Inspired by a conversation on twitter, I am running 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 Jean for sharing her story.
1. At what point in your life did you start to understand that you were a feminist?
I was angry from a young age. Probably around 9 – gendered toys, different treatment from teachers, low expectations of achievement despite my ability etc. I didn’t understand the anger though, as being working class and poor – so much of the confusion around injustice seemed to be wrapped up in a general working class struggle. As I grew into my teenage years, the sense of injustice sharpened, but still – access to feminist doors seemed largely firmly bolted by Academia, inaccessible and increasingly clique-driven – I just never saw the door, let alone knocked upon it. This is still a huge problem and the issues of class need urgently and firmly addressing in feminist circles. I suppose it was only after I made it to University that I realised properly. The moment when I knew I was a radical feminist was something else entirely. When I realised it was the whole damn thing that needed bringing to the floor – that everything was structured to screw me over and prioritise men– wow. That moment hurt. That moment was painful. It can never be unseen. It can never be unfelt. That pain is staying. Like a smack in the face. I’ve had plenty of those.
2. What is the focus of your feminism and how has this shifted over time?
In my early years I was very liberal and perhaps lacked proper focus. I only really engaged when I became a victim of male violence. Now, of course I see that as the key factor driving me. Ensuring that no man gets to hurt a woman, sexually, physically or emotionally occupies most of my thoughts. How we achieve this, how we challenge this, how we take back our lives from violent men. That drives me. I don’t think we can wait. I don’t think talking is the way. I think anger is. We have such capacity to organise now. We have such close connections with each other that we’ve never had before. Importantly we can’t allow every discussion on this to be derailed by men. I don’t care how those men present themselves. If you are male – you aren’t getting in. If you are male you aren’t leading. If you are male then accept that this is a female movement. Ask where you can help. If you are declaring yourself a woman and you have, or have had, a penis then you have to acknowledge that you’ve already benefited from enormous privilege and whilst sisters may be willing to welcome you, we cannot have you dominate in discussions of oppression because you say you must. You also cannot prioritise your issues over the issues oppressing all women. That isn’t transphobic. It is about moving things forward rather than dying in the eponymous fire of DIAF without achieving anything.
3. How has feminism affected your life/relationships/career etc?
It has changed the whole world for me. I know who I am, where I fit and what life currently offers. I know what it has taken from me and what I want from it and deserve from it. I know what men have taken. I had many years stolen from me. They are never coming back. Sisters at least gave me the future to do with as I please and that would never have happened. I would not have lived. I see that now. I might not have been writing this. Feminism kept me alive.
4. What are your hopes and fears for feminism?
I have none. Feminists are warriors. We won’t stop fighting until we are dead and we will raise future warriors.
5. Who inspires your feminism?
Too many women to mention. There are famous women, sure. But for me, it is the feminist who stops by and gently asks, “how are you today?” – who goes out of her way to check that other women are still focused and breathing and not slipping. Good feminists are about women. They don’t judge, they don’t snark, they look around to see who is falling down and they pick her up. I know a lot of these women. I am blessed.
6. If you could recommend one book or film to a young woman what would it be and why?
Life and Death. Andrea Dworkin.