What made you a feminist?(105 Posts)
Tried to start this thread last night but MN was so busy it kept timing out!!
I thought it would be interesting because I'm a nosy old bag to find out how people have become/are becoming feminists.
So - spill the beans! Were you raised as a feminist? Did it develop later in life? Or do you just like dungarees?
Low/no expectations of me as a child, especially wrt education/ career. All made worse in comparison to expectations of and privileges afforded to my brother who is just a year older than me. Class issues interest me as much as or as well as gender.
I don't really know. I think it was partly because my parents divorced when I was quite young so I saw my mum working, fixing cars, etc and therefore challenging the idea of traditional roles. My dad is a very gentle kind person who cooks and cleans and has always encouraged me and my sister to be independent. Both my parents are quite political too.
I grew up in a house with lots of books and I read a lot of my parent's books. I can remember being at some Henry Miller and then reading the Women's Room at about 14 and being blown away by it.
I went to what had been an all boys school and there were some very sexist attitudes. I remember having a physics teacher who only addressed the boys and basically put the girls in a corner of the room 'to talk about make up and shopping'.
Also I have always been very disturbed by both pornography and prostitution and the only people who helped me to understand why and put words onto my feelings were feminists.
I come from a family of strong women - not in the ground breaking sort of way, but a grandmother who raised three children with a husband at sea, confined to a sofa for 2 years (and then very mobility limited after that) with only the help of her disabled mother; a mother who has never thought she couldn't do anything; and an aunt who has battled the system for my learning disabled cousin and on the way became a district councillor as that was the best way to fight.
And my familys tacit approval that whatever it was me and my brother wanted to do, that would be OK. Bit of a shock to find other people didn't think that way too - and that made me want to change things
I agree with Beechcomber about pornography and prostitution. I hate the way you can't speak out about certain things without being labelled the prude. Usually either by some girlee of 22 who hasn't reallly thought it all through YET, or a man. and obviously it suits men that things stay the way they are. I had all the opportunities my brother had, but my parents always assumed that I would get married and a man would support me. It hasn't worked out that way. ha! I think I would have worked harder if I'd known that really, you are the person responsible for looking after yourself. I dont' want to frighten my daughter but I want her to realise that you can only really rely on yourself to look after you! sorry if that sounds cynical to the happily marrieds whose husbands support them while they raise the children. nothing wrong with that, but it blew up in my face.
I don't know that I ever 'became' a feminist. I just instinctively felt that the rules that bind men and women in their places were stupid and damaging and not for me thanks. In fact I find it very hard to understand how any intelligent human being can say they aren't a feminist. It always shocks me when I hear a woman say it.
I got into reading feminist literature at university but never much cared for any of the feminist groups. I think my feminism is more innate.
My mum was always a natural feminist and came out as a lesbian when I was very young, so my formative years were populated by a lot of forthright, politically active women. My dad is also an intelligent and well-read man, and the way he handled their divorce (putting his children's needs first and working at maintaining friendship with my mum despite the hurt caused by the circumstances) gave me a great role model for men.
Like some other posters, it really shocked me when I realised that not all girls grow up knowing that they don't have to go along with expectations, that they can say no, that they can pursue their own aims and generally look/think/feel/speak as they like.
Riven, my mum went to Greenham Common too - maybe you bumped into each other there
I know this is going to sound really trivial but it was my brother not having to do the washing up that put the icing on the cake for me. It escalated from there.
I was lucky in that I went to schools where I was encouraged to do the things I was good at - sciences and maths. They were girls schools though which I think helps with that.
So growing up I never saw any differences between what men and women could achieve - my parents do the same job as each other - and wasn't stymied at school.
What made me think about it all happened later.
The first was when I started going out at about 16 and onwards through the years - the bloody wandering hands. This whole idea that men can just come and touch you and you are supposed to laugh about it? It's just so wrong. And you can see how wel trained women are - some toothless old gimmer comes and feels your bum when you're 18 and you're supposed to giggle "ooh isn't he naughty". Come off it. All the being wanked at and flashed at and felt up and touched when you're just trying to go about your business makes me so angry...
The thing that widened it into a more genera interest was finding out that I was being treated less favourably at work because I was female.
And then I found MN and Dittany and things have come a long way
Lots of reasons, but the moment that crystallised it in my mind was the (compulsory) visit to the careers counsellor in my last year of school. I was regularly in the top 3 academically in the school and routinely walked off with the science and maths prizes. The careers counsellor suggested I should do a secretarial course "as a back up". Now I may not be the most artuculate person on the planet, but by the time i walked out of that office I think I may have made my feelings on lower expectations for girls quite clear.
ShauntheSheep I hear ya! That, and being told to 'be ladylike' which meant quiet and sitting still and not arguing when someone was JUST PLAIN WRONG - I think I was a feminist before I knew it. Then, at around 14 years old, I started reading - The Female Eunuch, Virginia Woolf - and it all began to come together in my head. And it just seemed so silly to me, a very sensible girl, that anyone would think girls weren't as good as boys. So I disagreed with them!
I've not got over my six year-old, foot-stampy, "But that's NOT FAIR!" response to some things, and actually, that attitude has set me in good stead.
I'm amazed at some of the casual sexism that people have experienced on here
For me, feminism is just the default position. Of course everyone should be treated equally, given equal opportunities etc. Why would anyone think differently?
Shaun - you think your reason was trivial - the thing that first made me aware of the differences in the way boys and girls were treated was when I got my first watch as a 7th birthday present from Grandma.
My brother was a year older than me. His first watch had a great big dial, a second hand, luminous hands and the date. Mine was small and pretty.
Then the next thing I noticed was the Smurfs.
My brothers got to choose from Smurfs who had a range of careers including car mechanic and clown. I got Smurfette who had long blonde hair, high heels and a simpering expression.
Then there were two things that helped me discover feminism per se. One was a wonderful teacher, Ms Alinek (she is a headmistress now I believe), universally known as Mzzz because she was the only teacher at school who didn't call herself Miss or Mrs. Then the local library had a huge selection of Virago and Women's Press books.
Finally there was that 'Wimmin - loony feminist nonsense' column in Private Eye. I used to read it and think it all sounded very sensible and not in the least bit loony
My mother gave me Kate Millett to read and I got very cross about the casual sexism I saw everywhere...
Getting irritated at being told to be 'ladylike' ie sit down and shut up - even though I was actually a daydreamy bookloving kid, not a rampager. Being told I couldn't go on a trip organised by some family friends because it was 'boys only'.
Being smart, and being aware that I was smarter than most of the boys I encountered, and not seeing why I should pretend to be less clever than them.
And lots of reading, and talking with friends, and encountering a diverse array of opinons.
Thing is, despite having never been into the dungarees/Greenham common/separatist end of feminism, and having views on sex work and porn that not all feminists share, I have throughout my adult life made sure everyone knew I was a feminist. Because I can't see how any woman with her cognitive functions intact can't support the idea that women are human beings, with full human status and rights, and can do what they want to do without needing a man's permission.
Just seeing inequalities around me, particularly in working class environments where phrases like "know your place" were regularly touted, albeit supposedly tongue in cheek. I've just always had a strong sense of wanting to align myself with women. I got to uni, found the library and all the feminist literature in it and never looked back.
Like AMIS, it's just the default position!
I like the definition of a feminist as someone who doesn't believe in male supremacy. I find it utterly depressing that anyone still does believe in male supremacy, but I'm aware they do! Thankfully that is totally not the case for any of my immediate family - mum, dad, husband etc.
My real dad still addresses letters to me as 'Mrs [dh's initial] Surname' (I have taken DH's surname but only after much discussion and not because he's the man! Just because it made sense to have his rather than mine, and we wanted the same name).. Anyway, my real dad drives me mad doing that.
My grandparents are very dinosaury - my Grandma is horrified that I don't darn DH's socks when they get holes in them!
Incidentally, I am in about as traditional female role as you can get - I'm a SAHM and will be for a very long time. But you know what is so, so important is that I have chosen that role. I have chosen to be a SAHM because it makes sense for our whole family for it to be me at home. I can't imagine what it must be like to be married to someone who would object to me making choices based on the situation rather than on my sex! It's never been assumed that I stay at home - I just want to do it!
I hope my daughters are as lucky as me and manage to grow up just assuming that women are as equal as men in every respect.
My parents always brought us up with equality in mind (for which I'm very thankful) - my sister, my brother and I all did things like washing up, cooking, household chores. Beyond that I must have imbibed some baby radicalism from some source that I'm not sure of - I kicked off at school about uniform items that only boys could wear (made them let me wear trousers, for instance) or things only boys could do (play football). I suppose that must have come at least partly from my parents; a chunk of my reading must also have emphasised / engendered these sorts of thoughts too, and they will have paid for them or bought them for me, after all, so it comes back to them there too.
A lot of my friends, both male and female, have helped to educate me in feminism and to radicalise me a bit more consciously (though I'm not an activist as such). Generally speaking, I expect my friends to feel the same as me about most of the basic feminist questions about equal pay, equal rights, equal abilities - not sure why they would be my friends if they didn't!
Perhaps like SolidGoldBrass, I too have views on sex work and porn that not all feminists share, and I'm aware that there are a lot of splits and differences between feminists on these and other matters. I also think that issues of race and class matter a lot, and though I know less about them I think it's all part of the same general set of discussions / awarenesses. But whatever the differences of focus or of views, I would always call myself a feminist. To me, any woman who wouldn't do so is almost certainly someone who has misunderstood what feminism means. (Having said that I do know activists in sex work or fat activism areas who have had so much stick from mainstream feminists that they would no longer consider themselves as feminists - I can appreciate why in those cases an aware and knowledgeable woman would not necessarily want to call herself a feminist.)
Sorry to go on so long!
Growing up in the 80s before the pornification of women. Am not pulling apart my bum cheeks to have foof-hair pulled out at the root for any man.
Influence of Thatcher as first female PM, Cagney & Lacey, Joan Collins as Alexis and power dressing with shoulder pads as de rigour. Assumption by my father I would go to uni.
Being a teenager in the 70's and watching the 2nd wave libbers marching influenced me greatly. I always knew I would never rely on a man, financially.
Initially because I loved reading about history when I was a kid. I would be really into reading about the aztecs or the ancient egyptians or greeks, then be totally tripped up when i'd a) realise that everyone I was reading about was a man, or only in the story because they were being married to/raped by a man (e.g. Helen), and then b) come to a section like "Women in Ancient Greece" where it tells you in so many words that women were worth shit-all and weren't allowed to do anything really.
Also my mum never talks about being a feminist but snuck things like this into my bookshelf:
Virago Book of Fairy Tales
Catherine, Called Birdy all about a girl's life in medieval England
And lots of women poets like Carol Ann Duffy etc.
It's the obvious things you notice that keep you a feminist though. Things like that idiot from Question Time who was laughing openly at the idea of an all-woman audience. Or that on my uni curriculum you would have sections like Comedy, Tragedy, Melodrama, Religious Writing etc etc etc and then one section called "Women" where you have to start comparing all female writers to each other! Frankly bizarre.
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