I tend to steer well clear of feminism.
When I was thirteen, I tentatively tried on the feminist hat. The first time I used the word, my teacher threw it right back in my face. "The problem with feminists," he said, "is that they don't even know what they are." Since then I've been careful in the arguments for my gender. As my life currently stands, I've not been particularly disadvantaged as a woman. Also, in complete honesty, I think it's been easier to win arguments if people don't perceive me as a bra-burning, androgynous, lesbian man-hater.
But I think it's time for me to get real. I have, by my most recent count, two breasts, two ovaries, and one vagina. I'd like to tell you what this means.
On a recent train journey, I found myself, yet again, locked into debate with a fellow politics student. We argued about gender, equal pay, and affirmative action. We both wanted to win, we are both stubborn little mules, and we were both drunk. I thought the instant I decided to throw myself into this argument was the moment I thought he was denying my claim that women earn less than men in the same job. My friend will tell you he made no such claim. I will comment on this no further - you know how debates go. Why don't we just Google the stats and shut up. But before you knew it, I was educating the entire carriage about the historical injustices that women as a gender have experienced. Our friend, who wasn't involved in the debate, put his earphones in.
But in retrospect, the moment that really ticked me off had absolutely nothing to do with equal pay, or winning a debate. It occurred a safe ten minutes before we were even close to the debate, completely unrelated to any form of political discussion. We were happily bantering about our most recent craze, Snapchat. I'd written an admittedly poor caption to an admittedly even poorer photo. My friend offhandedly said, "Oh it's funny. For a girl."
If you've ever made a comment like this, then on behalf of every pair of mammary glands in the world, I would like to ask you to come again, and not in the way you would prefer.
People in the year 2013, people who are educated in Cambridge, like to think they are not sexist. Lil Wayne is sexist. My male friends make fun of me for listening to him. He is a knob. But here are some things Lil Wayne didn't say.
"If a third year guy gets with a fresher girl, that's fine. But if a third year girl gets with a fresher boy, that's just a bit desperate, isn't it?"
"Oh, has she started sleeping with guys as well as getting with them? What an absolute slut."
"I'm just saying - you're not a prude! Not that you're a slut either! Oh my God what can I call you?"
"There is no way I would rather be a girl than a guy."
"As long as women keep having babies, society will be unequal."
Some of these were serious comments, others were made humorously, but every single one of them is real. My point is it does not matter in the slightest what context you made these comments in. Kind of like the way the size of your gonads genuinely does not matter. They serve the exact same function.
I don't think a single one of my friends is a sexist. I'd like to think I would never have befriended them if they were. But when I take a moment to think about what each of the above quotes implies about the world, and I think about the boys in my life having a daughter one day, I can't help but wonder, what kind of world will she be born into?
I think the problem we have in this particular society is often no longer an explicit discrimination of women as a gender. It is more about the subliminal links our brains make. Google the words "lad culture criticism", or just go to a pub, to see what I'm talking about. The more frequently we make certain links, the more reinforced they become. These are not limited to just men. I've spewed enough hate about Susan Patten, so I'll just give her one last mention here. I've slowly come to realise that these links are not fact - they are inherited creations. And often times they say a lot more about a person than when they're actively trying to be politically correct. Some of them are wrong, and I have literally had it up to here with them.
I'm not even going to talk about respect for female superiors, peers, and future spouses. If you are a fertile person, then you have a 50% chance of bringing a little girl into this world. And every single harmless joke about girls is one too many for her.
I think I recognized fairly early that it's a boys' game. And I realised I was only going to win it if I played like I had a pair. But why don't we all just play it like we had a brain.
No man I've ever spoken to has seriously denied gender inequality. (Or as one male friend recently described - "Nobody's saying men haven't historically just dicked on women." Charming. Now take me into the cave and have me!) But I think we're reaching the stage where your subconscious reaction should really be as gender correct as your conscious one. If you can recognize gender inequality, then surely this means you no longer have to take it for granted. If you think it's more realistic to take it for granted, imagine you are talking to your daughter. Let's take that last quote again. "As long as women keep having babies, society will be unequal." Brilliant. So all your daughter has to do to achieve as much as a man is to learn to read, and snap her Fallopian tubes.
And let me, please, just hammer this point home. Sexist jokes are not funny. Next time imagine you are talking to your mother. The one who used to drive you around, and whose hormones made your existence possible. Make her a sandwich while you're laughing at the joke.Suggest a correction