A pet peeve of mine is when someone (usually female) says, “Oh, I’m not a feminist but…” and then rails against some indignity. When did feminism become a dirty word? If you believe that human beings are equal regardless of gender, you’re pretty much a feminist. You may not be a feminist of the placard-carrying, writing to politicians variety, but you do hold feminist views. That is not a bad thing.
By decrying feminism, we are turning our backs on our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and anyone else who fought for such rights as the right for all to vote, the right to decide whether or not to have a family, the right to work and so on. As the writer Linda Grant wrote on her revealing International Women’s Day twitter feed, “Whatever rights you have are because feminists went out and grabbed them for you. Feminists, not shoe designers or chocolate manufacturers.” If you are a woman who works, has an education, takes the Pill and votes, you have feminists to thank.
Although I was brought up in a family with strong feminist leanings, I became a self-identifying feminist in my early twenties, oddly enough through knitting. I had just moved to Brighton and my aunt taught me to knit in the hope that I would make some friend (not that I’m anti-social, but I didn’t know anyone when I moved here.) Through learning to knit, I discovered Debbie Stoller, who not only wrote the beginner knitter’s bible, but also edits the feminist magazine Bust. My conscience was awakening and I devoured everything I could on what it meant to be a modern feminist and I’ve since gone on to write for feminist websites and magazines. Interestingly, when I wrote about crafting and feminism last year, I was roundly, viciously criticised by someone on my Facebook page for not writing about ‘serious’ issues relating to the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia… a bit random, considering that I had been asked to write a fun piece about something I knew lots about. Of course, there are serious issues in feminism which we should all work towards eradicating, but sometimes, even feminists have to have fun. Although, as the great Suzanne Moore said recently, “The thing about being a feminist is you never run out of people to disappoint.” I guess I disappointed someone on that day.
I am proud to be a feminist. I am a skirt-wearing, lipstick-applying, writing-to-my-MP feminist. I think that everyone, regardless of the genitalia they were born with, should be paid the same money for doing the same job. I think that men should have more rights when it comes to paternity leave. I think that women and girls around the world should be equal to their male counterparts. I wish we didn’t live in a society where the sexualisation of young girls is commonplace. There is still so much to do.
Happy International Women’s Day.