Part 53: Feminism

Right: feminism. Which has had a renaissance in popular culture due to Caitlin Moran’s bestselling autobiography-cum-feminist-humour tome How to be a Woman, and the subsequent feminist blog and twitter ubiquity with sites like Vagenda and the F-word expanding virtual space with witty, yet often quite irritating essays on contemporary woman’s oppression and her struggle for freedom.

This new brand of feminism contains both sense and bullshit to assist the politically stunted in constructing righteous opinions.

Grow your pubes! Fuck lots of men and don’t need them emotionally! Aren’t magazines shitty for degrading women who are fat or stupid or emotionally vulnerable?! Opressing women hurts men too! You don’t need to spend £1000 on a handbag to feel good about yourself! Louise Mensch is a Tory Devil-woman, she can’t be feminist too!

Up until this resurgence of mainstream feminism I totally identified as a feminist.

And why not?

Doing so gives one carte blanche to stick one’s middle finger up at convention, expectation, good behaviour and so on. And it made me feel quite 70s without having to plait daisies through my hair.

My favourite poem is this one where God is a lady who tells an anxious woman ‘Honey, you can do just exactly what you want to.’

And that’s feminism to me.

Well, that and talking loudly about your period blood in public.

I didn’t really need Germaine Greer, Simone de Beauvoir, belle hooks, or Caitlin Moran to know that we with the two x chromosomes deserve the power, or that we actually have quite a lot of the power anyway, and should be a bit more fucking aggressive about asserting it. I knew all that instinctively.

Although, I am of course eternally grateful that these authors wrote books that were part of the social shift which has contributed to my partial emancipation from The Man.

The thing is, it’s just a bit tedious now. Like when I wore Dr Marten’s in Plumstead in the late 90s and thought I was unique, because everyone else coveted faux Patrick Cox loafers, but then went to uni and learned other people had been wearing DM’s the whole time.

What’s the point of feminism if everyone’s doing it?

Still, as much as I was loathe to identify with this new wave of annoying media-hyped feminism, the alternative was not an option. I had to find a way of hating these other feminists while still maintaining the conviction that feminism as a principle (doing just exactly what you want to) was not corrupted in my mind. It didn’t take long. And it doubles up as a reason to be single. Win-win.

If you read this new wave feminism, you’ll find a lot of it references boyfriends and husbands.

Of course, there are a few obligatory ‘I was single for ages and it’s fine’ (usually followed up with, ‘and I had loads of casual sex, aren’t I a free-spirit?’), and ‘you don’t need a man to be fabulous’ messages. But also, there’s a lot of smugness about being in relationships.

I’m not going to quote anyone directly here, and not just because I can’t be arsed to rifle through books and blog posts at this hour of the night. I think directly quoting someone and then mocking them is very bad form, outside of politics and academia (yes, even though I just came dangerously close to doing so myself).

It makes one seem like a pompous twat.

What I’m saying is: read any of the popular online mainstream feminism and there’ll be a fair few sneaky references to ‘amazing’ boyfriends, and supportive feminist husbands.

Now, far be it from me to tell anyone what to do- but, erm, fuck off love with your boyfriend and husband happiness.

For a start, I think you’re lying. No one who is genuinely happy feels compelled to tell other people about it in writing.

Trust me, I know (and so do you if you’ve been reading between the lines of the words I’ve composed here over the past few months).

More to the point, having a boyfriend and/or being married is not really committing to the cause of feminism.

It becomes a lot more difficult to do exactly what you want to when you’ve committed to a sexual relationship with a man and you might have to suck his willy when you’re on your period to stop him from making a horny sad face.

Also, however independent you might pretend you are, you know that if you’re in a relationship, and you have a heavy bag, you will let your boyfriend carry it for you – thus shoring up deeply ingrained femininity equals physical weakness associations that your husband or boyfriend will have been subjected to throughout his life. See: you’re kind of betraying the cause here.

I’m not being divisive, I’m sure it’s totally possible to seek emancipation when you’re in love. It’s just that much harder to actively resist oppressive social norms when you’re voluntarily adhering to the one social convention that has contributed most directly to the oppression of your particular group throughout history.

My conclusion: You don’t have to be single to be a feminist, but it helps.

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