I have this surrogate sister. Since I don't have any family, I was unofficially adopted by another family about ten years ago. Like a stray.
So, I have this surrogate sister called Charlotte. She is nearly 24, she is beautiful and she is very intelligent. But one of the subjects that she and I often come to blows over is that sweaty and well-thumbed tome called feminism.
As a comedian, feminism is something that pops up in discussion for me relatively often. I'm often asked to comment in blogs or interviews on whether there are enough women in comedy, whether we are treated differently and even whether or not we are actually very funny (I mean, I know right?!). So it's obviously a subject that I think a lot about.
But Charlotte doesn't think about it very often at all. Unless I beat her over the head with it.
Every time I do, she rolls her eyes and says, "Don't talk to me about feminism! I'm not a feminist!"
And every time she says that, my brain explodes.
Now, I should say that I am fairly sure she says this because she knows it drives me to drink. But there is some level of truth in it too.
She says, "I'm not a feminist because I don't particularly want to sit around helping other women love themselves. I'm ambitious. I don't care who's in my way, I'd climb over anyone to get where I want to be."
Taken out of context, perhaps her words sound rather mercenary. And in some ways I'm sure the term 'feminism' conjures up for her images of women who don't shave their legs, sitting around holding hands and hating men and sex and bikinis. At 24 years old, she wants to be sexy and fun, she wants men to fancy her, she wants to wear lip stick and short skirts and laugh at jokes that boys make about sandwiches. And I have to admit that when I was sat watching Strictly Come Prancing with her one evening, I agreed that if I had a body like one of those dancers, I would probably wear a leotard just to go to Sainsbury's. And I wouldn't care if someone was objectifying me in the pasta aisle.
But every time we have this argument I get more wound up than I probably should and I try to calmly explain to her that somewhere along the line, the idea of feminism has got a bit grubby. I earnestly tell her that everything she has said is rooted in feminism. While there is a facet of feminism that relates to holding hands and helping other women, it is also about being fierce and not taking no for an answer. I wildly expound the virtues of the women who have come before us, making it possible for her to go out there and fight for what she wants.
Most of the time she laughs at my bulgey eyes and red face. Which annoys me even more really. She doesn't feel the burden of 'luck' that I want her to feel. It seems absurd to her that someone might tell her she can't do a thing simply because she lacks a penis.
I want so much for her to realise that some women don't have the opportunities she has had. Maybe some women don't have her strength. I want her to see that there are men out there who think it would be ok to try and have sex with her in a club because she is beautiful and wearing a short skirt. I want her to see that in some industries she wouldn't earn as much as her male colleagues just because she is a woman. I want her to want to hold hands with other women across the world who are denied education, medication, liberation. Just. Because. They. Are. Women.
And just as I'm about to get even more militant at her, I take a breath and I realise that her mystified face is at least part of the battle won. The fact that she doesn't think about inequality on a daily basis is a positive thing. And while I do wish she would be a bit more proud of her feminism, in fact she is out there living it, just without the label.
She is so incredible - at the tender age of nearly 24, she is married and an amazing mother to two of the most beautiful children in the world. She is finishing a degree in social work - one of the top in her class, and she has run three Warrior/Spartan run things and a done parachute jump this year. She is practically super human. I take huge confidence in the knowledge that she will wear what she wants without worrying that she is 'asking for it'. I know she would raise hell if a male boss ever called her a 'little lady' or tried to feel her up.
After all, when it comes down to it, feminism is literally about a level playing field. It's about not thinking about gender. She embodies it really. God, she'll be so pissed off when I tell her that!