The Blog

A Response to a Response: Feminism

I am still lucky enough not to have the same experiences that many women do: I have not been raped, or abused, or rejected from a job in case I do decide to go and reproduce one day (shock horror). But I do see, on a daily basis, a shocking amount of misogyny.

It's hard to know where to begin with Melissa 'not a feminist' Bond's article. This vagenda post articulates much of what I imagine many people feel (read: fume) when learning that modern feminism is a condemnable movement; a group of women claiming 'special treatment'.

However, being one of the "Hampstead-grown, Jack Wills-clad, Oxbridge-bound schoolgirls" that Bond blames for the ridiculous propagation of, oh you know, tiny issues like the pay gap and the even more irrelevant rape culture, I thought I'd weigh in.

Bond assumes her (more discerning) friends' feminism stems from the fact they "believe it is their birthright to conquer the world, or at least a sizeable portion of North London". This belief, in turn, was created by their "fervently feminist, academic powerhouse" of a north London day school.

And this is where she and I diverge. I too went to a fervent, feminist, powerhouse of a school where girls were encouraged to believe that we could achieve anything we set our minds to. But this didn't mean I immediately became a feminist powerhouse myself.

In fact, I wasn't involved with any feminist campaigning at university. I - a bit like Bond, if she'll forgive me for saying - wasn't really bothered. I supported the campaign, and generally admired people more active in their support than I was, but only in the "That sounds great! But I'm sure you've got it covered so I'll just stay here and watch some TV: off you go!"

I'm not proud of this apathy, but if I were to attribute it to anything it might just be the feminist powerhouse of my teenage years. I wasn't rebelling, or ignorant of the beliefs our teachers were trying to instill.

In contrary, they were just so ingrained in me I didn't really imagine that we still lived in a world where women wouldn't be able to have the career they wanted, or walk down the street without suffering some kind of abuse because of their gender. In short, I never saw the extent to which misogyny still prevails. I was complacent.

And this brings me back to Bond's argument - that her friends' feminism is inextricably linked with their sense of entitlement - their belief in their ability to achieve. And this is where she is wrong. Feminism is not about entitlement; it is about fact.

Entitlement implies that the equality feminists campaign for is something they feel they deserve, something they have been led to believe by their privileged upbringing.

I do not 'feel' I deserve any kind of treatment; I know I do. I know that a woman should be able to get on a bus without being groped. I know a woman should be paid the same for doing the same job as a man. I also know that I've only touched on a few issues affecting women in the UK, and that women in other countries face much worse.

But let's not get carried away. Bond does make some good points. Of course the thought of being parted from her beloved floral dresses "physically pains her". Naturally, I, as a 'feminist', wouldn't be seen dead in floral and wouldn't mind being forced to wear a tartan onesie and bowler hat for the rest of my days - as long as there was a man somewhere sporting the same ensemble.

Similarly, I understand that she finds my behavior a little unreasonable with regards to Blurred Lines: I'm forever leaping upon any man dancing to the song, dragging them off the dance floor with my giant feminist biceps and giving them a good talking to. It can make clubbing quite tricky.

Bond argues that feminists think any woman who doesn't embrace her ideals must be "too uneducated to fully understand the concept of feminism". But feminism is not about how educated a person is. My lack of interest in feminism was in no way connected to my intellectual ability. It was solely because of a complete lack of awareness and experience with the challenges that women face every day.

I am still lucky enough not to have the same experiences that many women do: I have not been raped, or abused, or rejected from a job in case I do decide to go and reproduce one day (shock horror). But I do see, on a daily basis, a shocking amount of misogyny.

Just this week I have been touched inappropriately by a man at a bus stop, shouted at for not returning a man's advances while I tried to scan my oyster card, and been told that although I'd been waiting longer, the man next to me would probably get in the next taxi because "well, I'm stronger".

And just in case you think I'm exercising my "ability to find sexism in almost every facet of life", I'll elaborate. The man at the bus stop stroked my face and neck, the man by the ticket barrier called me a "speccy cunt" - the beeping 'seek assistance' seemed particularly poignant at that point - and I really hope I don't need to explain why physical strength being a factor in hailing a taxi is unacceptable.

But this isn't Bond's point is it? The real problem, as she sees it, is feminism's "ultimate futility". Well, why didn't she say sooner? If Bond had been around during suffrage she'd probably have told Pankhurst not to bother - the time she could have saved if she hadn't been jollying around campaigning!

In fact Bond's final declaration was quite genius in its contradiction. "What more are UK feminists going to achieve?" Oh - we've made it! Quick everyone, put your bras back on and let's go cook dinner - everything's equal, didn't you get the memo? But at the same time "to restore feminism to its once powerful, transformative status, it needs to be extended to countries that are still decades behind the Western world in terms of women's liberation."

So - in order to extend feminism to the wider world, we should stop campaigning in the UK. What a sophisticated, nuanced view; perhaps I'll go try find a man who can explain it to me.