Feminist enough for feminism?

EH takes a step back to look at feminism today and her own experiences


My mum was a very strong woman. She was always keen to show me and my younger sister that we were never going to have depleted opportunities as a result of being born female. When I was maybe fourteen, we had to do a debate in RE about abortion, and when I told her she said, “I HOPE YOU’RE SAYING IT’S FINE!” I was, of course, going to say it was fine.

A photo of my mother in Vegas – the only one she would let me use!eve hodgson

I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t interested in gender. I decided I was never going to get married when I was seven lest I be ‘tied down’ to a man. I’m particularly lucky to be growing up during a period where feminism seems to be very on trend, with the word no longer having toxic connotations of hating men and bra-burning in at least half of all reasonable interpretations. I think for the most part, it’s one of the most loving, inclusive, caring movements going. Is there a cuter phrase than ‘pizza rolls, not gender roles’? Come on.

I also think there’s so much more I could contribute to the movement, but I don’t. I feel very guilty about it, but I continually fail to do it – I don’t go on marches, I don’t give over as much money as I think I should to organisations that help women, I don’t argue with people who say sexist things as much as I should.

“Being a feminist is hard – being active rather than just carrying the label of ‘activist’ requires a lot of your time and energy, and sometimes it can feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall”

It’s especially hard with the new alt-right discourse that criticises ‘snowflakes’ who get offended at everything, and take feminism to basically be a lie.

Additionally, I do a lot of things that might be considered decidedly un-feminist. Until I was maybe sixteen, I was a proud bearer of the ‘not like other girls’ card (a fact I am now deeply embarrassed by). For a while, I thought of my own last name as so ugly (sorry, Dad) that I’d take a man’s last name like a shot. I shave my legs and get Brazilian waxes, in part because I like them but in part because that’s the only way I feel comfortable baring myself in front of other people.

An age-old debate, within the ranks of feminism and without them, is whether or not it’s okay to have a lot of sex. Okay, it’s not the amount of sex, it’s the number of people you have it with. Okay, maybe not the number exactly, but the concentration of people, the circumstances in which you meet them, how early you do it.

Not to brag, but the Michaelmas just gone, I made a lot of new friends. I was very happy with the situation, but the vaguest details caused a female family member (who will remain unnamed) to send me a card, imploring me to respect myself and my body. I had no idea that any of it would be a problem in 2017 – I thought I was doing the most feminist thing possible by refusing to adhere to expectations of female sexuality.

aliana reyes, wordpress

But I started to think, and for a while I wasn’t so sure of myself. I couldn’t work out if, by having a lot of casual relationship, I was just playing into the patriarchal system that values women as either wives or sex objects. For a brief period, I began to wonder if I had actually been used, and in doing so let myself slip away from the movement that I loved very much, and wanted to defend.

I’ve moved off that idea now, but it was one of many things that made me feel like a bad feminist. The question of being feminist, but not feminist enough, can really eat you up, and make you feel very selfish.

However, feminism itself can be pretty unkind to women. Germaine Greer has recently said of the #metoo movement that it is ‘whingeing’, slating women for ‘spread[ing] their legs’, which she claims to be ‘tantamount to consent’. As apparently one of the most prominent feminists currently or ever alive, she has absolutely no sympathy for the power structures that work against women or femininity at large.

A lot of the feminism, then, that we recognise to be the pinnacle of the movement is what I would call ‘bad feminism’. It doesn’t fit in with the warm ‘gender roles/pizza rolls’ narrative, it doesn’t help end violence against women or discrimination faced by them, it is exclusive and rude and can be so mean.


Mountain View

A letter of thanks to the Winter Pool

I think it’s probably most important to have your ears open when you are part of a movement, especially if you’re one of its more privileged members. I am white, I come from a middle-class family, I go to Cambridge. I don’t know in the slightest what it’s like to be a WoC, an economically impoverished woman, an LGBTQ+ woman. So, mouth shut, ears open on those issues.

Maybe it’s important to realise you’re being a bad feminist sometimes. Not feminist enough. To realise what you aren’t doing in a movement than to pat yourself on the back for what you are. And maybe to work on it rather than ignore what harm you might be doing.