Monday, 15 August 2011

Feminism is not a dirty word.

Hello, hello!

I'm finally back from all of my travelling and galavanting about... I'm shattered but its been amazing. First off, let me recommend that you try and find a time when you do a few days of travelling solo. There's something incredible about travelling on your own, especially via public transport. You get to meet so many more interesting people than you do when travelling in a group or even in a pair - you instantly become more approachable... obviously it's important to stay safe when travelling solo (maybe I'll turn this into a longer blog post at some point) but seriously, go do it. I ended up chatting a a Brazilian guy who'd just been travelling in Sweden, a Slaughterhouse worker who does photography in his spare time and read The Sun purely for Fabulous magazine, a nice man who was intrigued by the unique colour of my dress, some wonderfully tattoo'd PHD students, a whole group of amazingly crazy silly people that looked after me for a whole weekend, two fantastic London based feminists who I bonded with over burger choices and an extremely interesting socialist-anarchist-feminist whilst waiting for our far too late trains. I possibly missed some people out there, but you get the idea. You travel solo, you meet amazing, random people.

I'm probably going to bring you a few blog posts about the stuff that went on at the Uk Feminista Summer School I've just been to - there was so much to take in and I'm still trying to process half of it. I filled an entire notebook and that doesn't include some of the random conversations and action planning things that happened.

I doubt anyone from Uk Feminista is reading this, but if they are, I really want to thank them for making this a free event. I mean, what can you get for free these days? Really not that much... but a whole weekend of listening to amazingly inspiring speakers?! Incredible.

Over the course of the weekend, I had the chance to attend 9 sessions on various aspects of feminism... some I found incredibly inspiring and useful, others less so. I know a list isn't the most interesting thing to read, but to give you some idea of the variety on offer, this is what I attended: Feminist Resistance: the past, present and future of activism; Every Movement needs a Front Line: the role of non-violent direct action in feminism; How to do.... Non-violent Direct Action; Women and the Revolution; what the Arab Spring holds for women; Under Attack: defending women's reproductive rights; How to... run an effective campaign; Activism in Theory and Practice: from research to the "real world";  All in It Together? How the cuts are hitting women hardest; The Global Struggle: International Feminist Resistance. See why my brain is exploding now?

For me, one of the most empowering things about this weekend was being able to see first hand that feminists really don't have a specific mould that they fit into. I mean I knew that, but I figured I'd be rejected because I'm not "feminist enough". Stupid right? But also totally understandable - I think any philosophy  that you're choosing to adopt can induce such fear. What if someone asks you a question that you can't answer? What if you need to defend yourself and can't? What if the Feminism police decide you're not good enough to be representing their ranks? Screw it I say. If someone has an issue with what you're choosing to believe in, that's their problem, not yours. It's SO incredibly important that we take a pro-active stance in not just our futures, but in the futures of the future generations. The rioting last week has only highlighted the need for change in our society.

I think it's crucial that we stop thinking of Feminism as a dirty word - we need to stop thinking of it as something negative and separatist and as something that's important to people of all genders, all backgrounds, all people everywhere. Don't be afraid to call yourself a feminist. Don't worry about what people will think - it doesn't mean you're crazy. It doesn't (necessarily) mean you're a troublemaker. It doesn't mean you have to fit yourself into a certain box or proforma of what a Feminist looks like or how a Feminist acts. It doesn't mean you have to start going on protests or reading lengthy academic texts. It does mean that you care about the need for equality for all, about fairness, about basic human rights. I can see no reason for a logical, rational person to not claim the word Feminist for themselves.

I'm going to leave you with two quotes from the weekend that have really struck me:

"When someone asks "Why are you a Feminist?", your reply should be "Why aren't you?" - Rosalind Miles (Men, this applies to you too)

"If you aren't on the table, you're on the menu" - Really, really important for us to think about. Where are we as women when the decisions are being made about our futures? If we don't speak up and speak out, we'll just get devoured in the process.

Would you call yourself a Feminist? If not, why not?


  1. I'd happily call myself a feminist if it's defined as the pursuit of fairness and equality for all. I'm concerned that feminism is too often perceived as an 'excuse' (for want of a better word) for women to do as they please and ask for preferential treatment. Case in point: Unfortunately I'm inclined to agree with a lot of what this man says. I think the definition of feminism as you describe it needs to be made clearer to a lot of people. People think feminism is what the guy in this video talks about.

  2. I hesitate to describe myself as a feminist only where it is misunderstood - ie, away from the middle class. I believe strongly in egalitarian values, which (in my reading of feminism) is the same thing.

    I'm not usually one to argue the toss over terminology, but I think many men are turned off by the term 'feminist', because (when taken in its proper meaning) it still identifies equality with women, not with men - as though masculinity is inherently unequal and unjust. As a man, I find that implication insulting and patronising, and I know many men who, on a gut level, feel the same.

    Such mis-labelling is a shame, because I am a feminist. It's just that I can't be bothered with a 20 minute argument over definitions whenever the term comes up, and I suspect that there are many men who, on having 'feminism' explained to them as being about empowerment and equality , would probably say 'oh yeah, I believe that'.

    I think the term is inappropriate, but the aim? How can one argue with equality and empowerment?

  3. Great to hear you got a lot out of the summer school Emily. It's great that you have lost the feeling of being 'not feminist enough.' Having studied modules on Feminism and Gender & SExuality at University, I wrote my final dissertation on gender representations in East Asian Cinema. Sadly, many still have a narrow and ignorant view of what feminism is. I think to even have an awareness of the many discourses surrounding feminisim is very enlightening and the more people are made aware of this the better.

  4. I really have no patience with people who say either "I'm not a feminist, but...", "I'm a feminist but not one of those..." and so on.

    Feminism is the belief that all people are equal and deserve to be so. It has nothing to do with what people THINK a feminist or feminism is (in many cases), but I'm sure you know that so I'm not going to preach.

    It sounds like an awesome weekend! I would love to go to something similar. I also agree with the travelling alone part. I really love being on my own in a new city, and get to explore it at my own pace. People should do it much more often.


Your comments and thoughts are really appreciated :) Thank you for taking the time to chat xx