Having recently devoured the book ‘Feminists Don’t Wear Pink And Other Lies’, curated by Scarlet Curtis, I took a moment to myself to think about what the word ‘feminist’ means to me. Though I have, of course, heard the word being used during my 21 years of life by various people (in varying ways), I’ve never, until now, used it myself. What I mean by that is, yes, I’ve spoken the word, but I’ve never used it to describe myself, and have only recently realized what a terrible shame that is.
A Feminist – ‘Someone who cares about the equality of the genders’ – Jameela Jamil
There are many reasons why I’ve felt that, until recently, I couldn’t call myself a feminist. One of the most important being – I wasn’t really sure what a feminist was. I wasn’t brought up in a particularly feminist household, or even a particularly feminist area. I’m not sure those around me really knew what it meant to be a feminist either. As far as I can recall, when the term was used around me growing up, it was said as an insult. A feminist was something to be sneered at, to be feared even.
Both men and women around me sneered at it. A lack of understanding about something can make it scary, and a feminist was apparently a gross and terrifying thing to be. I didn’t want to be gross and terrifying; I can’t imagine many young girls did. What I wanted was to be soft but tough, kind but strong, emotional but empowered – and unfortunately, I grew up thinking that I had to choose between these typically ‘feminine’ characteristics and the typically ‘masculine’ ones. I didn’t think I could be both.
‘It’s triggering for a lot of people, this eight-lettered F-word’ – Alison Sudol
When I was a teenage girl I wanted to be liked; I wanted to be liked by boys and in my experience, boys didn’t like the word ‘feminist’. Oh, how I wish I had taken myself more seriously, had invested more time in me, allowed myself to far sooner become the strong and empowered woman I am today – worrying less about how I was perceived by BOYS.
Because ‘feminist’ isn’t a dirty word. It’s a beautiful and strong movement. One which has taken far too many years to become what it is today, and one that I hope will continue to flourish, even to fully bloom, in a far shorter span of time than its taken to come into being.
‘As women, we’ve been told to take up as little space as possible’ – Gemma Arterton
No female in my life talked to me about feminism. No male in my life talked to me about feminism. Though my mum is an incredible human, the two of us have both gravitated naturally towards male friendships, making our relationship the only really strong female bond we each had for a long time. I didn’t realize how important it was to see women supporting women, to be a woman supporting another woman. For a long time, I assumed we were all treated the same, and I was blind to the injustices women were facing – despite experiencing many of these injustices myself.
I grew up thinking that a lot of the situations I had found myself in – sexist, unbalanced, and horrible situations – (that I know recognize as terribly wrong), were normal. Not because I was taught that they were, but because I wasn’t taught that they weren’t. Sometimes they were subtle actions, subtle words, not enough to be noticed by someone who didn’t know to look out for them. And other times they were big red flags but I didn’t know how to speak up for myself, I wasn’t even sure that I should.
After arriving at university it still took me years to really understand what the word ‘feminist’ meant, what the movement was all about and why it was so important. Having spent the past six months barely scraping the surface of feminism, I now can’t believe both how ignorant I’ve been and how much I still have to learn.
‘At a time when we are too often being reminded of what divides us, there is a common ground to be found when we share our stories’ – Emma Watson.
Crippling anxiety has, at times, derailed my life – for many years I’ve felt like I’ve been missing that piece of the true confidence puzzle and honestly, finding my feminism has been the key. My introduction to it has been a long time coming, but it’s here. It’s been my own choice, introduced on my own terms and I’ve been able to completely make it my own.
Ultimately, feminism, being a feminist, means something different to everyone. What it means to me, is being brave, being able to ask for what I want, supporting others and being supported in return, being able to say ‘no’ and be heard, not being called ‘babe’, or ‘sweetheart’, or ‘darling’ by anyone who hasn’t been given my permission, feeling like I have a voice, and that what I have to say is just as important and as valid as anyone else’s opinion. It’s about sisterhood, and equality for everyone.
In the words of a total goddess, Jameela Jamil, I hope, too, that ‘eventually there will be no feminism, there will just be humanism’.
I cannot recommend enough ‘Feminists Don’t Wear Pink And Other Lies’; it’s a book I would strongly urge anyone to read regardless of gender. Other recommendations include Scarlet Curtis’ podcast ‘Feminists Don’t Wear Pink’, and Deborah Francis-White’s book ‘The Guilty Feminist: From Our Noble Goals To Our Worst Hypocrisies’ (also a podcast, for those of you who love a good audio binge).