The big, scary F-word

Trigger warning: sexual violence

“Of course I believe that women should be equal to men… but I’m not a feminist. We just don’t need a woman’s movement anymore.”
                                                           many people, everywhere.

 

I am a feminist, and was raised in that spirit — thanks to the conscious and loving values my single-parent mother had the foresight to instil in me. However, for most of my teenage years, I argued fervently against the idea that this term could ever be applied to me. Feminists were those hard and bitter women who hated men, weren’t they? They were unreasonable and uncomfortable and they seemed to make it more difficult for me to be a decisive and successful woman rather than easier – they gave us all a bad name, because clearly they weren’t respected by men. And that was the important thing.

But then at that time, I had also been convinced that I just had never been affected by sexism in my life. I had been viciously groped by strangers in the subway and at concerts, I had countless men stare at my breasts followed by the occasional “Wow, what size are those?” or “I want to see those naked.” I had started into a slowly progressing cycle of eating disorder and hatred of my body; I didn’t believe I was good enough for almost anything, and that the best job for me would be something I could do from home so I didn’t have to be seen all the time. I had already figured out that I wasn’t ever going to be authoritative and strong enough to compete with men and I had learned to shut up when they talked, to listen.
But and let me repeat this: I was convinced that I had never been affected by sexism. So what were those feminists complaining about?

In fact, I was convinced I was the evolved state of women, had taken in any values feminism had fought for in the past and outgrown them. Which was why I lost my virginity in on the floor between bathroom and bedroom a mere couple of hours after meeting my “boyfriend” for the first time face to face, why even though I asked him to wait, his insistence to do it right then and there seemed just what an evolved and sex-positive woman was supposed to want. It was why for most of my teens, every date I had ended in a blow-job, however little I liked the guy – I was being a good sport, not prude or annoying, not a tease who let a guy buy me a drink and then sent him home. Feminism? That was whining and moping and I wanted to have fun.

Except, I didn’t have fun at all.

It is easy to deny any affiliations to feminism – the media show us how, in painting feminism in shrill colours and unreasonable and hateful tropes. We are taught everything about feminism except for the truth: the simple idea that men and women are equal (no, not the same but equal) and should be treated as such in politics, business and society. We are not, but every day that we are taught to denigrate feminism as a thing of the past or as laughable or as a thing for ugly women or lesbians with a grudge on men — we fuck ourselves over, again and again.

Once, when I told my strong single-parent mother about my feminist attitudes, she sighed and said this wouldn’t make it easier to get a man.  My grandmother agrees. Everybody agrees — my former teenage self does, too. And she’s right, I was more successful with men while I accepted the idea that the world of women owes them sex and attention and respect without them having to do anything in return.

And I don’t want to be jaded or angry. I don’t have all the energy necessary for it and so every couple of days I stumble onto the next horrible thing online and I want to go back to bed and pull the blanket over my head. Because people like Anita Sarkeesian are vilified as “the worst of feminism” — and not just by the trolls, also by so-called informed people, who want to inform the poor women public of the mistakes, misconceptions or misinterpretations Anita might have made about little details in her videos. Shock-horror, someone isn’t 100% correct? On the internet? You don’t say!

But she’s a woman, and a feminist and so she’s called “worse than the westboro church” for her stance — by reasonable men who hope to engage in a reasonable discussion with me. Seriously? Her pages are hacked, her wikipedia page filled with porn and racist remarks, people threaten to rape and murder her every day, a game is created in which you can literally beat up her face — but hey, that’s game culture, we just have to accept that. To complain about that and to make it public is just trying to make all the nice men out there feel guilty, and of course, to scam more money. The point is that she’s wrong!

At the same time, some fox news contributor tells women to go buy coat-angers after an abortion bill passes. There is outrage, a little bit, for a day or two – but nobody makes a game where I can beat up his face. He doesn’t have to walk to his car at night afraid that someone will jump and rape him. He doesn’t have his websites defaced or his privacy violated. He doesn’t even have to worry about loosing his job.
He’s just a conservative guy being a guy. And we have to accept that, that’s how the world works, free speech and all that.

Like I just have to accept when some guy won’t stop talking to me in the subway, when he’ll try to grab my boobs or push his hands between my legs. I probably just looked hot that day, hey, that’s a compliment isn’t it? That’s just men being men — accept it or you’ll sound like an angry feminist. And there’s nothing worse.

The thing with privilege – racial, gender, sexuality etc. – is that it’s a daily effort to make yourself aware of it. And if you don’t, just like that, people end up denying it with every fibre of their being – they have to denigrate and humiliate anyone who talks about this, have to find ways to discredit them without actually having to engage the real arguments. And suddenly, the very notion of equality poses a threat not only to their life-style but to the very construct of their world and their identity. There is little middle ground, and it’s so easy to slip up. But we have to keep trying – we all have to keep trying to understand each other and to put ourselves into other people’s shoes just for a little bit. It’s not that hard and not that scary.

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