Speak Up

The Apologetic Feminist

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to write. I trained as a journalist for that very reason but it turns out, I am far too passive for journalism. I have messed about with pieces of pretentious poetry. All self-conscious imagery that just baffles the reader. I wanted to be Sylvia Plath. I wanted to write something with real gravity. Something important that would win posh prizes. I wanted to be brilliant and decorated. I have tried to write novels – pompous and wordy, with all kinds of metaphors. Something grandiose like a Song of Ice and Fire. Only my ideas were stunted, and I lack the tenacity and diligence to continue complex plotlines with three dimensional characters.

I have a constant narrative running through my head. I am horribly opinionated, borderline arrogant, for someone so passive. This arrogance, this need to have a voice has led me here, to blogging, where I can allow myself, practically unchallenged, to write about what I wish, however I wish. In the past I have blogged about motherhood and my battles with my weight. But today, as I wondered round Waterstones in Liverpool, I realised that I am more than a mum and serial yo-yo dieter.  I give a shit about other things. I want to talk about much more than poo and calories. I want to have an impact.

Recently, I applied for a job at the Women’s Organisation, a charity supporting women in business. I didn’t apply for it because I hate my current job. I applied for it specifically because it was for the Women’s Organisation. I have attended courses there and felt hugely empowered by them. I am all about what they do, even though that might not be apparent in my daily life. I was unsuccessful, and my terrible disappointment was not just because of the blow to my incredibly fragile self-esteem. The disappointment came because I had missed out on an opportunity to positively contribute to a cause I care passionately about. Alas, it was not my door and I will have to continue to knock on others, which, after a couple of weeks of licking my rejection wounds, I can start to think about.

The rejection left me feeling resigned to failure in feminism. The movement is not for me.  It has become horribly apparent that I am an apologetic feminist. I have felt that the only way for me to contribute is to be part of a specific, recognised organisation or to write great works. My voice could not be heard in any other way.

My current place of work is a bank, on a team mainly populated by women. Most of us are mothers to children of school age or younger. Many of us have specific working patterns due to childcare needs. Some of us feel ‘trapped’ by our circumstances. There is a sense of resignation: we can’t have it all so progression is stunted. At least for now. We’ll wait until the kids have grown up.

You would think that those of us who feel aggrieved by the situation would be up in arms, wanting to change things. But this is not necessarily the case. As in any office, politics of some kind tends to pop up. Recently, the Harvey Weinstein case has become a hot topic. I have been left flabbergasted by some of the views of my female colleagues.

“These women have put themselves in these situations. They should have known what they were letting themselves in for.”  Ummm, no.

No one “lets themselves in” for sexual assault. Even if you have already been intimate with the person in question. Just because you have lent someone your stuff, it does not mean they can burgle your house.

The issue of work life balance has also raised some interesting opinions.

In nature, it is the females who look after the young.” Well, in nature, as you put it, taking a shit right where you stand is the norm, but we don’t do that do we? I admit that both partners working long hours puts a strain on the family, regardless of the financial reward. But who says it must be the woman that takes that step back?

Also, just Google Seahorses.

Quite often I turn away from these conversations. I whack my headphones on and drown it out, despite my silent, bubbling rage. I don’t understand why women cannot support the empowerment of other women. Where is the sisterhood?

I do fully acknowledge that if you aren’t with us, you are against us and I am guilty of this. Opting out of these conversations isn’t going to change the world and my fear of being perceived as an angry, man-hating bra burner is only going to perpetuate that stereotype.

Whilst in Waterstones, with two hours to kill as Apple revived my heap of shit phone, I read “Why We Should All be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s short but it spelled out so succinctly and so distinctly the action that must be taken. I do not have to write great works and join large feminist organisations to have an impact. I do not need to win awards. I can champion women by engaging in those conversations, contributing thoughtfully and intelligently, not shying away from those discussions.

I also realised that, whilst there is more to me than motherhood, being a mum, especially to boys, is the most important part I can play in smashing the patriarchy. I will bring my boys up to believe they can be whatever they want to be but also that their wives, girlfriends, female friends etc are every bit as good as they are and can do whatever the hell they dream of too. I will bring my boys up to understand that empowering women does not emasculate men.

Continuing to debate and challenge the views of those around us are the only tools any of us need.

(Yo-yo dieting, however, isn’t useful.)


photo credit: t.metamorfosis I’m not sorry via photopin (license)
Share This Awesome-ness With Your Friends

One Comment

  • Kate Cook

    “Also just google seahorses” love it! Well done Jemma.

What do you think?