I have recently found that I have ‘become’ a feminist, and an angry one at that. This is probably the point where you will be tempted to stop reading. To find something else to do, scroll on and think about less boring and challenging things. I do not blame you. I am you, and that is the problem. I have grown up thinking I live in a world of equality and have slowly come to realise that I have been duped. Yes, I am educated. Yes, I am healthy. Yes, I am lucky to have a voice I can voice, a body I can embody and a mind I can be mindful of, but then what?
Since emerging from lockdown there is not one of my girl friends who I have spoken to who have not been bruised or broken in some way by the injustices and injuries they have been made to put up with by society. An abusive partner, a power hungry boss, a toxic school/work culture/friendship, a dismissive GP, a condescending mechanic or shop assistant, time wasters, adulterers, mansplainers and gaslighters. My rage on their, and my own, behalf continues to grow.
Because, here’s the thing, when you have been raised to know your rights, your own mind and your own body and you are still continually dismissed, ignored, passed over and generally shafted then you have every right to be angry when you realise that nobody is actually listening and none of your efforts seem to have made a blind bit of difference to your own circumstances, let alone society at large.
The problem with feminism is it only seems to come with hindsight. It creeps up on you like an all too easily ignored dose of ovarian cancer. When you are young you think it is something historical that you have been gifted and can run with. Then, before you know it, you realise the race was still fixed all along. Meanwhile everybody else has moved on to the next bright young thing and you didn’t notice because you were too busy making packed lunches, whilst simultaneously preparing your board report and worming the dog.
When you are young and bright and clever, when you look the best you are ever going to look in a bikini or a burka you’re not really that bothered. It’s only later when you have been educated, worked hard, climbed the ladder, found the partner of your dreams, had the career(s), paid your taxes, bought the house, got the car fixed, decorated the spare room, unblocked the toilet, cleared up the cat sick, done the ironing, had/can’t/chosen not to have kids, mown the lawn, blead the radiators, spoken to the mortgage adviser, paid your insurance, been for regular check ups at the dentist, voted responsibly, given to charity, had a smear test, attended the school coffee mornings, completed your annual CPD review, made the Halloween costumes, baked the birthday cakes, invested in a pension, read the books, visited the galleries, done some occasional cardio and the odd bit of meditation, walked the walk, talked the talk and basically done all the things you were supposed to do and more as an adult woman, that you expect to be taken seriously when you enter a room and say ‘I feel like something is wrong here’.
And you are not.
Why is this? Why are we still being ignored, trampled on, disrespected and dismissed? Why are my friends not being paid the same as their male counterparts, let alone more? Because not only are they working as hard if not harder then them, they are also going home to cook the dinner, do the school run, answer the emails, hoover the floor, pay the bills and care for their parents.
My generation of women are angry and exhausted. We are tired of doing it all with no respect and no pay off. Working the 9-5 (as if that is even a thing) and still being full time mothers, wives and carers. Where exactly are our pipe and slippers at the end of our day?
We may be working full time but we are all too often expected (mostly and tragically by ourselves) to have the meal on the table, the laundry in the cupboard and the school bags packed whilst secretly we are screaming inside and drowning under each incoming wave of responsibility and regret. If we are not working full time and still doing all those things, we are made to feel guilty (again mostly and tragically by ourselves) for not doing more.
Left without proper knowledge of our post pubescent bodies and under ever increasing scrutiny and criticism for our appearance, dismissed as being unable to cope as mothers, peri menopausal women and past it matriarchs. Not able to get physio for the trauma caused by birth, HRT for our misery inducing hormones, or hysterectomies for our pain without months, if not years of fighting. With broken pelvic floors taking so much precedence in our minds that we can’t even find the time or mental energy to be worried about our broken dreams and ambitions. Despite all our advances we are still being asked to quietly accept that it is our biblical ‘woman’s lot’ and we must put up and shut up.
Don’t even get me started on Bill Cosby or Matt Hancock, or, or, or….
So here are my requests in my personal feminist manifesto:
Parents – make sure your boys and girls are prepared to do better and recognise not just the equality of worth in the work that women do, but the potential superiority of its importance, the cost it comes at and the depth and breadth of its reach.
Women – do not be dissuaded and dismayed by each new barrier. We are lucky enough that someone else has gone before us to clear the ground so we can see the seemingly insurmountable scale of the task ahead. Keep on running with your baton. As Glennon Doyle would say – and if you haven’t read her book or listened to her podcast, you really should do – it is hard, but we can do hard things.
Men – do your best to see and recognise your implicit privilege and help the women in your lives to fight against it. You are responsible for levelling the playing field. If a woman has found the time, energy and courage to tell you something, ask you for something, or bring something to your awareness, then it is because it is important and worthy of your immediate and serious attention. If it wasn’t she would have done it herself without your help months ago or kept quiet in the first place.
Everything in between – keep fighting your own fight, you are amazing and I am right behind you ready to help bang the drum. I just need to empty the dishwasher and finish slaying the patriarchy first.
P.S. if you don’t think any of this applies to you, because you are a lovely, woke, underdog championing, high flying, ethically sound, epic human being, then I implore you to do take some of the Harvard Project Implicit tests and I expect you will be as shocked as I was to see just how deeply those implicit biases lie.