It’s always good practice to stop and take stock of our surroundings. Almost a year ago, I wrote a piece to remind myself and others of why we still need feminism. It was called ‘The shame we feel as women’ and detailed the ways in which we are controlled by the patriarchy that ensure we cannot break free. Patriarchy is focused on our physical appearance and anything other than a well fed able bodied cis gendered male is open to scrutiny and our value is judged accordingly on how much we please teh menz. Being a feminist; and an angry one at that too, I’ve stopped decorating myself the way I did in my 20s. This means less make up, fashion apathy and a whole lot less hair (on my head I mean). I don’t look that much different, a little curvier perhaps but that’s what happens when you stop starving yourself so you fit in. My eyebrows aren’t so arched and my body hair matches my bonce. I have saved a FORTUNE on bleach and razor blades. And this season’s colours. I am happier as a result but maybe less pleasing on the male eye. An old acquaintance unwittingly put it in into context for me; after congratulating me on my feminist efforts, he asked where I stood on the whole “feminism vs. femininity” issue.
I took this mean he didn’t fancy me anymore and breathed a tiny sigh of relief. But what he was doing was in fact insulting me. As if they are mutually exclusive; there are two camps of women in the world, those that like being hounded and harassed and those that unpretty themselves to avoid being hounded and harassed. That’s the way patriarchy’s brain functions.
Grooming, especially body hair removal, is time consuming and expensive. I stopped plucking, waxing and bleaching because it was actually physically painful and damaging my skin and I suddenly realised I wasn’t doing it for myself but patriarchy. I had an ex that was obsessed with tweezers and would make his skin bleed in an attempt to tame his mono-brow but his obsession did not end with his own body hair, he was constantly on at me too, quite often without my explicit consent. Being with him made me feel dirty and somehow excessively hirsute; I am astonished that my self-esteem was low enough to allow this kind of behaviour. But then, I was probably about 15 the first time I was shamed for having body hair. For almost half of my life, I put myself through an ordeal trying to battle with something that naturally occurs on all humans, sprouting to protect us and signify sexual maturity. No wonder they want rid.
The other significant and healthy realisation I had was that I was not born to fit the missing piece of some man. All of society is centred on the belief that you are somehow incomplete until you find the love of your life and create babies. Never is this more apparent than in your late 20s. One by one your peers fall into line and it is you that is somehow tainted for not doing the same. Don’t get me wrong, I TRIED, but I wasn’t ever happy to settle for anything less than equality, honesty and respect. I know what those things feel like and I don’t think hetero-normative relationships within a patriarchy provide the right conditions. Male privilege infects even our closest allies.
They’re quite happy for you to do all the washing and the hoovering but cooking’s fine, cos it’s a fun activity and “all the best chefs are men”. They’ll continue to shout over you in a group discussion and defeated, you’ll sink back. Many more of them will suddenly feel victim to reverse sexism as if equality was achieved just a second ago and already the wimminz are on top. Does one of the lives in a relationship mean more than the other? Who gets to choose the life plan? Women’s bodies are trying to get pregnant, that’s what some of our bodies are designed to do yet so many are switched off to this basic of functions and instead blame the person carrying the womb for tricking the sperm provider into maliciously impregnating her. Why do men freak out when you mention your cycle? And there is nothing a misogynist man dislikes more than a woman who speaks to other women. They call it gossip and being nosy but much like all the other rules in our world, this is a patriarchal notion that leaves women isolated and paranoid. We should all talk to each other more. If we did, there’d be a whole lot more truth in the world. With transparency, we might put an end to abuse.
As a result of my awakening, I have lost what I thought were a few good friends. I can no longer abide a racist/sexist/..ist etc. comrade irrespective of the many years we spent huddled together. It no longer suits me to turn a blind eye or pretend words were never said. I am the sum total of all my experiences and the company I keep reflects that. My life is enriched by the people I see, it’s not as draining as it once was and it’s not so much of a struggle to be accepted for who I am, not the image I thought I had to present. I am even more disconnected from society than I was previously and whilst this is good for me, looking in at the rest of the world has sent me to new levels of despair.
We are still fighting for liberation. The basic rights we had begun to take for granted seem flimsy and constantly under threat. The stand-off against four no-choicers a coupla Sundays ago was surreal. Taking a picture of them was ‘aggressive’ and they weren’t happy. I don’t remember feeling particularly overjoyed either. Intimidated, yes. What could these four, rosy cheeked men tell me that I hadn’t already heard before? As it turned out, not a lot and very soon after, two of them withdrew. It wasn’t a productive day in that nothing was achieved; it was more a battle of wills in broad daylight.
This shit shoulda ended in the 70s! And you know why it didn’t? Cos second wavers were too busy looking after themselves! Feminism is for all self-identifying women right?
How many women is that?
It’s an army.
I’ve had my rows with the feminists that came before me and I’ll continue to row down the kyriarchy with them for a long time to come. But when it comes to smashing the patriarchy, I am an ally. I didn’t have a family; I didn’t stand a chance with my education. The colour of my skin has always raised questions. But I am still a woman and I have privileges many others don’t.
I’m doing Feminism for every single person oppressed by patriarchal shame.
And so should you.