As ‘Good Feminists’ we spend our days cultivating and immersing ourselves in a positive, empowered, equal, culture.
We read endless books and think pieces on equality, storm into Twitter feuds to defend our principals, politics and protect others. We knit pink beanies for protests and drink coffee from mugs emblazoned STRIDENT FEMINIST. No one is immune from our crusade – it’s not just a man-attack. We very rightly call-out, and boycott, other feminists too – for being too white, too gender-normative, or too heterosexual in their ideology. We’re living and breathing the good-fight every hour of every day.
And yet. And yet…*sigh*…when real-life comes swooping out at you, it so different.
When those endless social media arguments and small-minded comments are said right to your face, when you’re least expecting it. When you’re confronted with someone you actually like and respect, saying infuriating, hurtful, insulting, bullshit, it’s such a challenge. It’s such a stretch. It’s very fucking hard and unnerving to be the person who stands-up for what you know is right, and be comfortable with the fact that you might piss some people off. After all, we all just want to be liked, don’t we?
Last night I was out at drinks with some colleagues. A group of four nice, though very white and very straight, males.
After a few gins the conversation turned towards general, good-natured, discussion around gender, relationships and feminism, and things became very challenging. I got very impassioned. And the men got very defensive and predictable:
Children (“You don’t want any? Well you say that now but that’s not the way women think, everyone wants children. Women love babies. How old are you? 33? HA! You’re still young. You’ve time”).
The pressure and deadlines for women to settle, marry, have kids, and our ticking clocks (“We don’t understand? What do you mean by ‘high risk pregnancy’? Just have kids whenever, there’s no rush, stop overthinking it. You need to stop putting so much pressure on relationships and men”).
The workplace (“If a woman is good enough she’ll be at the table and will get the same as us – it’s as simple as that in our industry, we don’t treat them differently” (they do)).
Feminism (“Feminism is overblown and a word I don’t like to use. Just believe in treating everyone the same”).
Then, we got to the wage gap. Fueled by my gins, the bravery they bestowed on me, and the momentum of these previous topics, I asked them the very direct question: “How would you feel if you got paid 80% of your current salary for the same amount of work?”
At that point I got shut down. Told it was getting late. Time to call an Uber. Coats grabbed. Table abandoned. Out the door. Gone. And I’m left standing on the curb, waiting for my ride, feeling like I just got punched in the gut and I’d make a dick of myself.
Today I’m very angry.
Yes. I’m angry at those men with their reactions and crappy attitudes.
But mostly, I’m angry at myself.
I’m angry I didn’t put up a better argument and find the right words to make them listen and understand.
Angry I let myself get shut down, and out, of the conversation.
Angry that how much I’d had to drink will mean that my words will get dismissed as a ‘drunk-rant’, and that nothing I said will be held with any credibility.
Angry I left feeling so shitty and vulnerable, when I should have felt strong.
Angry I’m beating myself up about this.
Angry I feel like they won.
This constant self-analysis and review is something only women do. Those men aren’t sitting around today going “Oh shit, she had a point, my response was unacceptable. I feel so terrible about this. What does she think of me? Does she hate me?”.
I know I was right, brave, bold, my views valid, important and must be defended. But after this bravery comes the recoil moment. The fear. The questioning. The self-doubt. The insecurity.
I feel like I was TOO MUCH. Ugh, that’s always such a fear as a woman, isn’t it? Nothing worse than being called hard work, high maintenance, shrill or demanding.
It’s so much easier to fight this cause from behind a keyboard. Real life takes it to a new level. And that’s where we must be bold, fearless and stay strong:
1. We must continue to be outspoken and make a fuss. Yes, they will think we are obnoxious, loud, troublesome, dramatic and TOO MUCH. Yeah, and they’ll probably call you a bitch behind your back, but so what. If this is really how these people think and feel then I have no interest in receiving their high-opinion or friendship. And when it comes to relationships, well, I’d rather be eternally-single than the alternative, which is having my heart squeezed, hurt, and trampled on by someone who feels it’s okay to think about women this way. So why does it matter what they think of me?
2. Please, if you’re at a table with another woman who is being bold, fearless, taking a stand and fighting this good feminist fight – defend her. Don’t just stand by, tell her to calm down, nod in agreement with the men, or try to change the subject. Give her a HELL YEAH, look those men in the eye and tell them she’s right. Stick up for a sister, have her back. Empower her.
3. Don’t beat yourself up if you get shut down, they walk away, or you get told you’re wrong. This is not your fault. You have done nothing wrong. We are programmed, as girls, to be demure and not make a fuss. To be outspoken and real goes against everything we’re brought up to be. We won’t get 100% of the way, right away. But if we take one step at a time, every little counts, and it will make a difference. You only need to make one person think about, and change, their actions, for it to be worth every bit of hassle.
4. Remember: It’s not the drink, it’s not PMS, and it’s not you being an ‘over-emotional’ woman. It’s inequality, it’s prejudice, and it’s a fucked-up, unfair, world.
You are not to blame. You are not wrong. You are not too much.
Now, after reading this, pick an amazing, inspiring, woman that you know and adore, send her a DM, email or a text. Tell her how proud you are of her, how important she is, and how everything she does matters. Then arrange a time to go for a coffee, gin or Skype ASAP.
After all, empowerment breeds empowerment.