Wear Your Feminist Label With Pride

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Sat around my uncle’s kitchen table on boxing day eating cold slices of turkey with our mid morning coffee, I learnt something. Rape culture is so embedded within us, so normalised, that we hear things muttered from the most loving people we know. The people we feel would be safest to leave our children with, the people who we have known forever and know with certainty would never hurt a fly. Yet here were my uncles, my two wonderful, patient, calm and loving uncles engaging in a conversation about modern dating and how different things are from back in their day, that made every feminist bone in my body quiver. Discussing a date I had the following day, I was asked where we met and embarked on a conversation almost all millenials have had about Tinder and the new phenomenon of dating apps. They spoke about how dating has changed and that ‘people these days’ are dating more, how when they were younger you’d meet at parties and bars and such and “try to cop a feel” and “see how far you got”. My uncles laughed and my aunts sighed. I sat, bewildered, in-between. I was shocked. Seeing how far you could get or trying your luck is coercive. Said tongue in cheek and from two of the nicest men you could meet, I tried to swallow my distaste for their use of phrases. It wasn’t long however until I found myself blurting out a rant about how this sort of behaviour leads women to perform sexual acts because they felt pressured and because it’s presented to you from a young age as not just desired but expected. The first time I heard the word frigid get thrown around I was 13. My aunts agreed, each telling stories of unwanted attention and times they had gone along with sex when they didn’t want to. Unable, like most women, to explain why they did so. You’ll hear ‘i didn’t want to make a fuss’ ‘i didn’t want him to think I’d led him on’ and other similar reasons. The unfortunate reality is this feeling is universal and something too many women deem as normal.

Women make excuses as to why they can’t sleep with someone. We’re also told to wait a certain amount of dates before we ‘give it up’. Sex is still looked at as an attainable thing for men to acquire. So ingrained in society through TV, film and social media that even the nice guys fall guilty of partaking in this conversation. My uncles joked around that nowadays we need to sign a contract before ‘having a fumble’ and how feminist culture is leaving men scared of what they can and can’t say to women. To that I say good! Men should be more cautious in how they approach and talk to women, they certainly should be changing their mindsets and attitudes when it comes to the expectation of sex. Friends joke with me for my feminist beliefs, in particular they think it’s bizarre that I don’t let a man pay for a meal. “It’s just them being a gentleman” they’ll say. But for me and too many other women, I have been left with an overriding feeling of pressure and thus guilt for not giving said men what they want if the date didn’t go well, be that a kiss or more.

 It is up to us, not just women but anyone who agrees in the idea of equality of sexes, to speak up when we hear conversations like this play out. If you find yourself rolling your eyes and letting something slide in fear of being labelled the angry, opinionated feminist think about what’s more important. Is it fitting in and laughing along with something that makes the core of you uncomfortable or is it staying true to your beliefs and sharing your valid and crucial reasons in our fight back against the normalisation of rape culture and any other issues, feminist and equality related or not, that you feel passionate about. I know, I for one would rather stay true to myself and risk losing a couple of absent minded acquaintances or be labelled as opinionated than shy away from speaking my truth. You never know, sharing your opinions in conversations when you disagree with something said may very well change the future narrative, if only slightly, for that person/s outlet.

The conversation between my family became heated and awkward after I blurted out my piece. My uncles felt unjustly attacked while my aunts began to discuss their own reasons for agreeing with me. It would have been easier had I said nothing at all. They meant no direct harm and I could have lived with myself if I kept quiet. But keeping quiet is a huge part of the issue. It’s what women are expected to do. There should be no shame in sharing a story, idea or observation regarding feminist issues that women deal with on a daily basis. Every time we speak out against topics that have been normalised for so long that the majority of people brush them aside, we reopen the conversation and do our small part for the movement. Don’t fall victim to sitting in silence in order to avoid confrontation. Women have put up with this for too long. We are labelled as aggressive, overly emotional and indecent for acting the way men have for centuries. It’s an obvious and easy tactic; put women down for acting in a way that goes against the patriarchy in order to halt or lesson said behaviour. The more you speak openly about these issues in conversations the clearer your argument becomes. Your voice, attitude and persona strengthen. From one feminist to another I encourage you to not only speak out but to say it loud and proud with every fibre of your being.


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