Greer on a Bike!
A v.broken attempt to explain my relationship with feminism. It’s all over t’shop – I do apologise…
During a recent house move, I happened upon many many things that I’d completely forgotten about, or had no recollection of acquiring (e.g. a crotchless thong. I mean, yea Gods! When? Why? What?). One of the more embarrassing things I found was a vitriolic article that I wrote during my first year at university when I suddenly felt grown up enough to have strong opinions, but had no idea what those opinions actually were; clearly, I had decided that the way to approach higher education was aggressively, but I hadn’t bothered to look any further into any subject on which I felt I should have an argument. I believed at the time that feminism was nothing more than unbridled man hating – a fallacy I’d picked up from the castaway comments of others (about feminists, not from the mouths of feminists) and my father. The article in question was about the decline of chivalry in men, in which I blamed… Goddess, forgive me… the feminist movement. Of course, I didn’t manage to consider the simple fact that the reason I was able to write such a thing, whilst sitting in the library of the university I had chosen mere months before, was because of the very cause I was condemning.
“These women have made a rod for their own backs,” I chuntered crossly. “Men are even too scared to hold doors open for us these days in case they get snapped at.”
Clearly, I had no notion of what any part of feminism actually was. I mean, when has any woman snapped at any man for holding a door open? Surely in a polite society, we all hold open doors for everyone and say thank you to everyone who holds doors open for us… Actually, that’s not true at all – some people are exceptionally rude and neither hold open doors nor thank others for doing so on their behalf – but I’m willing to bet that it is a v.rare occasion when someone actually pauses in their busy tracks to tell someone off for doing something nice for them. I’m also willing to bet that it would take a special kind of person to misconstrue such a gesture as “misogynistic”. It’s just utter rot. The whole article goes on spewing forth more bile-filled bullshit than I’ve ever had the misfortune to read before or since. It’s like reading the UKIP manifesto, minus the racism, only with the added shame of knowing that I brought it into being. And less than a decade ago, at that!
I had no idea back then that I was, actually, a feminist in disguise. Like a former smoker condemning those who smoke, I was stridently hiding who I was and censuring those who were like the woman I was inside. Subconsciously, I was petrified that one day the inner demon would show itself to others in full and they would realise what a freak I was. This has partly dissipated in that I do, on occasion, resemble a twelve year old boy, especially when I venture out without makeup on. But I trained myself so hard at being a girl that the penchant for dresses has stayed with me. Thus proving that feminists come in all shapes, sizes and outfits.
As a kid, I would climb trees and outrun the boys; I wore big boots on a daily basis and I vividly remember the year that I was crowned conker champion of Dinting Primary school. I say “crowned” – I was actually detained after school, because in demolishing my opponent’s conker, I’d accidentally smashed his knuckles. That’s just what you get for losing at the game, my friend. I was praised for being strong, too, as a young girl and I do have a grip like a vice. I used to play rubgy, for fuck’s sake. I remember, distinctly, telling my father that I wanted to be the first woman to wear the yellow jacket in the Tour de France. That was my aspiration for the future! I was eight! After cycling to work a couple of times, I feel that it was a tad overambitious, but at least I didn’t hanker to be a housewife. I also remember arguing vehemently that I would not get married. Ever. In fairness, I haven’t been down the aisle, but that’s only because when I lost my mind at the age of eighteen and started seeing the man I consciously made myself obsess over*, he was a bit startled by the crushing weight of my passion and backed off so far that, after three years, even I had to admit that he didn’t really love me in the slightest, let alone in the same unbridled, garish way in which I loved him. So, even though he did ask me to marry him during in one of my saner periods, that was clearly never going to work. And thank fuck for that. Because where the hell would I be now if it had? I literally just shuddered.
To cut a long and painful story short: I was trying too hard at being a girl and doing the whole falling-in-crazy-love-and-getting-married thing. It could have been because, at about the age of twelve, my mother sat me down and said: “If you’re gay, Emily, that’s ok, you know.” Which, thinking about it, was a v.progressive and amazing thing for her to have said and something that I will say to any children who are unlucky enough to have me as their mother. But, given that the general consensus in society around me was that being gay was inherently bad, I was horrified, immediately donned a skirt and accepted the offer to “go out” with a lad who’d been asking me to for ages. Perhaps it had something to do with fitting in at secondary school. Or maybe, just maybe, all the relationship propaganda took a hold of me and made me reject my own self so much that I overcompensated for my boyishness. I was so girly for a while that one of my best mates (male and gay) said that I was a gay man trapped in a woman’s body because I was so camp. I was a drag queen… a woman impersonating “Über Girl”.
TALKING OF CYCLING
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve just started cycling to work (this may be a short dalliance with the sport as it has now thoroughly fucked my right knee**). I v.much feel at one with fellow feminists in doing so, given that the suffragettes, much to the mounting horror of the men at the time, took to their bicycles to canvas for the female cause. I definitely think that the international logo of feminism should be Germaine Greer on a bike. In fact, it shall now be my new phrase to denote shock: “Greer on a bike!”
A STRONG INDEPENDENT WOMAN (AKA: The Mater)
My mother made me the feminist I am today. She’s not one for politics, really; well, she’s not shouty about politics like her daughter, should I say. My mother’s views made me understand, even from an early age, that I could do anything a boy could do. True to that philosophy, I discovered that I can even pee standing up… although, honestly, I don’t know why I would because my aim’s not great and I still have to strip from the waist down. I hasten to add that my mother didn’t teach me that little party piece.
Moving swiftly on. There once was an advert on TV for Ferrero Rocher. The advert goes like this:-
Scene opens on a dinner party: the host is sitting at the head of the table guffawing heartily with the guests and completely ignoring the woman in the evening dress, clearly his wife and the hostess, who is clearing the dirty dishes away (we can fairly assume that the metaphorical meal that was just “consumed” was also supposed to have been cooked by the hostess and not by the host). As she is about to walk away from the table, her husband turns to acknowledge her and instead of saying something nice like: “I’ll come and give you a hand,” or even “Thank you,” he says: “Darling. Go and get the Ferrero Rocher.” And instead of twatting the bastard over the head with the stack of plates she’s carrying, the hostess does what is demanded of her and all the guests laugh together and take some chocolate, and still no fucker says a single thank you.
Hands up if you remember that advert. Hands up in you remember that advert and remember either having a reaction to it other than a chocolate craving, or remember your mother screeching: “You go and get the bloody Ferrero Rocher, you selfish twat!” That’s what my Mum did. Every single time that advert came on. At the time, I didn’t understand it; I seem to remember thinking that that was just what happened in marriages. My mother, after all, did all the cooking, all the cleaning and all the child rearing whilst working a forty hour week that involved an hour’s commute each way every day, and wasn’t that just the same thing? Well, yes, it probably was – which is why she was so bloody cross about it.
THE FEMALE E. AND ME
I came late to Germain Greer’s Female Eunuch. In fact, it was a full fifty years after the book was published that I found myself buying a battered old, 1970s copy. I knew nothing about it – I’d barely heard of it before; there wasn’t a copy in our house, my father detests Germaine Greer and I had missed out on the module on gender at University (an omission I regret deeply, but feel I wouldn’t have appreciated back then anyway). I was expecting something dull and preachy, I think; but from the moment I first started to read, I realised what a mistake I’d been making all these years in denying my feminist core. Until that point, despite the fact that my inner feminist had been rising to the surface more and more often, I hadn’t named the beast. I’d gone right off marriage again in my mid twenties; I was living alone and I knew that I was strong, intelligent and capable of dealing with fuse boxes, rewiring a plug, changing a flat tyre, and anything else that would usually require “getting a man in.”
Reading the Female Eunuch did not make me a feminist in much the same way that Angelina Jolie did not make me bisexual: it merely pointed out the glaringly obvious fact that I already was a feminist. And, oh, I felt so free. Denying who you are makes you angry; it makes you a seething pile of bitter bile. Accepting that my views are, and always have been, distinctly feminist made me deliriously happy. I was not alone and I could come out: I AM A FEMINIST! Until I crashed back down to earth with the realisation that there was work to be done and precious time had been wasted on trying to be in love with men in the way that Disney*** and the chick flicks told me I should be.
I had to tell everyone.
Not everyone liked it.
I FEEL LUCKY THAT I HAVE NEVER BEEN RAPED
It is my utmost right to be able to wear whatever the hell I want and not have to consider, when looking in the mirror to inspect the outfit, how much it might make someone want to have sex with me against my will. These days, being a ripe old thirty year old, my hem lines have gone from mini to midi and my necklines have risen to boat necks or saucy off the shoulder numbers. This is more a change in my fashion sense than my legs (which are always slim, even when the rest of me is not – ah genetics), so if, on occasion, I want to hoik that skirt up to my sizeable boo-hoo-tay, show off my sturdy legs and shake that bee-hind in a bar, I really don’t think that anyone should suddenly decide that they are a) allowed to touch me, or b) consider me to be “gagging for it.” I tell you now: I am not gagging for it and I am not yours to penetrate. Is everything you see yours? Do you put your penis into every hole you see? No – so don’t put it in me unless I expressly request that you do so. And if I’m showing my hole at all (heaven forbid), maybe just whisper at me to pull my skirt down a bit, if you’d be so kind.
A worrying number of women feel lucky that they have never been raped; it’s not just me. I also feel lucky that I have, to date, never properly been mugged, never knocked off my push bike by a bell end of a white van driver, and never been hit by a bus, but those things are not the product of a man considering a woman so worthless a creature that he can stick his cock, or anything else for that matter, into an orifice on her body. Surely, in what we consider civilised society, a woman should be able to walk down the same street a man does without the added worry of wondering if that man is going to try to feel her up on the way past, let alone force her into sexual intercourse with him. Equally, a woman should be able to go to a party with people she knows, flirt to her heart’s content and pass out in the corner without waking up to find herself naked from the waist down.
WALKING PAST GROUPS OF MEN IN THE STREET IS GENERALLY HORRIBLE
A couple of years ago, I was wearing a short dress. I’d been out for a few drinks and was on my way home when I passed a group of lads who were walking in the opposite direction.
“Do you smell fish?” one of them said. I thought it was an odd thing to say, but realised that it was directed at me. I just carried on walking. I sensed that the group of lads had stopped.
“Yeah – I definitely smell fish,” said another one. It still hadn’t quite dawned on me what they were talking about. I carried on walking (I was wearing heels, so I wasn’t walking as quickly as I might have).
“Yeah,” joined in another lad. “Someone’s wearing a short skirt, ey?”
I was shaking with sheer rage by the time I reached the train station. I hadn’t said anything in response; I just flounced off instead. But I’m willing to bet that if I had said something, I’d have been accused of not having a sense of humour.
It makes me so mad when a man can patronise me for being an “inferior” female in one breath, and in the next say things like: “Well, a man has needs. We still have animal instincts.” So, what you’re saying is that we women that need to be spoken down to (because we can’t possibly have any intelligence in our tiny little lady brains) also need to accept that, even though we manage to keep our baser instincts in check, you can’t? That may have been acceptable during the dark ages, but you need to man up in this day and age, fella, and act like a civilised human being if you want to be treated like one!
I appreciate that rape happens in gay culture too. One of my best friends is a gay man; he went to the toilet in a club once with the intention of copping off. He was raped. How on earth do you report to the police that you went into club toilets for some consensual sex and ended up having non-consensual sex? You don’t – it would be pointless – you carry on drinking and try to forget the dull throbbing of your torn anus. Sad state of affairs.
I’ve also been told that women raping men is becoming more of a “thing,” although my understanding falls down on the logistics of this. Surely that’s worse in some respects, because it would take quite a lot of planning, wouldn’t it? Rape is penetrative by definition. Having recently spoken to a barrister about this, I have discovered that rape is defined by the penetration of any orifice of another person with any part of your body for longer than a set period of time (I’m sorry – I can’t remember the minutiae) without the other person’s consent. It’s the intrusion into another person’s body rather than the act of sex, although any forced sex act is definitely not ok.
If someone can shed any light on women raping men, I’d be grateful. If it is becoming more commonplace, then that is as bad as any other rape – rape cases should be on the decline, not just being spread more liberally across the sexes. As I always say: feminism is, basically, humanism. It’s about equality, not supremacy.
FEMINISM IS NOT A HATE CRIME
My partner went for a run not long ago, and on returning said: “I’ve just run past a poster that says: ‘Feminism is a hate crime!’”
l anxious when I say: “I am a feminist.” Not here. On the blogosphere, I am more than happy to scream it out loud; here, I’m away from the looks and the cold shoulders. Because I feel anxious, I say it more and more often in a bid to stand up for the rights I believe I, and all other women, should have. I hope that one day the word feminism will not be associated with hatred. It isn’t about hatred; it’s the exact opposite. It’s about ironing out the creases of the patriarchy to include women on an equal level. And just as housework should most definitely be a shared endeavour, this ironing out should also be a joint effort.
Of course, there are too many issues to tackle in just one blog post, and I’m sure I couldn’t put it all quite as succinctly as the wonderful Germain Greer or the hilarious Caitlin Moran, so I suggest you bump The Female Eunuch and How to be a Woman up your reading list, if you haven’t read them already. You may just learn about yourself.
Going back to the whole house move thing, I may have to abandon the feminism stuffs: I’m far too busy living in the ‘burbs now. I thought it wouldn’t affect me, but I found myself making panna cotta recently, with a tart raspberry coulis. And bread. I bake bread now! I may go and buy a pinny and start saying things like: “I’ll just die if I don’t get this recipe. I’ll just die if I don’t get this recipe…” and then eventually, I’ll beat myself to death with my own rolling pin screaming: “I’ll just die. I’ll just die.”
Hm… fuck that!
I highly recommend to anyone who claims to not be a feminist that you find out what feminism is before you condemn it. I have a little test here that will effectively determine whether you are a feminist.
Here’s a pre-test test for you to do to check to see if you need to do the actual test: do you own a vagina? (You might want to put your hand into your knickers and check. It’s the inny one, not the outy one… no no, further round. There you go.)
(3) I do, but I don’t associate with being a woman
(4) I don’t, but I do associate with being a woman.
If you’ve answered (1) Yes – then go away. You’re done. You are a feminist. How do I know this? Well, you are a woman who has been freely reading about feminism and forming an opinion and the only reason that you are allowed to do that, is because of feminism. The v.act of feeling that you are able to form an opinion as a woman means that you believe yourself to be entitled to that opinion. That, good woman, is feminism. I find it highly paradoxical that woman will bang on about not being feminists when, without feminism, they wouldn’t be able to do even that.
For the rest of you, here is the test proper. You might need to concentrate – it is highly complex stuff.
1. do you think that women are…
(1) Equal to men
(2) Better than men
(3) Not as good as men
(4) Fine as long as they’re pretty
2. Do you like and respect women?
(3) What are women?
(4) Where can I buy the Daily Mail?
3. Do you see men as the enemy?
(3) Everyone is my enemy
(4) Anyone not exactly like me is my enemy.
4. Lastly, do you like and respect men?
(3) Are they the ones with outy bits?
(4) I respect men like Nigel Farage.
If you answered 1 to any of the four questions in the test, then congratulations – you are a feminist! If you answered anything else, you’re a dick. There we go. Glad we got that straightened out.
How to be a Woman – Caitlin Moran
The Female Eunuch – Germaine Greer
Cunt – Inga Muscio
The Feminist Times (formerly Spare Rib)
* Hindsight’s a bitch, ey?
** I began writing this article several months ago. My knee is truly fucked now. I’ve even had to give up running – my one true love! Twenty years of running has worn the cartilage of my knee down to nothing. You only have so much cartilage, you know. I didn’t know that. I do now. Nobody warned me. Consequently, I have taken up circuit training. It’s made me a bit muscly, actually, but then again it is a lot of fun.
*** Any views expressed here in detriment to Disney are not necessarily shared by the employees of Disney. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I’m actually really pleased with a certain person’s success in said company. Life is so v.full of conflicts. Sigh…