Where to begin?! This. Feels. Massive. And I wonder if you feel it too?
Friday 8th March was International Women’s Day, and by the end of it, I was pretty shattered, and high as a kite.
I’d worked with my friend Anna to arrange, co-host and co-sponsor a full day of sessions, 9-9, exploring #balanceforbetter for the women and families in our community. We had family yoga, and discussed and explored flexible working, childcare options, parental guilt, running your own business, benchmarking your salary, living more consciously and joy as activism.
I saw so many women leave better off than when they arrived- educated, equipped and empowered by our session providers, connected to each other in a safe space.
The money that we raised will support our fundraising partner, Southend on Sea Domestic Abuse Projects.
Wowzers this post isn’t ALL gonna be about how ace it was, BUT…
I was proud that we had kept it accessible at £1 a session. I was proud that we had covered such a diverse bunch of topics. I was proud that we’d paid the providers in full for their services. That women brought their books to share. That the ensuing insta stories were peppered with mentions of a space without judgement.
And then. It was like my kite got tangled in a tree. Something like that. Maybe I should leave the kite thing there.
I looked more widely across the gram as I wound down from the day, and came across the sort of stuff that’s prompted this post.
Let me back up. I’ve only really identified as a feminist since becoming a mother.
I didn’t get it before. I’ll openly admit, my former self was naive beyond belief- I can barely believe my old perspective when I consider it from this viewpoint. But I’m not angry with her (Keri, circa 2012 and before).
She didn’t know. No one around her was talking about this stuff. Her own, privileged experience showed her that equality was available to women in this country. She didn’t have the capacity to open up to the oppression that women in other circumstances were dealing with. She was not unkind or stupid. She was naive and conditioned. Thank you Daily Mail.
As I’ve developed my own understanding of feminism and other equality issues over the past 5 years or so, I’ve strived to weave the lessons into my work with women and families. I’ve become increasingly passionate, and frustrated, and enraged, and motivated, and enlightened… but there’s still a LONG way to go.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know all the right words or responses. I am willing to continue to listen and learn, and to acknowledge my privilege.
I know there are some women who are way ahead of me on this path, and others who are a long way behind. I love to imagine that when my boys are adults, all women, and men, will have an awareness of the many facets of our oppression. That people will wonder how it went on for so long. How it is that in 2019, we have this situation…
An estimated 1.3 million women in the UK faced domestic abuse last year. Services to support these women have been cut meaning an average of 400 referrals for help are declined EVERY WEEK. (Women’s Aid)
Women make up just 32 per cent of MPs in UK parliament. Five of the current members of the Cabinet (22 per cent) are women, including the Prime Minister.
Over 137,000 children in this country have missed school because of period poverty. (Free Periods)
86% of austerity in this country has fallen on women. When looking at the cuts this current government has put in place since 2010 the loss of benefit and tax changes cost women £79 billion compared to £13 billion for men. (House of Commons Library Research)
The gender pay gap. Lower average female salaries mean women have to save TWO YEARS LONGER than men to buy a home! The average woman works “for free” for the first two months of the year because of the gender pay gap. (TUC)
So if you weren’t sure, it’s pretty fucked up. We have every right to be angry. We have every right to raise our voices.
Here’s what I found on that scrollathon that won’t help.
Women being patronised, mocked, ridiculed, and belittled for their contribution to the conversation, by other women. Here’s a flavour.
“Look at those women thinking they’re raising feminist boys because they get them to do housework.”
“Look at those women saying HAPPY international women’s day.”
“Look at those women thinking the Spice Girls are feminist icons.”
“Look at those women celebrating the CIS, able bodied women in their lives”.
Accompanied by eye rolling face palming emojis.
Look. I get that it can be really challenging to be more educated than others on the way society works. Knowledge doesn’t always feel like power, and sometimes the more you know, the more terrifying the scale of widespread ignorance becomes. Terrifying, and annoying.
Why aren’t other people taking responsibility for educating themselves? Why is their perspective so blinkered? How can they fail to notice their privilege?
There are lots of things to be angry about where intersectional feminism is concerned. There are many reasons that YES- we have a right to rage, and an impulse to raise our voices.
But this is what I just don’t get. Surely not with each other? That’s not to say, not with any woman. It would be easy to argue that Teresa May, for example, is a traitor to women. She really ought to know better. Let’s face it, she does know better, and she chooses to ignore what she knows.
But the women behind us on the journey- surely no one really believes that the way to bring more women (or anyone actually) along is to engage in a public condemnation of their current ignorance?
I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of these critics. Maybe the thinking is, “Why should I hold back? Why should I tone it down? I’m fucking tired of it. Their comfort is not my responsibility.”
Well, that’s true. And I promise- I am really willing to be uncomfortable. I was when I got schooled on the White Saviour concept over on @standforhumanity and I’ve talked to many, many people about it, and how it made me reconsider my position pretty sharply. I was able to learn because of the approach. She told us- “Look, I get why you probably don’t see this, let’s lay it out…”.
Perhaps then it’s, “their education is not my responsibility”. But how can we call ourselves feminists if we are unwilling to embrace constructive conversation with women behind us on the path, as part of our activism?
PS I did celebrate my mum and my sister, because they are wonderful women, doing plenty to support other women. Afterwards, I did wonder if it was the right thing to say, but I say a LOT of things in respect of women and their issues all the time. Like anyone, I’d hope to be judged (if at all) on something more than ONE thing I say or do.
I did say HAPPY IWD, because, in spite of all the terrible troubles women are in, we had created a joyful and fulfilling experience for those we could reach. Jamillah, one of my evening speakers, talked about ‘Joy as Activism’ and it really spoke to me, more so during this digestion of all this mockery.
I’ll say it again, we have a right to our anger, but surely if we point it at the women who know less than we do, we are playing into the hands of the patriarchy? Surely we are preventing these women from learning, (myself included) if we leave them afraid to open their mouths? We all have to start somewhere with our feminism. No one is gonna go from clueless to intersectional overnight. If we don’t offer each other a hand up the ladder, aren’t we ultimately harming ourselves?
I don’t have a strong and snappy conclusion here, and it’s the first time in a long time that I’ve felt that unease. I guess because this blog is asking the questions, and I don’t know what the answers will be.
I’d love to know if you’ve ever felt that you don’t know enough, and that you don’t know where to start. If you have Qs about feminism, email me firstname.lastname@example.org, and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll bring in someone who does.