Happy International Women’s Day to all of you women out there!
On my lengthy drive to work today I started thinking about all the reasons why things like feminism are important to me and I got myself thinking so hard that I’d arrived at work before I’d even hit full swing (it’s a 53km trip, OK).
When I was a wee lass I didn’t think much about feminism or girls vs boys or anything like that. I actually bought into the idea that feminists were man hating psychos with hairy armpits that were just bitter they weren’t dominating all the men. See, I was lucky enough to be raised by parents that did not buy into gendered behaviours. I had a father who was happy to support me whatever my goals were (including that time when I wanted to race his old Datsun at the speedway) and a mother who purposely dressed my younger brother in pink clothes and painted his toenails because she knew it would irritate my conservative Christian grandfather (who I should point out is an amazing and wonderful grandfather who loves us all despite us all being tattooed and pierced freaks – PS: Grandad, did Dad ever tell you he got his nipples pierced? – Yes my dad was happy to let us take the fall and hide his own freakish ways). Growing up I never encountered the gender divide, so my younger self bought into all of the propaganda stating that it didn’t exist. As a young girl of what I believed to be rational thought (although my high school diaries would contradict that!), if I didn’t see evidence of it, it wasn’t real.
Then I grew up. I left home, moved out on my own, I had proper boyfriends (I don’t count my relationships from high school, although to be fair I probably shouldn’t count half of them after high school either!), lots of jobs and a lot more life experience. I can pinpoint pretty much the exact time in my life when I realised that I was a feminist.
I had been dating this guy for a few months. We’d had some good times, some rocky times, the usual. He criticised the way I dressed, the way I thought, my ambitions and my hobbies. I took it in my stride, convincing myself with the naivety of inexperienced youth that everything was fine and that really, he liked me just as I was. Hah. What a fucking idiot. After a particularly nasty blowout where he told me that I had “broken his heart by admitting I would never act like a proper lady” we were done forever. Yes, those were his exact words and an interminable amount of time and several boyfriends later that sticks with me. Not because in retrospect I was extraordinarily damaged by that sentiment, but rather that it pointed out what I was missing in the relationship that I have sought in all relationships thereafter – respect for my autonomy and the ability to choose my own path. That didn’t stop my ego from being bruised and I’ll freely admit to behaving badly afterwards. But the breakup gave me pause to think about what I really wanted from life and how I wanted to be treated. I had never come across any opposition to my fundamental selfhood before this. I had loved and I had lost many times before this, but it was that articulation of feminine expectation that really set my blood to boil. Why should I compromise my dreams and desires to suit a man’s? Why should I set aside my non-traditional hobbies? Fuck that noise!
From the age of 18-24 I was heavily involved in the BMX world. BMX is traditionally not seen as a ‘female friendly’ sport. When I competed in my first state championship I had to compete in the men’s division as there were not enough women to form a class in my age group. The current national champion (and possible world champion, I can’t remember) asked me on the gate “Why are you even bothering, you know you’re never going to win?” as though I, as a woman, would ever be any competition against him. I wasn’t. I was never fantastic at BMX but I loved it and would have given anything to compete at any level. That made me more determined. When I placed in the finals (which to be fair was only because of a crash and a no-show) another national/world champion shook my hand and congratulated me. He said to me, “It takes guts to do what you did, and I wish you all the best.” To this day I hear that in my head whenever I come up against an obstacle. I may not win all the time, but you can be damn sure I fucking try.
When I was 28 I was refused a tubal ligation because my husband might want a son. My thoughts were never considered. Let’s forget about the children that died before our daughter was born, or her traumatic birth. Let’s forget that I’m a person who should be able to decide what happens with my own reproductive organs. When I was 32 I was also forbidden a tubal ligation because my husband wasn’t able to give his permission, despite the fact that I was already undergoing invasive uterine surgery to remove the contraceptive implant that was forced upon me at 28 that had perforated my uterine lining and caused me severe pain and infection. No. I cannot decide what is best for me because it is up to my husband. My opinions are invalid. Fuck you!
Feminism to me is important because in this day and age we are still fighting the good fight. Let’s not fuck about – feminism is about equal rights and opportunity. I do not believe that women are superior to men. I do not believe that women who are born women and people who identify as women are different. I do not believe that women are some kind of sacrosanct being who can do no wrong. I believe in equal rights and opportunity. But I also believe that in this day and age, women are treated as lesser than men.
I have been lucky in my experience of sexism and misogyny. But now I am older I realise that my experiences are not the experiences of the world at large. I realise that feminism still has its place in the world and there is still a long way to go.
I am a feminist because I believe that I have more to offer than my ability to push out children, which as it turns out is pretty piss poor.
I am a feminist because I believe in bodily autonomy and a woman’s right to choose. Yes, I spent tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatment to have my child. That doesn’t mean that I don’t respect the right of anyone else to make a choice about whether or not to have children. Truth be told, I now equate pregnancy and childbirth with such fear and loathing after my experiences that I would rather slit my wrists than get knocked up again. You can be damn sure I support a woman’s right to contraception and abortion, no questions asked.
I am a feminist because I don’t believe that a short skirt or intoxication means a woman was asking to be raped or treated with violence. I defy you not to read the victim statement from the Brock Turner rape case and rail against the injustice of the defence attorney’s line of questioning when the fact of the matter was that she was undeniably raped. I hope, dear lady, that you can find a modicum of peace.
I am a feminist because I believe that domestic violence is an issue of ever increasing concern. I have seen some bloody horrible things in my time as a nurse and statistics will back me up.
I am a feminist because I believe that women are underrepresented across the whole board, particularly in positions of authority and power. I do not believe this is through a lack of talent or ability, but rather a lack of opportunity and inherent sexism. I remember well when Julia Gillard was the Prime Minister and much of the criticism revolved around her wardrobe, the size of her earlobes and her marriage and motherhood status, not her policies.
I am a feminist because of assholes like the One Nation candidate who said single mums are “lazy and ugly”. I am a feminist because people like Donald Trump and Tony Abbott are elected into positions of authority who are clearly misogynistic and dismissive of women.
I am a feminist because another mother picked on my daughter for wearing a dinosaur shirt. Kid loves dinosaurs and wants to be a paleontologist. She could even SPELL paleontologist at 5 years old. Who am I to shit on her dreams? Screw you random woman!
Hell, I even wrote my honours thesis about feminist representations in paranormal fiction. When I (eventually) go on to do my PhD there will probably be a feminist spin to it.
Urgh. I’m now 4 glasses of wine into this spiel, but seriously, fuck the patriarchy. I ain’t making none of you cunts a sandwich.