This is likely to be the most poorly expressed collection of thoughts I’ve ever written. Apart from a couple of my drunken journal entries. Those are excellent. But no, they’re not likely to ever make it up here, sorry.
Anyway. This is one of those few posts that has made it into my drafts folder. It’ll take the form of a disjointed kind of a list.
Firstly: rape jokes. I sort of feel like I ought to find them inappropriate because, you know, rape is a terrible, terrible thing, without any hint of non-seriousness there whatsoever and no, I mean it. But, for crying out loud: Dead Baby jokes. Madeleine McCann jokes. The Bunny Suicides. A hell of a lot of the sense of humour of (primarily young people and probably mainly students) revolves around some seriously terrible things. Perhaps this is how we process those things, perhaps it’s just that things are funny when they really shouldn’t be – why else would Jeff’s Giggle Loop be such an on-the-nail description of that kind of laughter you laugh when you’re at a funeral or your spouse is breaking up with you? We laugh at inappropriate, terrible things, perhaps because we’d otherwise cry, or perhaps they’d make us angry, or perhaps it wouldn’t, but we have to react in some way.
No, I’m not getting into the psychology of what makes us laugh. Bother that. If it’s OK to laugh at dead babies and Madeleine McCann and so on, then sure, if you think of something genuinely witty to say about rape, say it. If it’s not OK to laugh at rape jokes then dead babies and Madeleine McCann are out too, OK? Good.
Secondly: I like cooking, I like doing things for other people, I love it when you create something edible and it makes someone else happy, or you pass your plate over at a restaurant because the portions are, as ever, huge, and you get to watch someone you love slurp white wine sauce out of a mussel shell whilst looking as happy as Larry at you. I like knitting things, it’s only a matter of time before I do actually kidnap a small child (no, not really, I’m not utterly daft) and I hope to goodness that someday I get married and have children and don’t have to work so that I get to spend lots of time at home bringing them up. I get a bit gooey about little boys in school uniform or choirboy outfits or whatever and I’m already eyeing up the Hornby. I don’t think this is incompatible with the fact that I do want a really interesting research career first/later in life and I am quite independent and would like to do a number of things first.
Thirdly: I really would rather not walk home alone late at night. I know, technically, that if I was a Good Feminist I’d carry a rape alarm and learn how to poke someone’s eyes out with the heel of my DMs or something (not that I own DMs), but actually, I’d rather get a taxi, make someone walk me home, or be home before it gets late. I will walk home alone, and I’m not scared to do so, I just can’t help thinking that it isn’t a good idea.
Fourthly: Women’s magazines are full of airbrushed, long-legged beauties who look decades younger than they should and impossibly perfect. They wear clothes which are pedalled to us constantly, bags we must have in order to fit in. Personally I don’t tend to enjoy those magazines much – I get all the fashion I need from the various newspaper supplements in the Times or the Guardian, and I really don’t care about celebrities. Furthermore I think very few people actually are made to feel inadequate by the terrifyingly unattainable role models and examples set in these magazines. Perhaps one is as a teenager – I know it certainly angered me at the time that even in magazines aimed at teenage girls one is constantly told how to diet and all the rest of it when really we should be getting the message that, actually, you are who you are, and that is wonderful. But I don’t think anyone once they reach a certain age or level of maturity is made to feel inadequate by the frank mythologisation of womanhood in women’s magazines and basically everyone just enjoys them for what they are. I don’t think they’re massively damaging.
Fifthly, a slightly different point: the norm for women at this point in time is to shave their legs and their underarms and pluck their eyebrows and get rid of (I don’t know how, this isn’t a problem I have) any trace of a moustache. And so adverts telling us to buy razors and feel like goddesses obviously appear on television. Again, I don’t have a problem with this. I am happy to fit in with a cultural norm that dictates that I should either shave my legs or keep them out of sight. And I know there are a number of women who don’t want to shave their legs or remove their moustaches or whatever and they just bloomin’ well go for it. I don’t think adverts telling you that using a certain razor will make you feel like a goddess are saying you can’t feel like a goddess if you have hairy legs – that’s as odd a proposition from the advert in question as saying that using that razor will actually turn you into a goddess.
So, while in other countries women are denied education and many other basic rights, whilst in some places life is an awful lot harder if you are a women; whilst there are undeniably people who we may well encounter every day who think less of me because I am a woman than you, because you are man; whilst domestic violence and rape and things occur all the time and that is utterly terrible, I still wouldn’t say I was a capital-F Feminist. I can’t see what is wrong with the media as it is commenting on the way Mrs Cameron dresses, say (heck, they also comment on the dress sense of Mr Cameron and all the rest), or telling me that I should use this razor to shave my legs. I think we are awfully lucky in the UK today to have the choice to be and dress and sleep with whoever we want, to be able to marry who we like and when we like and only if we like. I like dressing up and wearing lipstick and playing the role of a woman in society. I like being a woman, I like being a girl, I like being a lady, and conforming to those stereotypes. I like it when some of the men I know patronise me a bit for being a bit of a girl. I will laugh at rape jokes, I will shave my legs and feel like a goddess, I will stare in wonder at the new seasons capes and jersey dresses and boots and I don’t mind in the least that the vagaries of fashion want me to buy new things each season because, when I have the money, I like buying those things.
This is what I’m concluding: I am not a Feminist. I believe in equality and freedom for all people in all places and while I care that women get raped and are denied basic rights to education and divorce and the right not to be stoned for adultery after having slept with someone new after becoming a widow, I also care that men are fighting wars and battles and gunfights over who they are, who they believe in and the colour of their skin; that children are dying every day from a lack of clean drinking water; that it’s harder to get into a good university simply because you’ve grown up on a council estate and gone to a state school; that our economy is in real trouble and I do worry that Osbourne is cutting too much, too fast, and that that will spell trouble in the end. I am a feminist insomuch as I am also a childist and an andronist and an environmentalist. It should surely all come as part of a package – part of being a decent human being is, surely, caring about others, no matter what or who they are.
This post was originally meant as a lighthearted riposte to some shocking allegations thrown at me in the pub a week or so ago. Whoops.