Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Why I Became a Feminist - Pep Talk

It’s strange to think that two years ago I’d have happily uttered the phrase “ugh, she’s such a feminist” in a tone of scorn now reserved for Daily Mail readers and sickly tampon adverts. Now I’ll happy apply the term to myself. I won’t lie: I’m still afraid to say it in some circles for fear of people treating me like a pube-plagued leper. Nevertheless, it’s been a while now since I’ve considered myself a bona fide fully fledged feminist.

For me, becoming a feminist was a gradual thing, but there's one moment that stands out. I had just had an interview and it hadn't gone well. I was supposed to role-play pitching my favourite film to a potential distributor and I'd waffled on about lighting and metaphors for five agonising minutes before shuffling out with a manic smile on my face. I was still feeling shaken up and had to rush back to an unpaid internship (story of my life). Oh, and one more thing - I'd just been horribly dumped. I remember standing in the middle of a newsagents on Redchurch Street and thinking to myself, "I am a mess. I am doing this all wrong. I need something that will tell me how to be a proper woman." Unfortunately for me, that friendly source of advice was Cosmo, who promptly encouraged me to buy a £500 bag with my non-existent paycheck and attempt the reverse cowgirl with my now non-existent boyfriend.

I remember flicking through it on the tube and having this dawning realisation that, not only was I down one job opportunity and one relationship, but I'd just spent £3.60 (genuinely more than I'd earned in a year) on a lot of pretty pictures of things I couldn't have. I was actually attempting to comfort myself with a list of aspirational things I couldn't hope to aspire to and which wouldn't make me happy if I could. And then, praise be, the perversity of the situation hit me.

The seed had been sown. I started thinking, "why don't men get this crap pushed on them as a solution to all their problems?" Now, I know, I know, men get their fair share of gendered marketing bullshit, too (Esquire and GQ, I'm looking at you). But in the main, they're encouraged to buy fast cars, boys' toys, and gadgets to aid them whilst they're whizzing about their important manly lives, whilst I'm encouraged to buy the new ultra-size tote bag so that I might feel the full weight of the patriarchy on my shoulder as I haul myself and all of my worldly possessions around town.

Once you start noticing sexism, it's impossible to stop. It's everywhere. It was in all the films I watched, all the books I read, most of the conversations I had, literally all of the print news.... and it was EXHAUSTING. There are suggestions that perceived or actual discrimination can seriously affect your mental health and my God I'm not surprised. By the time I'd finished going about my day I was about ready to crawl under my duvet with a packet of Hobnobs.
So that is why, dear fellow Hussies, I turned to a group of awesome other women I know and discovered that, low and behold, they had been suffering the same plight! Imagine! A group of interesting, intelligent, and all-round awesome women independently grinding our teeth over the same stupid system. I started seeking out all sorts of interesting books, going to talks, meeting people, and realising that actually, a lot of people feel this way, but not that many speak up. Being a feminist is hard sometimes but Feminism is stirring; the fourth wave is breaking and this time, we got the internet, yo.
Feminism is important to me because it gave me my own voice and let me find out who I really am when I'm not aspiring to be the stylish Everywoman in the glossy magazines. But we've got work to do. Remember, in the immortal words of Kid President, "you have a duty to be awesome." So speak up, and let everyone around you know - who do you want to be?

by LK

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