“I’m not a feminist, but ….”
I’ve often heard this said by hugely successful women who work and fight hard to achieve equality, yet they still struggle to identify with being a feminist. Feminism has been complicated over the decades and centuries – there are many different interpretations and associations – many of them negative (man-hating, bra burning, butch, etc. etc.).
According to google, the definition of feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes.” I’ve also got my own very simple definition – equal opportunity, equal recognition, equal rewards – which was massively popular when I posted it last year as part of the International Women’s Day celebrations.
So, when anyone says to me, ‘I’m not a feminist, but …” I reel off my simple definition (which no-one disagrees with) and recommend they read Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies), written by Scarlett Curtis. Scarlett starts her introduction to the book with,
“I didn’t know I was a feminist until I was fifteen. I didn’t know I was a feminist because I didn’t know I needed to be, and I also didn’t think I would still be allowed to wear make-up if I became one.”
The book is a curation of thoughts, essays, and poetry from an collection of intelligent and famous women who tell their stories beautifully.
Topics include sexism, the waves of feminism, misogyny, the patriarchy, periods, hysterical women – to name but a few. It explores feminism from different perspectives and is peppered with inspirational quotes. It’s an easy read, funny and heart-breaking at the same time, thought-provoking and reveals what it’s like to be a woman.
The book acknowledges the complexity of feminism and that people’s paths into feminism are not always the same. The personal stories are structured to take you on a journey – Epiphany, Anger, Joy, Action and Education – and you can dip in and out as you please.
- Epiphany – a moment when you suddenly find that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something that is very important to you.
- Anger – a strong feeling that makes you want to be unpleasant because of something unfair or unkind that has happened.
- Joy – a person or thing that causes happiness.
“Despite allegations in the media that feminists are constantly angry and serious, 95% of feminists find joy in feminism, which is frankly a higher success rate than chocolate or kittens!”
- Action – the process of doing something, especially when dealing with a problem or difficulty
“When a feminist ‘gets some action’, she does not in fact hook up with her crush but instead changes the world. Or does both.”
- Education – the process of teaching and learning
As a mother of four sons (now grown up), the story that struck me most was Tell Him by Jarmeela Jamil (English actress, presenter and activist). There’s been much in the media recently about men taking responsibility for their actions, but this essay approaches the challenge with empathy and optimism.
“I think so many women have the power to tackle misogyny in their own homes. It starts by never taking for granted how poisonous society can be to the male psyche and we need to be protecting boys from the onslaught of misinformation everywhere.”
It’s a call to arms for the women who have boys growing up in their homes. She implores mothers, sisters, aunties, grandmothers to tell the truth about what it’s like to be a woman, to send boys into the world with empathy, self-assurance and understanding, to know that that a strong woman is something to be celebrated and not feared/undermined/spoken over/humiliated/blamed/discouraged.
The relationship that women have with boys will shape their entire outlook on life.
“We have a golden window of opportunity to completely shape the future or our entire society from our living rooms.”
AND – the great news is that the book is being adapted for a TV series called Girls Can’t Shoot (& other lies). At the moment, no production start date or release date has been set, but when they are I’ll let you know.