Friday, 13 July 2012

# 97 Why I hate labels

When I was a kid, I hated being lumped in with the crowd. I wanted to do my own thing and not be branded. We called them sheep. I don't know if that description still applies these days. I wanted to be the one that did things differently and didn't fit in with the crowd. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

But it's one of the few character traits that have remained with me all my life. It's why I never go and see a film with the masses the first week it comes out (partly because the hype is usually grossly overrated) and I don't bother with mainstream music until I've missed the boat. Even then I generally pick between albums and take out songs I like rather than bands. It's just the way I am.

Now, I don't know many feminists. I'm not even sure I fully understand the term. I am confused by women who claim to be feminists and then do things which totally contradict what I understand feminism to be. Maybe that is what being a feminist is all about. I'm not sure.

According to Wikipedia (that fountain of knowledge):

Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending political, economic, and social rights for women. In addition, feminism seeks to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist is "an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women."

I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that I have no interest in feminism. I am what I am and I don't need to have that kind of label stamped on me. I am an individual. Apart from anything else I do not feel the urge to jump up and down every time something happens real or virtual which doesn't fit my social agenda and makes me feel victimised for my sex. Some times you can get paranoid and take things too seriously and too much to heart.

Doesn't this just get your back up? Source

And I guess this must make me one of the lucky few because I have never felt a need to define, establish or defend my rights. I have never felt unequal, I have never felt segregated or marginalised or singled out in the workplace. And it isn't as if I have lead a sheltered life. I've been out in the real world for a long time now, I've exposed myself to some pretty harsh realities and offbeat walks of life I wouldn't have experienced if I'd towed the line.

I've worked in many business sectors particularly so called 'male dominated' industries, had a number of long term relationships with men and have always been independent and self sufficient. My decisions were my own and the mistakes I made the same. And I rectified them myself as well. Just because that's what you do.I never had anyone else to blame for the way my life ended up.

You might say 'well what about those women who don't or haven't been as lucky as you?' Well yes, but I haven't lived their lives, I don't know what it's like to be them, and so standing up and fighting for the rights of someone who's life I know nothing about and cannot even begin to comprehend contradicts a lot of what I am about.  In fact, it's a bit patronising in some ways. It's not how I operate.

I guess if, god forbid, I was raped I would suddenly be campaigning for rape victims rights, or if I was hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing I'd be campaigning for tighter sentences on bad drivers. But I haven't and so I don't. You cannot campaign for everything and my personal feeling is that standing up for something you have no direct experience of is an empty voice. What if you do more damage than good because you didn't understand the implications of what you were actually doing? There are plenty of people out there already who have experienced those things. Let them campaign.

I enforce a moral code based on my own life experiences and I help the people I know as best I can based on this. I may not have direct experience of their problems so I can only impart advice and how I would handle something in the same given situation but I would never bang on about it or force my ideals on people and I would never shout someone down just because I didn't agree with them.

I'm just getting tired of not being able to have a conversation without someone trying to force political agendas down my throat. It's wearing and it's making me completely disinterested in talking about anything of consequence because I seem to be tripped up at every turn.

It's been interesting to find so much writing in a similar vein on the internet. I like their stance although how they came to those conclusions has been very different to mine. Try xojane or alyssaroyse for a more positive stance on not being a feminist and the reasons why. That these women walked away from it for different reasons and not least because they experienced life, is interesting. If you're going to dig your heels in on your opinions and code, get some clarity on the situation. See it from every angle. Live in the real world and then come back with the same philosophy and say it stands up to interrogation.

To me, lived experiences are too complex to carve apart. 
And maybe feminists do need a space that is just about gender, but 
that’s not a space for me, because nothing in my world is that simple. 
That's OK. I don't need to be in every space.

Rant over.


  1. The reason why you CAN live independently and go out and get a job and use contraception and vote is because of feminism, and we owe something to that movement and we need to keep it going because the struggle is far from over. Our rights were hard fought for and they can be all too easily taken away. It always confuses me when women say 'I'm not a feminist but..' and then list all the things that make them a feminist. Feminism isn't particularly trendy. It's not about being a 'sheep'. It's about being able to stand up and not be afraid to say the dirty word, the F-word, and say it with pride. It's not just about our lives as individuals and whether WE feel equal. That would be like saying "Racism doesn't exist because I personally have never felt like the victim of racism". Nor is feminism just about securing legislation. It's about breaking down gender roles. Take my blog post about women who are demonised if they go out to work and demonised if they stay at home. Feminism exists to contest that sort of shit.

    And when you say you are a feminist, you are acknowledging the fact that feminism is a WORLDWIDE movement. It's about the women in Mississippi who have had all their abortion clinics taken away from them. It's about the girls and women in the Sudan whose genitals are being mutilated. It's about the women in Afghanistan who are beaten on the streets for wearing trousers. And it's about the women here who are raped and who then have to face the conviction statistics of 6%. Sometimes it may seem like we "take things too seriously". But, in the words of Rosa Luxemburg, 'Those who do not move do not notice their chains".

    Women do 2/3 of the world's work and earn only 10% of its income. In the UK, women are on average paid 17% less than men in the same jobs; only one in five MPs is female, fewer than in those well-known citadels of feminism Pakistan and the Sudan; 84% of reporters and guests on Radio 4‘s Today show are male; and at least one in four women faces domestic violence in her lifetime. Cuts to public sector jobs, benefits and services are disproportionately hammering women. Unemployment for women in Britain has risen by 19% since 2009, compared to 0.32% for men. Over 2/3 of the money raised from the five spending reviews since 2010 came from women.

    We are not equal. If an individual doesn't want to campaign on issues related to feminism, I don't have a problem with that. But what does get to me is when they make out that feminists are crazy lesbians with nothing better to do but campaign against non-existent injustice. If only. If you believe in equal rights and opportunities, if you acknowledge the fact that there is still inequality, you are a feminist. Just as you are a naturist if you like to get naked in a non-sexual context. Feminism is not fashionable. It's not like a new CD or a new style of clothing. It's a centuries old movement to which we owe pretty much all the rights we have.

    And feminism is about choice. You can be a feminist and take part in topless photoshoots. You can be a feminist and stay at home to look after the kids. (Well, third wave/sex positive feminism is more of a choice movement. The radical feminists tend to be opposed to porn, BDSM and such.) It is a rich and diverse movement - one which has done more for women than anything else, and one which we must never turn our backs on.


  2. "You might say 'well what about those women who don't or haven't been as lucky as you?' Well yes, but I haven't lived their lives, I don't know what it's like to be them, and so standing up and fighting for the rights of someone who's life I know nothing about and cannot even begin to comprehend contradicts a lot of what I am about. In fact, it's a bit patronising in some ways. It's not how I operate."

    And what do you expect other people to do for you? Yes, imagine if you were raped and everyone had the same 'not my problem attitude' as you, and you lost the rape case and there was no one there to stick up for you? This reminds me of a poem I once read..

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    1. A valid point of course. What causes do you support that you have no direct experience of and how did you come to that decision?