hockey. I wasn’t offered football or rugby, those were boys sports. Not for girls. Too rough, I guess. I’m not sure. I learnt to type on clunky big typewriters. I do not recall any boys in Typing class. I guess they were playing football.
So, this ‘tomboy’ grew up. I lived in jeans and t-shirts and sneakers and whilst my friends had began to experiment with make up the idea repelled me. Why did I need to put all that stuff on my face? Why do I need to wear make up to climb a tree? I didn’t get it. I learnt Judo. In fact, I was pretty good at it. Won a small competition actually. I think I was the only girl in the class. There may have been one other, even so it was mainly boys. I began to get a little body conscious and I could see the boys looking at me with a strange inane grin on their faces. They didn’t look at the other boys like that. Either way, I didn’t like it. So that was the end of my judo days. Shame, I shouldn’t have let it get to me.
Recently a DJ called Tatiana Alvarez revealed that she had created a male alter ego called Musikillz
..’But after graduating she joined a wave of female DJs, including DJ Diamond, and toured with Hot Import Nights (a car show) but found the resulting publicity uncomfortable”
Photo: Joyce Lim via The Telegraph
“We’d do photoshoots for FHM and they’d want us all to be sexy in dresses and heels. I was showing up in baggy pants and T-shirts and Converse. I was more into skateboarding. I’m 5ft 10in and stilettos aren’t comfortable for me. I don’t have that body type. The guy who owned Hot Import Nights would say, ‘You need to be different.’ I was miserable.”
In a change of direction, she hired a publicist to help her get gigs playing and producing underground techno music in New York. He passed her tape around, without giving her name, and she quickly found herself booked on the strength of her music but then rejected when they found out who she was. “They said, ‘F— that girl, she is sexy, she’s only used her looks to get ahead.’ My publicist was like, ‘It’s her tracks on there – you were going to book her as a guy.’”
As a “man” Alvarez was treated differently: offstage, she was ignored (“People don’t look at you as much”); onstage, she was trusted to do the right thing. “When you’re a female, there are always other people on stage watching what you’re doing. They think you’re stupid and say the most condescending, amazing things, but when you’re a man they just leave you alone.”’ – Daily Telegraph
Hollywood is making a movie about her story now.
It’s a sad state of affairs when a woman has to actually become a man to forward her career.
Let’s go back to being a fem…sorry, I mean the F word. Lets look at feminism as a brand. Hear me out here. As a brand communications consultant, I would be pretty clear about the fact the brand has a big identity problem. I would break it down. What is feminism? – Sorry, the F word. Why aren’t people ‘getting’ this brand? Why are people so reluctant to even use the word? Why has the F word become so unsexy? Have we screwed up? Have we yelled and shouted and burnt our bras so much that we’ve actually slowed down or even reversed the progress of feminism? What do we do now? Like the failing brands Blockbuster, Borders and Allied Carpets in the UK, is feminism making the fatal mistake of not moving with the times? Is it too stubborn and blinkered to change?
Emma Watson spoke at the UN recently. Her speech was amazing. To me, this was the voice of modern feminism. She unabashedly highlighted the fact the women were ‘choosing not to identify as feminists.’ Having written a blog about a similar topic just a few weeks before listening to this, her speech resonated loudly with me.
I decided that I was a feminist, and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, I’m among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive, even.
Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one? I am from Britain and I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.
Emma not only focused on women’s equality but gender equality, encouraging men not to fear speaking out in case it ‘made them less of a man’
I want men to take up this mantle so that their daughters, sisters, and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too, reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned, and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves.
So, to summarise, and in the words of Emma Watson..
..And if you still hate the word, it is not the word that is important. It’s the idea and the ambition behind it…
Feminism, gender equality or whatever you feel comfortable calling it is still of the greatest importance. More than it ever was. Women in the East are still being forced into marriages whilst still children, they are being covered up, punished and killed in the name of religion, sold as sex slaves, robbed of education and mutilated to control them sexually. We still have a very, very long way to go, but hopefully day by day, we will get a little closer to a world where we are all equal and free to live our lives how we want to – no matter what gender we are.
The F Word can also be found via @missmetaverse www.futuristmmm.com
Emma Watsons UN Speech