A rose by any other name
How feminist me thought it was an uncool & unneeded fight in high school
Emily Davison walked in front of a horse in 1913, dying in the name of women's rights. The day my high school history teacher taught me this, I decided feminism was stupid — after all why would someone be so silly as to walk in the path of a race horse?
While the precise reason why famed British suffragette Emily Davison took such an action is somewhat of a mystery, my attitude towards feminism throughout my high school years is not. I rolled my eyes at the few peers in my single sex school who paid attention to feminism and wanted to discuss it. I looked at the world around me (albeit a very comfortable, very privileged Sydney based world) and thought that I was a women doing just fine, I didn't need feminism.
During these teen years I was still aware of some of the dangers women faced that men did not. Indeed, being at an all girls high school lent itself to certain conversations. Whether it be the 'Back off' seminar on how to defend yourself against a rape attack or my home room teacher advising us to keep our keys poking out through our fingers, a quick, ready-made, self defence weapon (admittedly I still do this when I walk home alone at night). Although aware of such dangers, it took me a while to connect them to the bigger picture.
I hate to admit it, but it was during my first semester of university that I began to discover how I was not so equal to many of peers, and indeed more equal than others. The very first lecture I attended was part of a module that looked at the structures through which we communicate and make meaning — the bread and butter of a communications degree. Of course, gender was included as one of the filters through which we understand the world . The Frankie article my teenage self read by Benjamin Law on the absurdity of calling someone a 'pussy' to insult them as weak (vaginas are an incredibly strong muscle, capable of pushing a person out of them) suddenly started to make a whole lot more sense. It felt as if the mud had been wiped out of my eyes and finally, I could see. It didn't happen quite so quickly, but since, I have understood the world I live in very differently.
Admittedly, it was disheartening at times, slowly discovering that I was not as untouchable or as equal as I thought I was. After all, ignorance is bliss. The condescending comments, the passing off of my ideas, the butt grabs, the cat calls, the dismissive boss. It felt like it was something new, but in reality it was just me noticing that these things weren't okay and shouldn't be normal.
Looking at to my school year peers, my move to feminism post-high school is not unique. It still troubles me however that for the majority of my life, I held the belief that feminism was stupid and uncool. In fact, during high school I already held many of the core beliefs in autonomy and gender equality that I maintain today, they were just wrapped up differently — most importantly not as feminism. Yes, at the time Emily Davison was my favourite example of how silly feminism was, but I didn't get such an idea stupid purely from a few history lessons spent on the suffragette movement.
Much to my dismay, feminism remains uncool in many ways. Often we're scared to call ourselves feminists, we're scared to not. We're self conscious about doing what we please with our bodies, we disagree about what feminism really means, who can be a feminist, who is allowed to call themselves one, what songs we can sing along to and reality television we can indulge in. And beyond that, there's still an equally angry crowd equating feminism with misandry (no matter what definition of feminism you stand by, it is grounded in equality not hate). Unfortunately, I can't end this piece with its logical conclusion, a solution or a complete list of how we can perfect feminism and make it accessible to all. I will however end it with the hope not everyone will not be rolling their eyes as much as I once did.