Let’s Sweat The Small Stuff
“Oh Emma, it’s no big deal”. This statement gets uttered to me at least once a week minimum, mainly around the various facets of feminism. And in some ways, I get it. Women are being raped and their abusers are getting away with laughable curfews, and instead we’re obsessing over women being told to wear heels to work? It’s understandable.
In recent months the term ‘feminism light’, which refers to the topics that are deemed simply too unimportant for feminists to be talking about, has been shouted aloud by all the ‘true feminists’ just too good to be handling those fluffy issues. These issues range from the burkini ban in Nice, France to white girls wearing bindis at Coachella. Are they really that big of a deal?
Now when feminism is so vast and large in the topics it covers, it can appear silly and frivolous to ‘waste time’ on seemingly unimportant issues, but when those issues ultimately affect an area of feminism we’re meant to be advocating for, how can they be unimportant? So the Muslim women being forced out of swimwear that makes them feel comfortable isn’t directly contradictory to a woman’s right to make her own choices and wear what she wants? I think you’ll find it is.
I like to think of these issues as one big dot to dot picture. These issues are scattered everywhere and there’s lots and lots of them just waiting to become the literal bigger picture. So what do you do? Connect them.
Big issues don’t just become one overnight, it’s a steady build. Just think of 40 years ago when no one would bat an eye to a man whacking his wife about because dinner wasn’t ready on time. And how did that change to it being an illegal crime? Because we woke up and realised that it was a big deal and that action had to be taken and our voices heard. And that’s how we should face every single issue feminism tackles.
When we start deeming issues as unworthy of attention and help, we ignore a large percent of women who these issues deeply damage and affect. The black girl who won’t get taken seriously at job interviews because of her dreadlocks despite the fact that Marc Jacobs uses white models with dreadlocks and society deems them the new chic. The girl scared of passing a building site on her way to work because the guys won’t stop catcalling her is told to take it as a compliment – “at least they fancy you”. These are people we should think about before anything is deemed as ‘light’.
Feminism is ultimately a fight for all women, not just the ones that look like you and have the same privilege as you. If it’s not happening to you, then that’s great. But let’s learn to empathise. When we stop having a ‘who’s having a worse time’ contest and focus on the issues at hand, they don’t need to escalate. Protests won’t be needed for the non-Native American feather headdress wearers at Coachella because we’ll already know that to their culture, they’re very powerful and symbolic things and not dress up toys. We’ll know to step back and inform ourselves first before making potentially silly and ignorant decisions. Then we can focus on the issues that are sadly too late to stop.
So maybe before we deem something ‘light’ or unworthy of feminist support, we should take a look at the ripple affect it can cause if left to simply fester. The heels at work issue becomes gropes at the water cooler to sexual favours for promotions to being sacked for not being hot enough anymore. So for people still left wondering how these issues feed into the bigger picture, just connect the dots.