Some light-hearted thoughts on feminsim I wrote for the Mayo News a few weeks back.
Readers of my online rantings will know that on my twitter biography, I describe myself as follows: “Trying to figure it all out, secretly hoping I never succeed. Researcher, feminist, dreamer, Mayo GAA nut, Mayo Club admin team, Mayo News columnist.” That pretty much sums up most of my existence in less than 140 characters, which is actually a bit alarming when you think about it.
But regardless of my Mayo and GAA allegiances, it’s the “feminist” part of my bio that seems to provoke the most reactions. Recently, before a game in Croke Park, the real world collided with the virtual and I was approached in by a beaming jersey-clad gentleman with an outstretched hand. “Howya Anne-Marie”, he said. “You probably don’t know me, but I follow you on twitter. I’m @MayoMan5000.” I’m always a bit embarrassed when I meet people from the internet in real life, because I give out so much on there, but sure enough, I recognised MayoMan5000 from his photo and we exchanged some niceties. (Incidentally, MayoMan5000 is not his real virtual name, and fortunately not his real name either.) We had the usual GAA pre-match chat. He predicted a 15 point win, I went with a more conservative two points; we were both sadly mistaken. Then the conversation veered wildly into the unexpected. “I hope you don’t mind me saying” says he, (proceeding regardless), “but I see on twitter you call yourself a feminist. Now, I must say, you don’t strike me as much of a feminist at all!” Surprised, and, I’ll admit, a little put out, I asked why on earth not. “Well look at you here”, he says. “Above in Croke Park, cheering on the men. Sure I thought all feminists hated men!” And with a loud guffaw, he was on his way back to the middle of the Cusack Stand to rejoin his companions, leaving me more than a little bewildered.
Feminism is one of those words that’s grown itself a bit of a bad reputation over the years, and has somehow managed associate itself with all sorts of ludicrous activities such as bra-burning and man-hating. Now let’s face it, anyone who has ever shopped for women’s underwear will know full well that bras are far too expensive to be setting alight at will, and frankly, man-hating is too impractical, given the amount of men hanging around the place. Feminism also tends to be labelled as “whiny”, “stereotyping”, “unglamorous”, “unfeminine” and “aggressive” to name but some. Really, being a feminist sounds deeply unpleasant. Why would anyone want to be one?
In reality, feminism can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it. Call me old-fashioned, but in my eyes, ultimately it boils down to this: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities”. Now, that’s not so outlandish, is it? It’s hardly radical, and doesn’t merit the fear and contempt associated with the word, among men and women alike. It’s true that feminist debate can be contradictory and complex, sometimes even aggressive, and is intrinsically linked with all sorts of other issues such as gender, race, age, class, religion. Ultimately though, it’s about simple equality.
The fact remains that women are still not equally represented in either industry or politics. We are systematically paid less than men, and our childbearing potential is a barrier to career progression. Objectification of women is more common than ever, yet we are routinely prevented from making decisions about our own bodies. I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t object to these facts, yet there is a real reluctance among us to identify as feminists. But the discussion must also acknowledge the tendency among women ourselves to judge each other – our bodies, our clothes, our life choices – we don’t make it easy for ourselves, either
There’s a very simple test you can take that determines whether or not you’re a feminist. You might preface it with, “I’m not a feminist, but …”, but if you’re asked the question “Do you believe that all human beings are equal?” and you answer “yes”, well then, my friend, I hate to break it to you, but I’m afraid you too are a feminist.
Welcome aboard, there’s nothing to be scared of – but do leave the matches at home.