Are you a feminist?

‘So are you one of those feminists then Jane?’

This question fills me with dread every time I hear it and it is posed in this way quite often as though a feminist is somehow other and weird.

I always take a step back before answering because I know I am about to be judged. The word is fraught with angst for me as it is so misunderstood and conjures up so many negative images.

Let’s be clear, I am most definitely a feminist, if this is interpreted as believing in equal opportunity and being allowed to celebrate being a woman, however, I am definitely NOT a feminist if this means I am supposed to hate men, behave like one and oppose all things girlie. See my dilemma?

So when women and men ask me this very innocent question it feels seriously personal and I cannot answer with a simple yes or no for fear of being misconstrued. I know the way I answer will define all future relations and positioning with the enquirer. Get it wrong and I may be banished as a tub-thumping, militant man hater or conversely, an ignorant, uneducated girlie with no gumption or recognition of the journey we have been on or the roads still to travel. Arrrgh!

It is a testament to our journey and the battles fought and won that this word evokes such emotion, but we must be proud of feminism and not apologetic. It is time we reclaimed the word in the name of equality and empowerment.

I love being a woman but sometimes feel the pressure, the rules and expectations of feminism overwhelming. There seems to be an unwritten manifesto that says feminists should be ‘full on’ all the time, deride all things girlie and feminine, have a male versus female opinion on everything, take up the campaigning mantle and be pc, serious and awfully intellectual. In fact, feminism sounds like a bore and its little wonder our young women are not queuing up to wear the badge!

It’s also a tough label to live up to. It’s similar to being the token woman around the board table, you feel the pressure of every decision you make, you forsake your personal identity as your every move and decision is put under the microscope and analysed as a ‘gender wide response’ when in reality, you were just being you!

I am a feminist but first and foremost I am a human being and have a right to own my contradictions just like everyone else! Quite often, it is these contradictions that cause havoc for ardent feminists. For example

  • I am a feminist but I love all things pink!
  • I am a feminist but I hate the slut walks
  • I am a feminist and I abhor all products mainstreamed from the sex industry this includes pole dancing classes and Burlesque
  • I am a feminist and I have had a boob job (yes Katie Price is a feminist?)
  • I am a feminist and believe women should stay out of politics
  • I am a feminist and I love high heels
  • I am a feminist and I have botox every 6 weeks
  • I am a feminist and I disagree with quotas
  • I am a feminist and a daddy’s girl
  • I am a feminist and disagree with abortion and think men have rights in this matter

Now, not all of these statements relate to me, but do you see the complexities? I also reserve the right to NOT have an opinion on everything, I am still not sure if Disney Princesses have a long term damaging effect on girls; I have no idea why young women think hobbling about on orthopaedic shoes looks sexy? And personally, the jury is still out on quotas as a way of increasing women on boards.
Not all feminists are the same and this is OK? Our core, shared message is one of equality of opportunity and mutual respect of the sexes, I would like to think we could keep this in the forefront of the debate and the pioneering still to come!
For the record….
I am strong AND girlie
I am ditzy AND driven
I am a business woman AND a domestic goddess
I am married AND independent
And I am a feminist who loves men! I just don’t want to be one, nor do I want to be subservient to one!

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