Saturday, 27 July 2013

The F Word

There are many taboo words in society that for some reason or another we're afraid to say,the above is one of them,well what is the f word it I hear you cry?Feminism, the new F word is feminism.Last night I went to a talk about feminism and 'lad' culture and its place in our society,it was extremely interesting with 3 seasoned academics in gender studies speaking on the matter.These were Dr Madeleine Davies,Professor Grace Ioppolo and Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein. They all made very interesting points and spoke much better than I could ever dream of doing,first they acknowledged that it wasn't a new phenomenon, no 'lads' have been around since the dawn of time,but with advances in technology there are many more platforms the favourites being facebook and twitter.After they spoke it was opened up into a discussion where anyone could make a comment or ask a question.
At this point it is important to note several things,the room was full (although when you think of the thousands of students at Reading University it was barely a sprinkle).It was mainly girls with around seven or eight particularly brave boys who came along to fight their corner oh and there was free cake.The victoria sponge topped with strawberries was the nicest victoria sponge I have EVER tasted,but that's not really relevant.Girls are scared to come along to such events,even worse they are scared to label themselves feminists because of the connotations attached to it;lesbian,man hater,ugly,woman hater,bra burner the list goes on and on.There are many women who are feminists but just don't know it yet and others who truly believe that enough progress has been made so we can all stop talking about it.Later on that night I had an early hours of the morning,post night out conversation with one of my flatmates who had attended the talk with me and she said that the people holding women back are women.I can't help but in many cases agree,women are the harshest critics of women,when I go out I am much more worried about what girls will say about how I look than what boys will say,boys don't notice if a girl's mascara is lumpy or if her foundation isn't blended properly but it's girls that do and then we complain about low self esteem.Tina Fey's character in Mean Girls sums it up perfectly in the scene after the burn book gets released and all of the girls have been fighting.She says 'you've got to stop calling each other sluts and whores because it only makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores'.
There is an assumption in the Western World that women who sleep around are somehow trying to validate their existence,or that they can't get the guy or girl they really want but it's not always true some women just like to have a lot of sex with a lot of different people.Who says that's not ok?Women.It's ok for men to sleep around,they're labelled as a legend,a lad or a lothario. Therein lies the problem.One girl spoke about choice and how feminism is all about choice and I completely agree,don't all women or men that would call themselves a feminist believe in choice?The aforementioned flatmate later pointed out that the choice argument was age old and perpetually regurgitated in all feminist debates even though we all agree.The point she made is the acceptance of choice-I'd never really thought of it that way.One of the main things that holds women back is not the lack of choice but the lack of acceptance of that choice,whether that be to stay at home,or not to have children or sleep around.It is time to start accepting the choices that are made by others and respecting them because they are theirs,time to stop asserting that some choices are better than others and that some are right and others wrong.In my last example I refer to the first girl that put her hand up when the discussion was opened up,her initial points were well executed and informative but then she moved somewhere that I really didn't like.She criticised Beyonce Knowles Carter-better known as just Beyonce (at this point I must point out that although I am an avid fan my judgement is not clouded).She bemoaned Beyonce's labelling of herself as a feminist singing about independent women,I assume referring to the song 'Run the World' in which she sings 'Boy you know you love it how we smart enough to make these millions,strong enough to bear the children and then get back to business'.This woman, a 26 year old mature student stated that the message Beyonce was delivering was and I quote 'invalidated' by the lack of clothes that she wears whilst performing.I put my hand up a while later and strongly disagreed,this I felt summarised the issue of choice-Beyonce is immensely powerful as a performer and contributor to popular culture,she can do what she likes,she could go out dressed in a nun's habit and still look beautiful.So why does it matter?if the message is being delivered it is being delivered and it shouldn't ever matter in what package that message comes in.
I'll leave you with this,every woman should be proud to have feminist tatooed across her forehead for the world to see because as Kate Nash so eloquently stated "feminism is not a dirty word. It does not mean you hate men, it does not mean you hate girls that have nice legs and a tan, and it does not mean you are a ‘bitch’ or a ‘dyke’, it means you believe in equality".Can any woman really sit back and say that she disagrees?I don't think so.
P.S.If you didn't like it and think I'm a crazy radical that's fine,I'm too busy burning my bra to care ;)

Yasmin Levy-Miller