I think someone somewhere is trying to tell me that I need to learn more about feminism. Clearly, one lecture at some point during my three year degree just doesn’t quite cut it. Whoever it is with the agenda, they’ve got the right idea, as I received three books about feminism for Christmas this year. Even just writing that a book is ‘about’ feminism makes me cringe. I’ve probably offended someone with my ignorance. But one (of many) things I’ve learnt from the first book is that there’s no point pussy-footing around in the fear of saying the wrong thing. That is precisely not what feminism is about.
The feminism I learnt about at uni was very theoretical. It involved specific terminology and academic essays. Whilst it was interesting, it was sometimes hard to transfer the application beyond the pages of a Virginia Woolf novel. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a Virginia Woolf novel, but thinking about feminism in relation to the past and through the lens of fictional books can be a little restrictive.
So, the first book (yes still books but you can’t expect anything too radical from me), which I would 100% recommend to anyone (male or female) who wants to feel inspired and a little more knowledgeable about female empowerment, is Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies. It’s curated by Scarlett Curtis, who also has a couple of chapters in the book, and consists of a collection of essays (but really accessible ones) written by women about what feminism means to them. Slightly depressingly, they’re all highly successful and annoyingly young, but if you can get past the gnawing sense of inadequacy, it’s very inspiring to find out what they have to say about the injustices that they and other women around the world face every day.
I am clearly incredibly lucky, because it was quite eye opening to read about some of the frankly rubbish stuff women have to put up with in the workplace, in their homes, and in their communities. Obviously, I’m not completely unaware, but I’ve spent a lot of my life surrounded by women. Even my English degree course was about 80% female. Most of my friends are girls, and at uni my all-girls rowing team would regularly whip the Novice Men’s arses during training. But one thing I do know is that sexism is so ingrained in our society that most of the time we don’t even notice it. I’ve definitely been guilty of brushing off a wolf-whistle or a derogatory joke, as though I should just have to accept it as the norm, as though it’s totally fine that the same thing would never have been said if I were male. And even that sentence is ridiculous – why am I now the one feeling guilty?
This book has made me question whether a lot of the fairly standard insecurities most people (women?) experience at some point in their lives stem from sexism. When I walk into a room and feel scrutinised, from my appearance to the things I say, is that because that’s just what I’m like, or is it because I’m female? Most likely, it’s a bit of both.
Obviously my experience of sexism is minimal, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be angry or interested. Feminism gets a bad press. Some people (possibly myself included at one point) think it’s about hating men, never shaving your armpits and shouting about your period to anyone who will listen. While it’s true that the last two things on that list can definitely be a part of it (minus the shouting), feminism is so much more than that, which is exactly what Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies so excellently demonstrates.
(N.B. This book might make you feel bad that you’re in your 20s but you don’t run your own company and volunteer at three different charities on the weekends. Me neither dw.)