Monday 6 February 2012

No One Likes an Angry Feminist

No one likes an angry feminist

Fact. One of the most persistent battles feminism faces is the battle against the wider world’s perception of it. As well as opposing sexism, stereotypes and discrimination there is the seemingly constant battle to prove that you are not a bitter shrew harping on about the evils of the male sex because you are just a horrible, joyless person.

Ok … maybe that’s a bit extreme, but there is undeniably a sense that feminists are by nature, kill joys. Tutting at harmless jokes about women (Why did the woman cross the road? That’s a damn good question because she should have been in the kitchen being one of my personal “faves”), giving disapproving looks to men reading lads mags and complaining that everything from the recent portrayal of Irene Adler on the BBC to the fact that the BBC included a panda on its ‘Faces of 2012’ women’s page (Really BBC, a panda??! ) is sexist. (Indeed in my opinion sexism is a term that is bandied about far too often and too easily). But unfortunately being stubborn and in many cases angry is a part of the job description and that can come off as just being no fun.

In a very interesting article about the nature of feminism in 2012 [] , Helen Lewis Hasteley argued that feminists have to be angry when dealing with big issues. Issues such as female genital mutilation, forced marriages and honour killings are not something you can tackle with a softly softly approach and certainly not without a strong personal reaction. But beyond that, Feminism is fundamentally about altering the way people perceive women and their place in the world. That means engaging with people’s everyday attitudes and behaviours. When someone says “she’ll / I’ll make someone a good wife someday” after cooking a nice meal or cleaning a room, I know it’s a joke I genuinely do have a sense of humour, but no, I can’t just leave it and let it pass.

Comments like that are reflective of attitudes that are still prevalent in society today, specifically that to be of worth as a wife and more than that as a woman (for implied within that statement is the social imperative that a woman finds her worth in marriage) you must be able to cook and clean to your husband’s satisfaction. Similarly I find comments equating things like DIY skills and high earning jobs to being a good potential husband equally as irksome. Although there’s no accounting for personal taste, these are attitudes I would love to see changed. While I KNOW such things are usually just a casual, throwaway comment and that you probably weren’t even thinking of all the implied subtext, the fact that such things are casually thrown out is more indicative of its entrenched position in the social conscience than if someone were screaming PUT DOWN THE BOOK AND GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN at me at the top of their lungs. Incidents like that can be dismissed as one sexist weirdo easily silenced with a swift kick to the crotch and thought no more about but social consensus is much harder to tackle.

So, while I appreciate that in some ways being perceived as annoying is not great for your cause, if we want to see real change in people’s attitudes we have to chip away at them in these everyday occurrences. I think it’s true that everyone who strongly associates with an ism (Feminism, Socialism, Geocentrism, Academicism, whatever) runs the risk of being perceived as an annoying kill joy but unfortunately it comes with the territory.