Inspired by a conversation on twitter, I am beginning a series of interviews with women about their feminism. I’m hoping that other women will find our various paths to feminism interesting and we might also take strength from and pride in our stories. If you would like to take part please leave a message here or send a direct message to @sueveneer on twitter.
Thanks to Jess for sharing her story here.
1. At what point in your life did you start to understand that you were a feminist?
When I was a teenager I remember finding a book called The F Word in the library and that and another book taught me about Feminism, what it was and that it had waves and since then it’s just given a name to the way I always thought. It made so much sense that there was a movement that had existed to help women and that there was still a need for one despite what people say. (We briefly looked at the suffragettes in English but only in passing so I wasn’t really aware of feminism and its history).
2. What is the focus of your feminism and how has it shifted over time?
I used to be a liberal feminist, parroting lines about how a woman could do anything as long as it was her choice and it wasn’t until the past year or two that I realised that that makes no sense in a world where women’s actions can help keep institutions that hurt other woman alive and kicking, such as prostitution etc. Reading about feminism and talking to women on Twitter has made me realise that way more needs to be done if we are ever going to liberate women; we need to stop reassuring men that feminism is for them too, we need to demand change instead of turning what hurts us into our own choice, and we need to actually acknowledge what men do to us, especially when it comes to violence.
3. How has feminism affected your life/relationships/career etc.
I’m a very vocal person when it comes to my opinions and feminism is no exception to that; it’s definitely made me an annoyance to many, it’s made me lose patience with sexist friends and family members but mostly unfortunately it has had ripple effects in my relationship with my partner. In the past year or so, into a three year relationship, I started exploring feminism more; I’ve spent more time discussing it with people online, finding books about it, and generally trying to figure out where I stand on a lot of issues that I hadn’t considered before. In doing so I’ve been trying to discuss issues out loud with my partner which has meant a lot of talking and a lot of repeating myself so I can refine my thoughts on new issues but this has put a strain on my relationship as my partner doesn’t have an interest in many of the issues; it’s hard to be a feminist thinker when discussing problems women face is met with a roll of the eyes and a ‘yeah’ meant to stop me talking. It’s definitely an issue I don’t see mentioned when talking about being a feminist.
4. What are your hopes and fears for feminism?
I worry that it will stay where it is now which is not good for women at all; yes overt sexism is called out sometimes and lots of people are trying to make changes but a lot of it is done politely, in ways trying not to upset men. Feminism will always make men uncomfortable because every single man benefits from it – yes even men who face other kinds of discrimination such as due to race, class or sexuality. But instead of making the oppressor class feel awkward and privileged feminism has taken to reassuring them, to putting ‘feminist’ men over women, to trying to turn their own bodies into an act of sexual liberation in the hope it will stop them being used as a battleground against them (it won’t). We need to be loud, to be angry, and to start demanding the world respects us not just shouting the same phrases over and over in the hope men will listen and stop killing us.
5. Who inspires your feminism?
Women on Twitter have been amazing for me, so utterly eye opening. They’ve helped show me issues I didn’t even know existed, they’ve been welcoming and calm and have spent the time to teach me what no one else has. The women in my life also inspire me in many ways: my Mum has helped get rid of any stereotypes I believed about mothers who stay at home, my Mum’s best friend has taught me about women who are independent, and my little sister has taught me there is hope for the next generation after me of women who are sick and tired of the life they’re told they should accept.
6. If you could recommend one book or film to a young woman what would if be and why?
I’d recommend Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender, there are loads of others but this one has been brilliant in showing me that so many differences we think exist between men and women aren’t real at all; that its just because the patriarchy that we live in teaches men they’re perfect and women that they’re useless that women believe they are anything less than the awesome that they are.