Recently I read a book called Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates, and it is such a brilliant and important read. Everyone should read it. Everyone.
It sparked a lot of things in me, it made me feel angry, more than anything. Angry that as a woman, this is the world I have been brought into and this is the world I now live in. It informed me of many things I was aware of, but not well informed about, and now that I have been well informed, I feel fiercer and angrier than ever.
These things have never been said about me (to my knowledge) but I assume that people (misogynistic men) would refer to me as what they call, a “raging feminist”.
And I am I suppose, because I’m passionate about what I believe in. I’m fierce in standing up for women and I will not back down. I’m not a white feminist, I’m not an “I hAtE mEn” feminist, I am an intersectional feminist who wants equality for women. End of story.
That’s what feminism is. People who believe that feminists are people who hate men have clearly been identifying the word with the wrong people. That is not feminism. Feminists don’t hate men, they just want to be equal to them. When you hear men and their fragile masculinity claiming they hate feminists, what they’re actually saying is that they hate the thought (and feel threatened by the fact) that these men-hating feminists want to essentially overthrow mens’ power and take over from them. Like I said, that isn’t feminism but it more than shows that men know exactly which sex has more privilege yet they continue to sit their in their privilege and do nothing to prevent sexism anyway.
Something I want to talk about is the idea that feminists are angry, rage-filled women who can’t take a joke. That’s the image that instantly comes to my mind when I think of the word “feminist” because that’s the label society has created for it. When I introduce myself to people as a feminist, my first thought is that they think I’m angry and uptight and essentially, not very fun to be around because you’ll have to “watch what you say” in case I explode in a rage-filled feminist rant. How about you, you know, just don’t say anything sexist and we’ll get along just fine. Too hard for you?
The other day, a guy (who I did not know) called me sweetheart in the most condescending way. This guy was from London, and when I proceeded to tell him that “sweetheart” in that tone doesn’t wash with me, he told me I should never come to London then where “horrible men say nice things to me” and should instead stay at home where I’ll be safe. This wasn’t a colloquialism from him, he was simply just trying to be condescending. It might be a shock, but I’m intelligent enough to know the difference. He then told me that I needed help for getting angry over the word sweetheart.
I’ll tell you why words like sweetheart, sweetie, love etc. are condescending in that context.
When someone you don’t know calls you these things, they’re automatically asserting their power and dominance over you because usually these words would only be exchanged between people you’re familiar and comfortable with. I don’t like this. When I call them out on it and say hey, I don’t think so? I’m branded angry, crazy, and someone who can’t take a joke.
I can take a fucking joke. Anyone who knows me would probably call me one of the funniest people they know. The ironic thing is that these Trump-voting men who clearly have a shitty sense of humour since they’re sexist and probably think racist jokes are funny, have the audacity to say us women are the ones who don’t have a sense of humour when we don’t accept their sexist jokes. Hilarious.
If somebody in a natural way calls me sweetheart, either through colloquialisms or just because it’s a natural part of their vocabulary, or even because I’m upset for example and they say something like “It’s okay, sweetheart”, am I going to call them out on it? Of course not. Why? Because shock horror, I’m not crazy! They did nothing wrong. The issue isn’t necessarily about the word itself, it’s about the person saying it, the context, and the tone in which they use it. There’s a difference between someone saying “Are you okay, sweetheart?” and “Alright sweetheart what’s your number?”. As I just said, it might be a shock to some people that we’re you know, conscious beings with a brain, but women do actually have the ability to tell the difference between the two. Amazing. I would actually be able to go to London and survive the terrible people using this word whenever they speak to me! As I have done every single time I’ve been to London thus far in my life. A pat on the back for me.
Another thing is that lately I’ve been wearing more makeup to work. Why? Not like I even need to provide a reason because it’s my choice and my business, but it’s simply because I’ve been getting up earlier in the mornings and therefore have more time to get ready, therefore allowing me more time to do my makeup, meaning I put more on.
Will any man at work accept this as a truthful answer?
There’s currently some kind of rumour circulating that I have a boyfriend, or I’m dating someone…or basically that there’s some “mystery guy” now in my life, simply because of the fact I’ve been wearing more makeup.
Of course, every time I’ve heard this through the grapevine or have been asked directly (too many times) I’ve shut it down. When I present the idea that hey, maybe a girl just wants to wear makeup for you know, her own damn self?? I’m scoffed at and told “yeah yeah, we’ll find out who he is soon”.
The other day, a fully grown man entered my office and outright asked me if I had a boyfriend. The conversation went like this:
Him: Hey so uh, do you have a boyfriend?
Me: Did (insert name here) tell you that?
Him: Well I just heard it around so I thought I’d ask.
Him: I was just curious.
Me: No I don’t, and even if I did it’s no one’s business. I don’t understand why everyone keeps asking me this?
Him: Well you know, it’s because…
Me: I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for people to comprehend the fact that I might just be wearing makeup for my own self. I don’t understand why people can’t grasp the concept of someone just wanting to change…by themselves, for themselves. I can’t believe everyone thinks that in order for a girl to change their physical appearance in any way, shape or form, it has to be because of a man, or for a man.
Him (panicking): Oh no no I wasn’t trying to say anything! I was just asking about the boyfriend that’s all, nothing else-
Me: No you weren’t. You’ve heard the rumour from other people (men) and have thought you know what, that sounds like a plausible idea! I think I’ll believe it because it also makes sense in my man-brain. Let me ask her about it because that’s perfectly okay.
Anyway, the conversation (if you could call it that) ended with him standing there staring at me with saucer eyes looking like he’d just had his head bitten off, which I suppose he had, because I was fed up and annoyed. Was I a bit “ragey” with him? Yes. Do I have every right to feel and act that way though? Yes. It shut him up anyway and I haven’t heard anything else since, so job done in my opinion.
These are the things that get myself, and many other women, labelled as “raging feminists who can’t take a joke”. The thing is, sexism isn’t a joke. Just like racism and homophobia isn’t a joke. I don’t know why when it comes to women and sexism we seem to think that there’s an exception – oh wait, because we live in a sexist world and society that was built by men, for men – that’s why.
It’s like you’re constantly fighting a losing battle because people just label you as angry and crazy – they feel like they have to tiptoe on eggshells around you and watch what they say. If you’re worried about being surrounded by people whom sexism doesn’t wash with because you’re going to have to watch what you say, maybe the problem is you. Has anyone ever thought about that? Maybe you should be changing your own thought process and vocabulary. If you have to tiptoe around us and be careful about what comes out of your mouth, I think that’s a you problem. There’s nothing wrong with me.
A lot of girls and women simply don’t speak up because they want to please men. He says something sexist that you don’t like? I’ll just laugh it off because I don’t want him to think I’m a “raging feminist”. I don’t want him to suddenly find me unattractive because I stand up for myself. I don’t want him to think I’m “crazy”. The horror! I’ll just sit here and laugh along instead so he “knows I can take a joke”.
And that’s the worst part. We’re still feeding the idea that we as women are here to serve and cater to men. Women are not fucking here for men. We’re here for our own damn selves. If you stand up for yourself and his misogynistic ass calls you crazy and says you can’t take a joke, guess what?? Bullet dodged! Move on! Find a decent person instead! Not a sexist prick who has no respect for you!
We’re the ones that are hurt, yet we’re the ones that have to do the comforting. We say nothing because we’re worried about offending them! If someone gets offended because you stand up for the way they’ve just insulted you…if someone gets annoyed because you won’t let them disrespect you like that…is that someone you want to be around? Is that someone you want to be dating? Having children with? Raising your daughters with? Raising them to have the same mindset as? To believe that they’re here to serve men? That they shouldn’t stand up for themselves because if they show they have intelligence and a personality men won’t like them ??
Never. on. this. Earth.
If a man is sexist towards me or other women and I call them out on it and they get offended, I could not give a flying fuck about whether they like me or not. The idea that we have to be validated and approved by men in that way is a whole separate issue anyway, but the fact of the matter is, why would I even want to be liked by someone like that?? It’s a no from me.
When I find myself talking to men who don’t share this mindset and actually listen to what I have to say and understand where I’m coming from, it’s like I want to encase them in gold and present them to the Gods and say hallelujah !! It’s a miracle ! A decent man ! What a rare gem !
Which is pathetic and is the reason we praise men for doing the bare minimum in the first place. A man who respects women ?? Marry him right now! He’s a keeper!
Ridiculous. But true. And something I’ve been guilty of in the past that I always have to snap myself out of and say Chloe, this man is not Jesus Christ himself. He’s just a decent human being. Shocking, I know. But don’t praise him for giving you the basic respect you deserve. If a man gives me a compliment I’m expected to fall to my knees worshipping the ground he walks on because obviously he’s expecting (and obviously deserves) something in return right? He compliments me and I’m supposed to what, reward him for it?
I don’t think so. If a man compliments me and I don’t “give him anything in return” for it and he thinks I’m a snobby pretentious bitch because of it? So be it. Guess what, I don’t care. I don’t owe you anything.
Women do not owe men anything.
Never ever, forget that.
Here are my favourite excerpts from everyday sexism – something I would push you all to read, something that everyone should read because it’s so important.
We mistake prejudice for being witty.
There is a common excuse that sexism isn’t a problem because ‘women can handle it’. Yes, some can, but the point is that they shouldn’t have to!
Rape is not a sexual act; it is not the result of a sudden, uncontrollable attraction to a woman in a skimpy dress. It is an act of power and violence.
The correlation between humourlessness and people trying to talk about sexism is strong in the public consciousness – since starting the Everyday Sexism Project I’ve become painfully aware of it. There’s an almost absurd lack of questioning on this subject: people who have known me for years have suddenly refused to tell jokes in front of me in case I’m ‘offended’; others have expressed sympathy with my boyfriend on the basis that he probably now has to ‘watch what he says’.
This idea of the humourless feminist is an incredibly potent and effective silencer. It is used to isolate and alienate young girls; to ridicule and dismiss older women, to force women in the workplace to ‘join in the joke’
Most people’s concept of what a leader is has been a male stereotype of somebody who is having power over rather than empowering people.
One frustrating consequence of women being underrepresented in politics is that often any woman is seen first and foremost to represent all women, as if she speaks and advocates for them, and can be judged as if all womankind stands or falls by her actions.
Each time a girl sees science toys under a ‘boys’ sign, she is told science is not suitable for her.
It’d be really fun if you saw a princess with baggy jeans on and a normal jumper and normal weight, but then people would say that’s not a princess.
The word, ‘banter’, has become central to a culture that encourages young men to revel in the objectification, sexual pursuit and ridicule of their female peers – it is a cloak of humour and irony that is used to excuse mainstream sexism and the normalisation and belittling of rape and intimate-partner violence. And it is incredibly effective, because – as we know – pretending that something is ‘just a joke’ is a powerful silencing tool, making those who stand up to it seem staid and isolated.
It is most striking of all that in a debate that revolves almost entirely around the concept of ‘humanity’ there is so very little humane thought given to women at all.
In the case of our trans sisters, who some feminists believe should be excluded from some areas of the movement by virtue of not fulfilling required ‘characteristics’ of womanhood – a deep irony for a group fighting for equality regardless of sex.
One of the main reasons inequalities exist is because we’re scared and one of the things we have to overcome is the fear of ‘what do I have to lose if someone is as equal as I am?’
It comes down to defence of privilege. A lot of it seems to stem from the feeling that something which is rightfully theirs is at risk of being snatched away – whether that is the right to see Page 3 or lads’ mags, the right to make rape jokes, the right to sexually proposition women or whatever.
We teach men that it is their job to be strong, and macho and masculine, that women should be treated as objects, and that putting girls down, or harassing them, or making sexist jokes, is a way for men to prove their manliness, particularly to one another.
I see it as my maternal duty to guard her against all of this. If it takes my last breath I will use it to tell her that she can be as great as she wants to be, that she should never accept less because she is female and that she is equal to any man that she ever meets. I will not allow her glorious nature to suffer because the world cannot accept that she is a girl and a woman.
All my love,