The F Word

the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
This is the Oxford Dictionary definition of feminism.
Equality of the sexes. That’s it.
The first time that I can remember being treated differently for being a girl was when I was 8 years old. My primary school uniform said girls had to wear skirts and the boys trousers. But it was winter and it was freezing, I wanted to wear trousers too.
I was called to the Head Teacher’s office in-front of the whole class, I was so embarrassed. I was told off for wearing trousers. I was told that “girls are supposed to wear skirts.” I was told that if I didn’t come into school wearing a skirt I wouldn’t be allowed to come in at all.
I cried. I was 8 years old. This is the first time I felt anger, confusion and frustration because I didn’t understand these rules. I didn’t understand why I was being told off for not wearing a skirt.
Throughout my teenage years myself and my girl friends got used to the male gaze. It was normal to walk into town on lunch break to the background noise of builders wolf whistling from the roofs they were working on, or vans they were stood around staring from. We’d have disgusting slurs shouted at us from open car windows, and vans beeping as they drove past. We were in school uniform. We were children. I wanted the ground to swallow me up.
I’ve been walking home in the dark on more occasions than one when a car has driven past and slowed down right next to me, just driving slowly and staring out of the window. Keep your head down, fast pace, don’t look up just keep walking.
Why does being a woman make me feel so small?
“Cheer up love”
“you’re too pretty to be so miserable”
“where’s your smile?”
“smile for me”
“god, you need to lighten up”
“It was only a joke”
“don’t be so serious”
I’m so sorry I don’t want to smile for a creepy old man in a pub, drunkenly spitting words at me and staring through my white top. Forgive me for not livening up on request of a patronising stranger.
“no wonder you don’t have a boyfriend”
“you need a man in your life to calm you down”
“why don’t you have a boyfriend?”
“you’re so opinionated”
“you shouldn’t talk so much”
Hmm, is that because I’m saying something you don’t like? I’m so sorry that I’ve educated myself. I’m so sorry you feel this is an attack on your masculinity. I’m so sorry that I’m angry because you’re cutting me down and acting as if what I say doesn’t matter. As if this system hasn’t taught me that my whole life.
Don’t answer back.
Don’t have an opinion.
I’ve been called independent like it’s a bad thing. I’ve been called too opinionated, too loud, too serious, too strong, to be a woman.
The women I know and love are all of these things and more. I’m sooo tired of being made to feel so small because I happen to be female.
Every. Single. Day. I’m reminded that I’m the “weaker sex” and I’m still a privilaged white western woman. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for all the women of different races and ethnicities. I stand with these women, I acknowledge the disadvantages and struggles you face and I will do more to support you in any way I can.
I’m sorry if this is “too preachy” or whiney, or whatever else the system has deemed acceptable to call a woman who has an opinion.
Of course I have an opinion. I want equality. It’s that simple.
Over the summer I had a conversation with a male colleague of mine who suggested that it’s flattering to be wolf whistled at and we should be happy to get some attention. It’s not flattering to have unwanted attention from strangers. It’s not flattering to be made to feel intimidated and vulnerable. It’s not flattering to feel like someone is thinking about you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. Now try having that on a regular basis. He didn’t understand it because he’s not female, this stuff doesn’t happen to him.
This was one of the best conversations I’ve had about feminism, because due to my explanation of what it feels like, he questioned what he thought and changed his mind. I completely respect that it’s hard to understand if you haven’t been through it yourself. Anything is.
I also completely acknowledge that this system is unfair to men too. Men shouldn’t be made to feel weak for showing or talking about their feelings. Men suffer prejudice too, and yes I know, it’s not all men who act this way towards women. But it happens, and it happens a lot.
By narrowing our ridiculous prescribed gender roles, we will come closer together and no longer be such a mystery to each-other.
I am a feminist because when I think of all the times I’ve been made to feel insignificant for being a woman it makes this fire burn inside of me, and I can’t sit back and do nothing.
Equality is a human right.
I don’t want the young girls growing up around me to fight for what is rightfully theirs. I want boys and girls to stand with each-other, to lift eachother up. There’s room at the top for us all. Shall we start listening now?
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