So who else heard about Emma Watson’s speech for the HeForShe campaign back in September (here)? To be honest, you couldn’t really escape it as it seemed to pervade the entirety of Facebook and Twitter. I chose to ignore it for the simple reason of I did not want to be associated with feminism in any form. Why would I want to be associated with something that appeared to be dogmatic, aggressive and anti-male when so many of the friends I rely upon are male? That was the case up until this month when I read Elle UK’s first feminist issue. But before I tell you about how Lorraine Candy’s interview with the latest feminist spokesperson changed my mind, I’ll explain my history with feminism.
As a child I did NOT read fiction (until I discovered Harry Potter at age 8) so my mother scoured high and low for suitable non-fiction books for children. So I discovered the child-friendly historical biography. Consequently my childhood was shaped by Louis Braille, Guy Fawkes, Elizabeth I, Florence Nightingale, Pocahontas and Emmeline Pankhurst. Not only did this make me despise Disney (why, oh why did you destroy Pocahontas‘ reputation?), but also shaped my opinion of strong women. I grew up admiring/obsessing over these women (I sort of lost interest in Louis Braille and Guy Fawkes) and considered myself a feminist for purely that reason.
That was until talking with my mother made me realise that thinking women were better than men, i.e. Elizabeth I and Emmeline Pankhurst, was ridiculous. After all, wasn’t our survival in the world wars due in part to men and women working together equally but differently. And women are biologically different to men; therefore we should be willing to understand that we have different roles. Thus this was my train of thought for the last eight years. While at university I even found it hard to understand the members of the Feminist Society and their desire to “Bring down the Patriarchy’. I claimed to be an “equalitist” but if I’m honest I was happy simply ticking along, occasionally getting frustrated at women being blamed for rape. (See this comment and my reply.)
Yet when I read #ELLEfeminism and Emma Watson’s interview, my opinions were challenged again. As she told Lorraine how she began to question gender-based assumptions, from being called bossy when her brothers weren’t to wondering why male friends couldn’t express their emotions, my own eyes were opened. Her admission that calling herself a feminist was ‘uncomplicated’ suddenly makes so much more sense when the way it affects men is also considered. Emma also talked about how there was no separation of activities growing up; she and her brother, Alex, were involved with everything their father enjoyed. They were completely equal and given the same opportunities, regardless of their gender.
When I think about my own male friends, I realise how lucky Emma was. Whether it is a guy being teased because he takes
lots of time over his appearance or being pushed in a club because he’s too [insert insult] to dance with his girl friends, this is why I realise I can take on the title of feminist. Not because I believe women are better than men. Not because I believe women are entitled to more than the ‘Patriarchy’ sees fit to bestow on us. But because…
- I believe I have the same potential as all my friends, irrespective of gender.
- I believe that all my friends have the right to be emotional.
- I believe that all children should to be able to pursue a lifestyle of their choosing.
To conclude, while I may have questioned the #BanBossy campaign (here), having read this issue of Elle and the interview with Emma Watson, I now have a lot to think about. But while I think this all through, I intend to claim the title of “equalitist” properly. Because if nothing else, I want a world where my pay potential is same as my guy friends and they can choose to access their emotions, just as I can.
P.S. I am aware however that certain roles are not ideal for both genders, i.e. a frontline military role where basic biology could potentially cause problems. For example, if a male soldier were to witness a female soldier in trouble. I’ll let you discuss the possible consequences.