#becausefeminism

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The next time a man I barely know sits at the dinner table in my mother’s house and jokes derisively that he has a feminism filter on his web browser, it will be a miracle if I don’t kick him in the dick.

‘What kind of magazine?’ he asked me in mock confusion, having heard exactly what I had said.

‘A feminist web zine’ I said. Again. ‘It’s called The Hairpin.’

‘Oh, well I don’t know about that. Will I even be able to access that?’

Then he chuckled contentedly at his funny, funny joke.

We had been discussing, of all things, how to remove water stains from wooden surfaces. My housemate had supplied the answer, sourced (as is all excellent cleaning advice) from ‘Ask a Clean Person’, a long-running column on cheerfully feminist web zine, The Hairpin.
Aside from myself, sitting at the table were my two housemates, my mother, her friend and the aforementioned man. Mum’s friend and this guy were also having an on again off again affair.
My mentioning the word feminism, even in this incredibly casual and tangential context was enough to stop his speech, widen his eyes and produce the mock-shocked ejaculation described above.

Not wanting to be impolite to my mother’s guests, I refrained from the full verbal shanking that I might otherwise have delivered. I was actually still pretty rude, earning myself a subtle ‘stop that Rebecca’ look from my mother, but true to form, this man’s blind arrogance allowed him to completely miss my not-even-remotely-veiled snark.

If I had been subtitled on that evening (for the benefit of the hearing impaired and also the profoundly bigoted), they might have read something like this:

How can you, an (apparently) intelligent and educated man sit comfortably as the only be-testicled guest in a room full of women and so casually and arrogantly deride feminism? Even with the excuse of ignorance that your generation so frequently employs, how can you suggest that Feminism is one big terrible, embarrassing, radical faux pas?

You are sitting at a table with a woman who raised two kids single-handedly. I’m one of them. Without feminism, she would not have been able, or even ALLOWED to do that. She would have been shunned and stigmatised for even wanting to leaver her husband. We might have been taken away and raised by a properly married couple.
You have two daughters. Do you know why they have jobs? Because feminism. Do you know why they could leave their husbands if their husbands hit them? Feminism. Do you know why the police would arrest their husbands if they accused them of domestic violence instead of refusing to become involved in ‘people’s private business’? Feminism.
Do you why they were able to attend university? Feminism.
Do you know why you and your lover are able to have an affair without her facing ostracism, or even threat of death? Feminism.
Do you know why you get to use contraception and have a greatly reduced risk of contracting STIs and accidental children?
Do you know why my mum is allowed to own this property?
Do you know why women are allowed to own any property?
Do you know why we can drive, or even ride a bike?
Do you know why we can goddamn vote?
Do you know why your girlfriend is able to wear a stretchy dress and bare feet right now? Why I am able to wear pants? Why any of us can breathe and eat comfortably in our clothing? Why we can walk easily in our shoes? Why our feet, or even our genitals are not subject to ritual mutilation?
Why I could choose, of my own free will to not marry a bigoted, inconceivably arrogant airbag twice my age who condescends to tell me how ludicrous my ideas about basic human rights are?

Because Feminism. You fucking douche-canoe.

Shaving and Success: When does feminist practice compromise feminist ideology?

When I first fell down the feminism rabbit hole in my early years at university I, and my classmates, were encouraged to apply our new-found ideology to our lives in whichever ways we felt comfortable.
My story was one which I’m guessing was mirrored by many other twenty-somethings; I stopped shaving and wearing makeup, avoided binding clothes and ditched heels. I also had some pretty uncomfortable conversations with my then boyfriend and learnt the hard way that ‘feminist’ is still a dirty word.
I eventually reached peak in my ‘radicalness’ (which I suspect some would rather refer to as ‘militarism’) and began to wind back many of the changes I had made. I started to wear makeup again, grew my hair and stopped yelling at men on trains who unwittingly invaded the personal space of their female co-passengers.*
Some changes however, I kept; I haven’t worn a pencil skirt or a pair of heels since 2007 except when in costume.

The truth is, that whilst I still appreciate the theory behind many of these feminist practices, they are not always, well, practical.
I recently had a discussion with a woman that I was friends with back when we share gender studies classrooms – she is undertaking a masters of law now and has recently started shaving her legs again. Some of her feminist friends have given her shit for it, but the reality is that she simply cannot expect to advance professionally if she continues not to.
“But that’s FUCKED!!” you say, “fight the power!”
And oh how I agree. But where do you draw the line between damning the man and damaging your opportunities? If wearing mascara and skirt is necessary to get you into the boardroom, then is it more important to take a stand and be left outside than to access your potential to be chairing the fucking meeting, skirt and all?
Because the way I see it, the end-game of feminism is to achieve equality. Pretty basic. But it appears that the path to success is paved with compromise, and sometimes I’m not sure whether the practice is still truly feminist if it prevents the end result.

I have no answers here. A part of me sees frightening parallels between the above and the argument that women should exploit their own sexual objectification in order to gain power. Which I do not endorse.
So tell me blogosphere: what kinds of compromises do you make to get by in the actual fucking RL? And what will you not change for anyone, anytime?

 

*Total bullshit, I still yell at people on trains.

Why is your blog called Very Bad Apple?

I sometimes experience mild to reasonably aggressive attacks on my ‘outspoken nature’, which is how my parents and conservative acquaintances like to politely refer to the fact that I am A Feminist. I happen to nanny two children three times a week (girl, 11; boy, 13) and it was suggested that perhaps I should keep my ideas about gender equality more or less to myself whilst in their company.

I was duly irritated by this advice, but of course understood the concern that the girl might grow to have healthy self-image and a sense of opportunity or that the boy could potentially foster positive respect for women and homosexuals. I certainly wouldn’t want offspring of mine to be comfortable with themselves or others.

This is not the first time, and I suspect it will not be the last, that I am treated as a Bad Apple. Feminism (and really any socially progressive thought or attitude) is in my experience,  often treated as a dangerous contagion that should be kept away from the young, the old and those with “delicate constitutions” (read: women). Because it would be really awkward and horrible if even more females thought they were entitled to shit.

I happen to think that all ties in quite nicely with the concept of Eve. That bitch messed some shit UP. Apparently.

I guess I should note at this point that I possess neglible faith of any variety, but as I understand it, this alleged first lady was supposed to be responsible for introducing all subsequent ladies to a world of pain. How typical of a woman – they are always poking their noses in where they’re not wanted, and wanting things they’re not supposed to have, like knowledge, equity and tasty, tasty apples.

Personally, I kind of like the idea that I might infect others with The Feminism – spoiling the whole bunch as it were. I also think that Eve might not be such a bad origin of species for the ladies after all. Some may call it temptation, but I think she wanted more out of life, suspected the omnipotent sky-being was keeping it hidden, and went looking for it (the nosy bitch!). If it weren’t for her, I might not be eternally cursed with things like willpower, beer, and oral sex. I might also not be required to suffer through the large baby/small birth canal situation, but hey – you win some, you lose some. And besides, Eden sounds fucking boring to me.