Right off the bat. I am an awkward, socially inept woman. I make no real apology for it – it’s who I am. I enjoy it more often than I am willing to admit. Sure, I’m labelled shy. Perhaps even boring. It’s the price to pay and I’m more than happy to charge it to my card. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the subject of feminism and decided to have a go at writing a little piece about it. I’ve done this in the past and deleted it or kept it logged in drafts.
I almost didn’t write this.
What it means to me to be a woman…
My whole life I’ve been battling what it meant to be female. I mean, I know I’m female as I have the biological attire – right here in black and white (and pink) – I am female. But a woman? Growing up I was a tomboy and found girls boring. They would sit in groups and gossip and giggle. I wanted to play football and video games and watch horror films and act like an idiot. It wasn’t till later I realised that this too came with it’s own connotations.
That aside I had always made excuses for myself. That it was easier to talk to guys, they were funny and were in to the same dumb stuff I liked, I was the ‘best girl friend’ and I liked being the one people would confide in and had no issue in keeping up in social aspects – like drinking. A fun night for me was discussing zombie films, playing the Playstation and ordering pizza. I was the epitome of the average 15 year old teenage boy.
Then I became a goth. There’s no greater question mark on your sexuality than to become a goth. It’s the king of phases. Not that I ever really got rid of the phase more that the phase got rid of me. I was an awkward, fat, metal loving teenager flunking in and out of college and recently being diagnosed with depression at 16 I was a HELL of a lot of fun. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing with life, with myself or with anyone else. On meeting my then boyfriend I managed to get a flat and realised that being a ‘girl’ wasn’t so bad. Passing up the nights of heavy drinking for working, having a routine and trying to deal with my new found, sort of, independence at 18 was eye opening. Being a goth I experimented with my clothes. I slung out the baggy jeans in favour of velvet dresses, fishnet and big boots. I was a walking cliche and I loved it. I was ‘girly’.
Then I grew up a bit.
Now, before I see a torrent of ‘being goth is not a phase’ and ‘who are you to say an alternative lifestyle is just merely a need of growing up’. I am not. I am still very much pro-alternative. I just personally feel that at that point I was evolving as we all do. Figuring ourselves out. Now even as I turned 30 this year I haven’t figured myself out.
I broke up with him. I left our home. I got a new job. I was now 22 years old.
It wasn’t till I was in a positive relationship that I questioned feminism. To me it was a word filled with prejudice. It was stuck clearly on to women who hated men – I hadn’t heard the term feminazi at this point – I simply couldn’t understand why some women hated men simply because of history. I wasn’t educating myself enough because again I was making excuses. All my friends were still very much male and I still found most women bitchy and boring. I’d seen statistics and simply shrugged – surely it wasn’t really that way – if it was then why weren’t we doing anything about it.
And there it was.
What was I doing about it? I was currently living it. My friends around me were being paid more than I was for doing the same job. Yet I was heralded around the office for being able to handle complex situations, to have the ability to work in challenging conditions. Not once did I question anything because praise was enough – but kindness does not conquer injustice.
Socially too. I realised that the problem wasn’t other women, the problem was me. I had cemented my past thoughts and feelings against other women because I thought the guys were better. Yet there are MILLIONS of women who enjoy videogames, art, design, sports, etc. I wasn’t unique despite how much I strived to be – I mean I WAS A GOTH FOR FUCK SAKE. Yet back then I didn’t see as much of a ‘fuss’ being made amongst my peers about feminism. Sure I’d see the odd comment and I’d seen plenty of tv shows depicting the ‘classic’ family life and how it depicted a woman role but surely everyone knew that was bollocks, right?
Apparently not. The fact that equality amongst genders is still being argued about now is, to me, as sickening as it is fascinating. The excuses people give you are amazing.
It’s your fault.
You didn’t try hard enough.
You chose the wrong path in life.
What’s with the defence? I’m not about to steal your penis I’m just asking why you get preferential treatment because you have one. You know the only way a revolution will really start? When men at work are paid dependant on the size of their penis.
This is why I find it difficult to write about feminism. I can hear the screams from here – the counter arguments. I’m glad to see the debate but on social media debate is hard to succeed. We’re very happy to stamp our opinion, wherever it’s been derived from, we are debating online and still arguing about the facts. ONLINE. The facts are right here. So what are we getting wrong? Well the problem with the internet is as well as the facts and figures being blown up for all to see people are able to pay for websites and conduct their own theories. So we read that and based on our reassessment, our own judgements – we run with it. I am more than happy to hold my hands up on occasion and say – shit, I was wrong. I have done. Our prejudices have been printed in our heads since a very young age.
Since you were told boys wear blue not pink.
Since you were told girls don’t play football.
Since you were told it’s not right to be gay.
Since you were told that bad grades will ruin your life.
Lesson one – What they tell you is wrong.
What you tell yourself is up to you.
Women in many cases are depicted in the arts as creatures of desire. Portraits hang from galleries of beauties with rosy cheeks, linen draped over bodies. porcelain skin. That’s if they’re of importance or regarded as desirable or else they’re painted servants and maids. Whilst the men, of grand stature, are in armour or kings or warriors. Anything not considered manly is oiled in thinly and meekly. We look at the spectacle and we’re in awe because despite, or in respect of, the subject matter we are respecting the work put in to the painting. Now we have men and women in magazines doing the same thing. The beauties of both genders adorning covers and television screens. We are told we should be like them and that it is the ultimate status. Be popular, be rich, be happy. Do it quickly.
Only now has a counter culture came out to play. A culture derived from what may be considered rebellious but unlike my past goth phase this is a new type of rebellion because people aren’t wearing black or hiding themselves. They are revealing their true self and we are telling them they can’t.
You can’t wear that.
You can’t say that.
You can’t do that.
So when we’re frustrated by this defiance we counter strike with intolerance. Why? Because we’re terrified. We are so scared of things we don’t understand and the only way to normalise it for ourselves is to push it away – or if you’re frequenting on social media you put your caps lock on, think of the best insult you can find and send it to their Twitter message filter in the hope for…Well, that I’m not sure. But wow are you angry.
Today I am a proud, if not continuously questioning, woman. I am a proud, if not continuously frustrated, feminist. My past has led me to question myself and my doubts and realise it’s not you – it’s me. Being a woman doesn’t mean you have to succumb to any of society’s preconceptions about being “womanly”. At the same time we must hold on to our identity because there is still so much work to do in breaking barriers in terms of fairness, in terms of equality and in terms of educating those who gladly hide behind these screens and preach ignorance.
I almost didn’t write this. I’m glad I did.
If you’re keen to read more of Leighan’s work have a peek at her fantastic arts based blog here.