When did we feminists start feeling so BAD about everything? I feel like I can't pluck out a stray eyebrow hair these days without someone writing an op-ed about whether or not I'm conceding ground to the patriarchy. Everything we own - our boobs, our emotions, our cake-eating habits, our tear ducts, our armpit hair - are constantly under scrutiny, and all the hand-wringing is probably going to result in one of my fingers falling off sooner or later.
I'm not going all Polly Vernon on you - I don't give a shit if you wear leather trousers, it's your funeral, personally I'm not up for the chafing. But the latest feminist existential crisis has made me wonder if we've started to forget what feminism ACTUALLY means.
Here's the deal. The actress Rachel Weisz recently gave an interview where she spoke about how she often felt lonely in her twenties when she was single. Eating pizza and watching films was her jam (is that what lonely people do? I thought it was just life) - "it was hard sometimes," she says, "but you hope eventually you'll find the right partner."
A writer in The Telegraph then responded with praise for Weisz for speaking out against this silent, deadly taboo: being a feminist and having the bloody audacity to think it might be quite nice to have a boyfriend. It cured her loneliness, but left her feeling like a bad feminist, she wrote.
Now I'm not here to vindicate single life and tell you it's one long joyous Beyonce disco party, or that being in a relationship is like being in a neverending torture chamber of emotional displacement and joyless quickies. Nor am I here to tell you that being single is a spiral of crying into a tub of Ben and Jerry's in your pants, or that being in a relationship is a massive festival of excitement, hilarity and smug glinty facial expressions. Both of them are all of those things, at different times. But whichever one you find yourself wanting - don't feel guilty. There are enough things to feel guilty about already - like going to Starbucks or having a weird crush on Ed Balls - without hating yourself for wanting to have your emotional and physical needs met by another human.
Let's clear a few things up here. Feminism doesn't ask us to be emotionless droids. It - quite actively - doesn't want us to be unhappy. It doesn't expect us to live in female-only colonies, or take some form of pride in being miserable islands - quite the opposite. Needing the approval of men to validate your existence is a problem, but being in a relationship with someone who is - gasp - A MAN really isn't. (Unless he's a dick obviously. That is a problem.) Is the reason the human race continues to exist because every so often women are bad feminists? No, it's because sometimes people put their genitals in one another without apologising for what this might mean for fourth-wave feminism.
Don't get me wrong, I'll be here browbeating people I've only just met about the despicable scourge that is the patriarchy until the intersectional cows come home. Even people with wheely suitcases in train stations don't annoy me more than the continued existence of gender inequality. But the idea that feminists have to feel bad for wanting to have a relationship with a man only reinforces the idea that we're heartless man haters who want to see all men castrated and sent to a gulag.
The fact that some feminists might be a bit confused about how we should be interacting with these menfolk was made apparent just the other day, when the Twitter mob pounced on author Matt Haig for daring to suggest he might write a book examining constructions of masculinity. Haranguing a man for - through no fault of his own - quite merely being a bloke, is like getting a massive gun and shooting the shit out of our own feet. It derails valuable conversations about feminism, and it alienates both men and women from participating. We need to have a proactive conversation with men about how life could be better for both genders if we're ever going to get anywhere.
And when we're having these conversations, who knows, we might find ourselves having quite a nice time and prolonged eye contact may be made and even actual physical contact and, steady on, it may one day result in a full-blown RELATIONSHIP.
And if that does happen, don't worry: you're not a bad feminist. You're just a normal person. As, very often, are men.