This week I am delighted to welcome the lovely Ellen from ‘babies, biscuits & booze’. If you haven’t checked Ellen’s blog then you really should. All details at the end of the post. Ellen is a brilliant writer and you can find her sharing her musings on life and poetry on her blog! Her blog is always guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Over to Ellen.
What does feminism mean to you?
I’m not sure when I first started to recognise feminism as a concept. I was relatively politically aware as a teenager and my parents and I would often spend hours after dinner having philosophical discussions about various things. I think I knew from a fairly young age that sexism was wrong, and I remember whenever we studied gender roles throughout history that I felt so grateful to be a female, now, rather than in 1450 or 1880 or whenever else. The suffragettes and women who had unusual lives, breaking boundaries or challenging stereotypes, fascinated me. In fact, my grandmother on my dad’s side (who sadly died when I was quite little) was actually a bit of a maverick in both her personal and political life. She was a Labour councillor in our local area and generally defied many of the social expectations of women of her generation (she was born in 1913).
So I guess feminism was an idea that I was vaguely aware of, but it wasn’t until I started studying Sociology at sixth form that I began to get to grips with what it really means and why it’s so important. I began to notice some double standards in my own life (I went to sixth form in Essex) whereby the girls who were known to be sexually active were often vilified while the boys doing the same things were praised, put on a pedestal even. Despite the fact that I often called out sexism when my male friends spouted rubbish and that I was becoming acutely aware of how gendered roles play out in everyday life – I still didn’t call myself a feminist. I was nervous about the connotations. I worried that I couldn’t be a feminist because I adored the men in my life – my father, brother, family members and friends. I didn’t think it was a problem if women wanted to stay at home to be wives or mothers. Essentially, I had succumbed to the outdated, inaccurate stereotype that a feminist must be a man-hating lesbian.
At uni I continued to study Sociology and I chose lots of modules relating to gender, sex and feminism. In this more enlightened environment where I made friends with some amazing women who were proud of being feminists, I started to become comfortable with the label. I had a really inspirational tutor for one of my feminism modules who helped me feel proud to say I am a feminist, to start to discover my own little niche of feminism.
When Caitlin Moran wrote ‘How to be a woman’ the year I left uni I remember reading it and excitedly telling my parents and brother, when we were in the pub one night, ‘THIS is exactly what I’ve been trying to tell you all! You’re ALL feminists because you believe men and women should be equal. It’s so fucking simple!’ Caitlin Moran’s definition of feminism really resonated with me: “What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be. Are you a feminist? Hahaha. Of course you are.” It says it all.
From that point on I was proud to call myself a strident feminist (seriously, if you haven’t read the book, do it. It’s hilarious and wonderful) and I was happy to stand up for what I felt was right. I began to have a greater interest in political issues facing women and started to take notice of campaigns like Everyday Sexism, the anti-FGM movement, the No more Page 3 campaign and the work of the Fawcett Society aiming to encourage political, economic and cultural change. I was working in the hospitality industry and, unfortunately, witnessed a lot of casual sexism in my day to day life.
I suppose, in my personal life, the biggest feminist ‘act’ was choosing to keep my surname when I got married. I have written about this on my own blog (https://babiesbiscuitsandbooze.com/2016/07/28/whats-in-a-name-musings-on-marriage-surnames-feminism/ ) because it was really important to me that this name and family heritage that I am SO proud of wasn’t discarded upon marrying my husband. Nobody ever even asked if he was considering changing his name, and yet, most people assumed I would take his surname. That in itself tells me we’ve got a way to go before our society is truly equal.
I haven’t even touched upon the things I have experienced as a pregnant woman and mother. I haven’t mentioned the things I worry about for my son – the gendered nature of kids toys and clothing and how restrictive I feel that is. I didn’t explore the fact that I want to raise my boy to be a feminist, to understand that your sex or gender do not define you and there is no prescriptive masculine/feminine role you must play. But, hey, this is one blog post and people have a short attention span!
I don’t think feminism, for the majority, has ever been about hating men. Yes, there are radical offshoots of the feminist movement who do hate men and there are definitely ironic, sarcastic, witty women who joke about the stupidity of men. What I believe feminism is about is challenging the status quo, about hating a culture and structure that pushes certain groups down while continually benefitting pretty much one group; white, straight, middle class men. I want equality and freedom for everybody – whatever their gender, sexuality, race, creed, class, religion or any other form of perceived difference. No human being is inherently better than another and therefore no single group should dominate.
Feminism, for me, means women should be as free as men. It means choice, power, and equality. It means hoping and moving towards a better world for everyone, where our gender doesn’t restrict or wholly define us. Simple.
Ellen is a mum who blogs at Babies, biscuits and booze about family life and the funny side of parenting. She is a feminist who loves reading, drinking beer and eating cake. Usually found wearing novelty sunglasses.
You can find Ellen:
Let us know what you think? Do you agree with Ellen? Is feminism simply being as free as men? A big fat YES from me!
We need you!
We are the real face of feminism. We are reclaiming it and redefining it. Yes, we might have children but we can still be a feminist. We mothers want our voices to be heard too. We are part of the feminist movement. We want to be seen and heard! The Mother Feminist series is inviting all of you to share what feminism means to you:
- Do you like the term feminism?
- What does feminism mean to you?
- Do you call yourself a feminist?
- Has your outlook on feminism changed post-children?
I want to hear your opinions, ideals and feminist role-models. If you would like to get involved then please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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