Last Monday evening the Huffington Post conducted a debate on 'What does feminism mean to me today?'. In light of my participation in the debate I received a message from my best friend. 'Are you a feminist?', it said. I merely assumed I was clogging up her twitter feed, made a casual remark and carried on tweeting away with #HPFem. Then I realised she was serious. I responded, 'Yes, are you not?'. This being a friend who knows most things about me, from whom I keep no secrets, know no shame. A friend who I would consider to be at least as, if not more, opinionated as I am.
'No, not at all really. Obviously I don't think we're here to be oppressed by men, but I wouldn't say I was a feminist.' I was shocked. I didn't judge her, but, and I know she won't mind me saying so, I was a bit disappointed. I was probably wrong to assume that a fellow female who I got along with so well, and arguably knows me just as well as anybody else, was a feminist. It never entered my mind that she wouldn't be. It's something I'll look forward to discussing with her further; we could probably do with some more topics of conversation anyway.
The feeling that I can't shake is that she has been alienated by feminism and the stigma that surrounds it. I am happy to admit to being a feminist, because I have my own personal interpretation of its meaning. Obviously feminism stands for the freedom to choose, and choosing to be one should be included in that. To that end I won't try and convert her, I'm not a preacher. However, and personally what I find more worrying, is that she didn't realise that I was a feminist. I feel like I've been outed because I don't feel the need to declare it on a daily basis. I like to think that people would assume I was a feminist unless I told them otherwise - innocent until proven guilty, if you will. I'm by no means a radical feminist, I do not hate men and I do shave my legs/armpits/other areas (when I can be bothered). Despite the challenges I'm glad to be a girl. I merely think that all women in all countries should be granted the same freedom as men, the ability to choose and to be allowed to be exactly how they want to be, on their own terms. I think feminism is just as relevant to men as it is to women. You'd have a hard time getting somebody to admit to being homophobic, so why tolerate sexism?
I think we can both learn from our conversation, which took place at her end from the back seat of the local taxi firm's 'Party Bus' and at my end from my sofa while watching the final episode of 'Broadchurch'. Feminism should after all be an everyday subject and I'm glad we could discuss it so flippantly. Personally, I'll stop making assumptions about other people's beliefs. However, I will do all that I can to ensure the next book she reads is 'How to be a Woman' by Caitlin Moran. I don't think any less of my friend for not being a feminist - or not wanting to admit to being what she associates with its meaning. I just want her daughters and all other women to live in a world where they are completely and utterly respected. I'm certain she wants that too. In my opinion, the best way to achieve that is the reinvention of the feminist movement, whether all women are on board or not. That is something I promise to believe in, in the same way she firmly believes in vegetarianism, although I can't promise I won't try and convert her after all.