My knowledge (or rather lack of) of feminism is firmly rooted in Year 9, sat in a history lesson learning about the suffragettes. It’s rooted in sociology lessons at college where I began to appreciate Ann Oakley; these particular sessions were female lead in the gender ratio of the classroom. Minimal education. I could probably tell you different branches of feminism by their name only, I could throw you a couple of statistics that were published by the government in 2009-2010.
Nothing will change my belief that feminism shouldn’t be about women overpowering or diminishing men in order to prevent men from overpowering and diminishing women. Unfortunately, this has been the only sort of attitude I have come into contact with amongst the activists I have met. The branch of feminism that would make me want to call myself a feminist is that which simply promotes the importance of equal opportunities and raises awareness that, oh hey, opportunity isn’t yet equal, and yes I do mean for both genders.
The past few years I’ve really had negative interactions with feminist activists, mainly at university where things have been one sided and poorly portrayed. The women don’t have time for the men, men don’t have time for the women. It doesn’t seem there’s any room for equality or even understandingto grow on either side. I’m not interested in being better than a man. I just want to be the same as one.
I’ve come to realise that I’ve been in denial whenever I’ve made the claim that I’m not a feminist. As a woman in a free country participating in higher education aiming for a career while working part time because I’m not expected to be at home looking after children, it just isn’t possible to say that I’m not a feminist when I take advantage of all the things feminism has achieved so far.
I would call myself lucky to have these things. I feel lucky. Yet things such as education should be a right. Which it still isn’t for everyone. The same as the right to walk down my own street at a leisurely pace, which I don’t, because it’s not safe – yet – my other half will casually go at a snail’s pace and cannot understand my urgency in getting from one place to the next. It’s not a bad area, that’s not why I feel unsafe.
‘Why the big rush?’ he will say.
It’s because I’m a female.
And that’s the straw that really broke the camel’s back. These tiny realisations have occurred within the last fortnight and have formed some sort of monumental snowball. Suddenly I realise I don’t feel empowered, or comfortable, or equal. I’m more conscious of women’s campaigns, particularly overseas, more aware that more male graduates get the jobs, admitting that I go to the gym because I want to be more like what the media say men want.
For the first time I can understand why activists always seem so angry. I think it’s important that I finally take the time to start looking into the movement and not to be deterred by the extremely few interactions I’ve had with it. It’s time for me to be angry. It’s time to say that I’m a feminist; I want to feel safe, I deserve to be equal.
I certainly don’t want to be whistled at by a random man as if I’m some bitch being commanded back to its owner.