Recently, I’ve had time to read and my genre du jour is feminism in the modern-day. I wanted to challenge my mindset that feminism is about chopping up bras, hating men and protesting over unequal pay (although I fully support this cause, obviously). As well as talking with friends and females in my family, my education on feminism in 2017 consists of five books so far:
- Sex Object by Jessica Valenti
- Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran
- Man Up by Jack Urwin (although not about feminism, it tells the story of being a male in the modern day; I’m all for hearing both sides of the story)
- Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon and
- The Sex Lives of English Women by Wendy Jones.
Currently, I’ve read the first two and am halfway through ‘Man Up’.
Nearly everything(*) has
* Nearly everything because, as you will read, some comments contradict others because I’m conflicted in my views.
I’m ashamed to say it’s taken 25 years, but it’s better late than never, right?
It’s like a light bulb has been switched on, or, as a friend so aptly put it,
Once you see it, you can’t un-see it.
Having many male friends, a few boyfriends and many male housemates in the past, I’ve learnt that guys can be just as bitchy as girls. No, not bitchy – judgey. Many guys often give unsolicited advice to girls, ‘Oh she’d get it, if only she lost some weight off her waist’ and, ‘I’d definitely bang her, but she should sort her nose out first’. Or a favourite of mine:
She’s in the large group of women I’d sleep with and also in the much smaller group of women I’d masturbate over.
Firstly, who asked for your opinion? Certainly not the girls living in this house. Secondly, excusing these comments as ‘lad-banter’ is not an excuse at all. It’s allowing this sort of talk to continue and some people believe it’s giving the impression that girls are there for the amusement of men. But there’s an issue with this argument. As a female, I can’t go around objecting to men commenting on the appearance of women if I’m a woman who ignores everyone else in the kitchen, stares at the TV, mouthing ‘phwoar!‘ every time Tom Hardy comes on the screen. Yet many people would argue that ‘objectification of men’ isn’t the same as ‘objectification of women’. (Jack Urwin, the author of Man Up, commented that to assume they are the same thing ignores the historical impact of female oppression). When I stare at Tom Hardy (and Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Evans as Captain America, Tom Hiddleston and Daniel Craig as James Bond), I’m admiring them: I won’t comment on how they could be improved. One element of ‘lad culture’ is the attitude that women are playthings to amuse men. My male housemates found it hilarious to re-name my number in their phones as a variation of my surname, mixed with a gross word for a vagina. I laughed it off and joined in the jokes about it, but it’s struck a nerve. It hasn’t upset me as such, but it’s certainly pissed me off. And the sad thing is, if I confront them about this, I’d be laughed at and told to ‘not be a pussy’ – an issue in itself.
Yet, despite my new-found knowledge, I feel conflicted.
I don’t want to feel I need to dress-up, or put make-up on, or wear heels, or do my hair for anyone. But I do this anyway. It’s not because I need male attention; sometimes it’s for myself or so that people know I value my appearance, but more often than I care to admit, it’s so I receive positive affirmations from others about how I look. It’s not a requirement for self-worth; it’s a bonus, a booster to my existing confidence; it’s vain. It’s not really okay, and I don’t think it’s okay to admit it, but it’s true. Walking into a shop last week I asked the retail assistant standing by the door where I could find skipping ropes. He was attractive (and helpful) and he rather obviously eyed me up and down and smiled. It’s worth noting, this wasn’t in a pervy, creepy way, rather a sexy, seductive way. Part of me wanted to object to this: surely I can’t be a feminist and accept this kind of shit from men?! But then again, I liked it. It made me feel good about myself.
I’m fortunate that how I perceive myself doesn’t hinge on this attention from men (or women, to be fair), but I find it helps to have that little compliment to validate my opinion of myself. That’s probably not something I should be admitting..?
However, I’m happily single and owning it. I’m enjoying being 25 and making the most of all Brighton has to offer, as well as strengthening my social life and going on dates. So as much as I don’t need a man or his opinion, if a wonderful man came into my life (opinions and compliments abound) I don’t think I’d object.
My new, literary-based education on feminism in 2017 has completely changed the way I see being a feminist. It’s not chopping up bras or hating men, it’s about equality and not just with a political agenda. Objectification of women can be so much more subtle and less malicious than I previously thought. It’s so much closer to home and it can easily be caught up in ‘lad culture’. Recently, I’ve raised my guard: I was borderline rude (standoffish?) during a recent date – you don’t get to ask about what turns me on, you can’t make a joke over how I used to want to be a sex therapist and you certainly cannot ask me for a kiss.
It seems the dating game just got tougher.
I hope this will weed out the piss-of-shit blokes.