I consider myself a feminist. That shouldn’t be a shocking statement these days, but, as I’m learning, apparently it is.
A feminist is:
Someone who believes that people should be treated equally regardless of their self-assigned gender, or lack thereof.
A feminist is not:
A man hater.
Ok, so now we’ve cleared that up. I’ll continue…
I make a conscious effort to do my part in advocating feminism. I do this in a variety of ways. I think it is an act of feminism to speak out about sensitive issues, as this is deemed “brave”, and sadly that is seen as a “male” trait. I work as a teacher of Maths and am interested in historically “male” topics such as politics, science and history. I am mindful that my appearance is not for the male gaze. I am not a better nor worse “half” of a whole. And depending on my mood, I will call out sexism as I hear it.
I have an enormous amount of inspirational women in my life, and both my dad and my husband have always advocated for women and never made me feel like there was a ceiling to my potential. Glass or otherwise.
During my self-care challenge, I set the task of decluttering the newsfeed. It’s a constant drain if you have to see upsetting or worrying forms of sexism, or even worse, the perpetual subtleties of downplaying women, or lack of representation of women. I diversify my feed in order to get my role models from all intersections of society, and not just 98% through the prism of the white, rich, male schema.
So I guess I had fallen into a false sense of security, in thinking that everywhere was getting better. Representation of and honesty about, women. Women accepting the title of feminist without thinking they needed to grow their leg hair and burn a bra. Women supporting women.
And then the bubble bursts!
This week, a story emerged of a woman who had her throat slit, and was subsequently stabbed in a car park in Kent. Shocking isn’t it? And yet, it has not made headline news.
It was labeled “a domestic incident” rather than a murder, initially. A domestic incident is a red sock in the white wash, not a brutal and psychopathic killing.
When I mentioned this story with agog horror to some tutees and colleagues, the overwhelming response was “what did she do?”…. like there is a reasonable answer that would make people go, oh yeah alright then.
When I further postured: imagine if it were the other way round, I was met with words such as “psycho bitch”.
This was sadly not all from the males in the room. They say that women are their own worst enemy, and in this unscientific, anecdotal incident, they really were. Is femininity such a toxic trait that even women feel the need to disown it?
When the pictures came out of the murderer and the victim, the female was dressed nicely, as if posing before going out. I spoke to these people again, without comment.
“She looks like she’d be cheating on him”, “Cock-tease”, and “slag”. Classic victim blaming, am I right?
To further sink myself into misery, I looked at the facebook comments on the post. I know.
There were more people than I expected to have been genuinely shocked. So that is good. But there was a terrifying trend in the fact that she was attractive. It was constantly mentioned (mainly by women) that she was so beautiful and therefore it was even more of a waste.
Like it’s ok if she’s ugly?!
So then I continued down the rabbit hole and saw lots of people saying “why is this even being reported? 2 women a week die at the hands of their partners in a domestic killing”.
So there are a couple of points here to pick up on.
a). I get the point you’re making that it is happening all the time. But the alternative is not to share this at all, and risk people not being able to talk about the topic at all. It provides a place for people, like yourselves, to bring up these TERRIFYING statistics and make people listen.
b). I mean, I don’t think it’s an overstep to suggest that this is more reportable because it is a young, thin, white, blonde, classically attractive female? We are socially conditioned to think that these things are more desirable because they are always held up as the ideal.
So there we go.
I left my bubble and it was heartening in some respects, but mainly a terrifying display on how far we have to go, particularly in terms of the subtle or everyday sexism that doesn’t immediately jump out as sexist.
What can we do?
Be mindful of things we say. Recognise items of everyday sexism. Follow inspirational women who make you forget that they could ever be held back. Support other women! Never let the gender norms of particular things hold you back or disinterest you in things you want to do or achieve. Do not think that being a feminist means you have to be butch or not allowed to get your t*ts out or a man hater. It does not mean you need to stop binge watching Love Island. Do emphasise that being a feminist should be the default stance of everyone. It just means you actually care.
I’d love to hear your comments.