On Feminism

As you may have deduced from the fact that in my previous post I mentioned that Caitlin Moran is one of my heroes, I am indeed, shock, horror, a feminist. As I type this at 3.45 on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, lightning flashes from out my window. Joking aside, of course I’m a feminist. I believe in equality for all human beings, therefore I’m one by default. It bothers me when people say “[they’re] not feminist, [they’re] humanist”, while not realising that that’s already a thing. Humanism is, according to Google (though it pains me to reference it as an academic), “a rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters”. Feminism is what deals with equality between the sexes, let’s put an end to that nonsensical argument. Feminism is for everyone, and a male feminist is therefore not a contradiction.

Back to Caitlin for a second (because I’m slightly in love with her). She has two simple rules for being a feminist: believe in equality for men and women, and don’t be a dick. It’s that simple. Everything else is a bonus. What issues are most important to you. What part of the patriarchy you consider most harmful. What you can do to help and change things. With 7 billion people in the world, all with their own ideals, morals, values and experiences, we could naturally end up with 7 billion types of feminism, if everyone in the world believed in it. They don’t, for reasons that are truly beyond me. But that could just be me being an idealistic sap. It’s not uncommon.

So the point of this post is to get across my own particular feminism, and what it means to me and why. Certainly part of it is down to my own role models throughout my life; my mother being the most obvious, and many of my tutors at university have inspired me, including Dr. Una Convery, my studies advisor. I’ve always found it difficult to relate to guys of my age as well and been mostly let down by adult men (apart from some schoolteachers and university lecturers), so I haven’t had the strong male role model that people say young boys need. Unless, of course, you count Atticus Finch, and I suspect fictional characters are off the table. Shame.

So with that in mind, and the fact that I simply have more female than male friends, one starts to easily recognise sexist bullshit and get rather annoyed about it. It hurts me to see people I respect and care about treated like second-class citizens for nothing more than the chromosomes they were born with, and then you extrapolate that to women all over the world going through the same shit every day.

Of course, I know what it’s like to be treated as a second-class citizen. Ridiculed and bullied by society for something I have no control over and discriminated against for it. Legislation to help people like me has been blocked in this country, meaning those in power are keeping people like me down. Autism and all that. There are, of course, fundamental differences between misogyny and ableism, but that is beside my point.

So what is feminism to me then? Well, apart from something to give the people I love the respect they deserve in society, I find the patriarchy crushing to men as well, though in different ways. From the moment you’re born, you’re told that this is what a man is, and this is what a woman is. Going outside those boundaries marks you as strange, different, and open to ridicule. I don’t enjoy sport. I find beer disgusting; I prefer cocktails. I love the theatre in all its forms, especially musical theatre. I’m easily frightened. I don’t buy into competitive culture and the stereotypical “locker room talk” about girls and trying to pull as many as possible. That machismo sickens me. I cry easily and am a very emotional person. In short, I’m the opposite of that stereotypical man, and because of it, I’m seen as strange and told to “man up”. A highly damaging phrase. Men don’t talk about their feelings or issues, they just suck it up and get on with things, despite how incredibly awful that is for the psyche and mental health. But it’s ok, because that’s what a man is. Ignore the fact that the suicide rate for men is 5 times higher than women. I was sexually assaulted at a party in late 2012. I didn’t find out for a year and a half. Everyone seemed to find it absolutely hilarious. A harmless prank. It’s fine, because it was just “lad banter”. Men don’t get sexually assaulted after all.

Fuck. That. Shit.

I know damn well that I deserve better treatment than that. I’m different and that’s just fine. What happens to me should be treated as seriously as it should for anyone else. I’ve done my best to be a good person, and not fitting into stereotypes does nothing to change that. If you think it does? If you think I need to “man up” or “be a man” about these things? Fuck you. Just fuck you.

My feminism is about breaking stereotypes like this for both men and women, saying it’s ok not to fit into those boxes. Combating sexual assault to make sure that it’s treated with real weight and shown to be unacceptable in all forms against all people. Finally, body image. You’re beautiful regardless of your size or shape, and there are more important things in life anyway.

I apologise for not really mentioning some of the bigger issues to feminism. Abortion, domestic violence etc. These things are of course important to me as well. But this is my personal feminism. The issues that are closest to home for me and the ones I feel most strongly about. I’d encourage you to think about the issues that affect you most and what you can do about them. I’m still trying to work that part out, personally. But sure, that’s life. Always working out what’s next after all. But yes, those are my extended ramblings on my feminism. Again, to quote Caitlin Moran’s rules of feminism: believe in equality between the sexes, and don’t be a dick.

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