What made you a feminist?

(105 Posts)
SugarMousePink Fri 19-Mar-10 07:18:06

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? grin

LeninGrad Fri 19-Mar-10 08:23:06

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.

Beachcomber Fri 19-Mar-10 08:42:14

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 shock 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.

sarah293 Fri 19-Mar-10 08:44:27

being female and becoming aware of the inequalities. 'No, you cant do chemistry A level, girls do English' sort of thing.
Then started going to Greenham Common and had a very inspiring 6th form teacher who introduced me to Spare Rib and feminist literature.

CMOTdibbler Fri 19-Mar-10 08:48:44

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

Maggie00 Fri 19-Mar-10 08:49:32

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.

OrmRenewed Fri 19-Mar-10 08:52:30

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.

cyteen Fri 19-Mar-10 08:59:29

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 grin

ShauntheSheep Fri 19-Mar-10 09:09:31

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.

ImSoNotTelling Fri 19-Mar-10 10:14:43

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...

And calm...

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 grin

slug Fri 19-Mar-10 11:18:00

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. grin

I'm amazed at some of the casual sexism that people have experienced on here shock

For me, feminism is just the default position. Of course everyone should be treated equally, given equal opportunities etc. Why would anyone think differently?

BadGardener Fri 19-Mar-10 11:26:15

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 grin

blouseenthusiast Fri 19-Mar-10 11:30:13

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.

Sakura Fri 19-Mar-10 11:45:32

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.

MrsWobbleTheWaitress Fri 19-Mar-10 11:59:51

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.

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 19-Mar-10 12:06:11

I think i have always been one but come from a long-line of [working class] women who have always worked and juggled childcare. Never understood why it was so difficult for some families when my Dad was always actively involved in our lives.

I'd hazard a guess and say my Dads' union activism widened my eyes to inequality and the women made me realise how much that inequality is gender-based.

comixminx Fri 19-Mar-10 12:33:27

Hi all

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!

DinahRod Fri 19-Mar-10 12:44:55

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.

abouteve Fri 19-Mar-10 12:46:04

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.

threelittlepebbles Fri 19-Mar-10 13:24:09

My mum was a feminist and as I was growing up it never really occurred to me that I wasn't. I was brought up as an equal to my brothers, and with the idea that I could have it all (family and career) if I wanted. I found it pretty shocking when I reached my teens that other girls at school and university were happy to declare that they definitely WEREN'T feminists - I'm in my 30s now and would say that most of the women I know would probably say the same thing. I don't know if it's just a label thing - ie they are concerned about the same issues but don't like the f word for some reason.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Fri 19-Mar-10 13:58:15

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.

sarah293 Fri 19-Mar-10 15:34:10

'Riven, my mum went to Greenham Common too - maybe you bumped into each other there grin'

make me feel old why dontcha! I was 16 - 18 when at Greenham grin

DebiNewberry Fri 19-Mar-10 15:40:04

Being born a woman. That's about it really.

DebiNewberry Fri 19-Mar-10 15:40:34

Being born a woman. That's about it really.

DebiNewberry Fri 19-Mar-10 15:40:53


OrmRenewed Fri 19-Mar-10 15:58:49

Ha! Riven I feel that way all the time. My kids think of the 80s as the decade that time forgot!

Hullygully Fri 19-Mar-10 16:02:18


AbsOfCroissant Fri 19-Mar-10 16:09:19

Because I had two older brothers and spent pretty much most of my childhood arguing that girls are better than boys. I just ended up with an expectation that I could and SHOULD be allowed to do whatever I want (as in, not be allowed to go to university or something, just because I'm a girl).

Also, the women in my family have always tended to be rather kick-ass and run things, so it just seems natural. (my DM is the exception to this. She is all for 1950s housewifery).

dittany Fri 19-Mar-10 18:39:56

Reading the Female Eunuch when I was fourteen and realising that all the unfair treatment I'd received because I was a girl was down to sexism not because of some natural inferiority of women. Pissed me off then that it happens to women and girls, and it pisses me off now.

TotalChaos Fri 19-Mar-10 19:00:18

being brought up primarily by two strong-minded women (mother and grandmother), and encouraged to work hard to support myself.

neillybeag Fri 19-Mar-10 19:15:05

Being told I should smile more in order to look pretty.

Being told not to sit with my legs apart.

Being told I ought to wear a bit of makeup.

Being told on work experience aged 16 that I couldn't be an telephone engineer I could only be a telephonist.

Just a few examples. There are loads more.

missmoopy Fri 19-Mar-10 19:21:56

Growing up with a father who was a bully and seeing my mother be subserviant through my entire childhood. I was also brought up in a racist and homophobic conservative household. I think my upbringing and education is what made me a feminist, socialist and liberal. I am now a social worker and shilst my parents are proud, I think they wonder where they went wrong!? They see their beliefs as the only way.

MarshaBrady Fri 19-Mar-10 19:26:09

Being better at Maths and Physics than all the boys in the class.

Then studying feminism with the eminent Sheila Jeffreys.

Getting annoyed with wolf-whistles with my friends when we were all young and blonde.

LeninGrad Fri 19-Mar-10 19:29:59

comixminx, I too made a huge fuss about wearing trousers at school, was partially successful. Also, one of my proudest moments was turning out in the full school kit for a football match. Friendly though, wasn't allowed to play in the proper games. Was a bit crap but that wasn't the point. smile

dittany Fri 19-Mar-10 19:35:14

Did you really study feminism with Sheila Jeffreys Marsha? <jealous>

(I remember our physics teacher calling us girls "dames" and making us very unwelcome in his classes)

MarshaBrady Fri 19-Mar-10 19:43:26

Yes, but only a couple of classes - at Melbourne University.

We thought she was great, quite strong in her views. I was surprised to see how well known she is... (I hope it's the same one! I'm sure it is).

Being forced to do cookery and sewing at school, rather than wood work or metal work

Wondering why most cartoon characters were male
and why, in Enid Blyton books, were female characters deemed inferior

Wondering why 'woman' was a term of insult for the boys at school

Wondering why girls at school were never asked to carry chairs (we were too weak, apparently)

SugarMousePink Fri 19-Mar-10 20:42:34

Meant to say my bit in my OP but had to rush off to work!

I think I'm still getting there. Certain things feel 100% natural to me because of the way I was raised - fairness, equality, treating everyone the same. My Mum is a very strong woman from a long line of strong women so we were always brought up that the only difference between girls and boys was genitalia! So much so that I used to play rugby when I was at school (quite unusual back then) although I can remember my grandma being quite disapproving of that!

My brother was also severely physically handicapped and my younger sister has severe dyslexia - Mum spent years fighting for help for DB and my sis went undiagnosed for years as it was still not a well known condition back then. Even when she was told what was wrong Mum had to fight for help for her (her dyslexia was so bad she couldn't read until she was 11). I suppose it was growing up watching all of this which made me very aware of discrimination and justice. Even now I have a very acute fairness radar which is sometimes a bit of a hindrance TBH.

Like others have said, feminism strikes me as something natural, although it's so easy to say to someone "oh this is what you should do" because you can see clearly what is right and wrong, whereas when it comes to your own life it's so bloody hard sometimes! However I'm making my way along, reading threads, reading books, speaking to people here and feeling like I'm learning all the time smile

wubblybubbly Fri 19-Mar-10 22:41:13

Stereotypical gender roles weren't enforced on us when we were growing up. We were simply allowed to be who we were, which in my case meant football, cricket and british bulldog, rather than dolls and pretty clothes.

We were traditionally working class, which in our family meant the women always worked outside the home and household chores were shared, between us all, children included, regardless of gender.

No doubt that was down to my DMam as I'm sure my DDad would've happily done nothing in the house, had he been allowed!

glasjam Fri 19-Mar-10 22:57:54

Nothing "made" me a feminist. I remember my Dad (philandering type) asked me when I was 18 whether I was a feminist and I said "if you were a woman wouldn't you be one?" and he kind of shrugged and knew what I was saying and agreed. In some wierd way, I think the question should be "what made you NOT be a feminist?" When do we associate being a female with NOT being able to do certain things? That's the dangerous association.

abouteve Fri 19-Mar-10 23:44:25

The younger generation of women don't have to think about feminism anymore because they have reaped the rewards of their forebearers. So it's not necessary to consider that whether they embrace it or not.

They have equal rights (OK to a point), they have choices so can exercise them as they wish. So there is no need to think about it (or so they think).

Molesworth Fri 19-Mar-10 23:59:59

As glasjam said, being a feminist seems kinda obvious and I wonder why any woman wouldn't be one.

But the whole 'raunch culture' phenomenon has really pissed me off in recent years and made me more overtly uppity than I used to be when I was younger, I must admit.

BelleDameSansMerci Sat 20-Mar-10 00:08:38

Andy Pandy made me a feminist... Actually, it's my first memory of inequality. I asked my mother why Loobie Loo couldn't play with Andy and Teddy and my mum told me it was probably because she was a girl. I was outraged. And about 3 years old.

Then it was things like being told (by my shitbag paternal grandfather) that my brother although younger than me was "more important" because he would carry on the family name. Grrrrrrrr.

Fought like hell at school to be allowed to all the things the boys did - even if I didn't really want to do them, etc.

How can you not fight the bloody outrageous injustice of being treated differently because you're female?

becksydee Sat 20-Mar-10 00:30:09

i never really defined myself as a feminist until fairly recently, but i think i probably always have been, even though i wasn't necessarily aware of it.

i suppose the things that made me a feminist were:

- growing up in a household where chores were very evenly split between my mum & dad
- not really understanding why i was supposed to play with dolls etc when what i really wanted to be doing was playing on my friend's brother's computer
- going to an all girls school where we were never taught that certain careers were for men or for women - if we could put in the effort & get the grades, we could be anything we wanted
- trying to get help for mental health problems in my late teens/early 20s and not being taken seriously because of my diagnosis (one that is mostly given to women)
- working in a women's medium secure unit, & seeing before my eyes the result of inequality, abuse, less access to education, how patriarchal psychiatry & the criminal justice system are & how women's distress is ignored & minimised until something awful happens (resisting the temptation to write essay on this particular point ...)

the last point in particular is what sealed it for me. i guess i've been lucky that my upbringing has shielded me from some of the worst aspects of gender inequality, although like sugarmousepink, i've always had an acute 'fairness radar'.

i've never done much reading around the subject of feminism, but i've enjoyed reading the recent threads on here & have added a few books to my reading list

StillSquiffy Sat 20-Mar-10 00:52:01

It was having to make upside-down cake in school whilst my brothers did woodwork that started it for me.

Bink Sat 20-Mar-10 01:00:38

Intriguing - 'reactive' feminists and 'default' feminists ...

I don't think I'm enough of one, despite defining myself as one for about 30 years now - since I first read Betty Friedan. (And that was quite antiquated when I read it.)

My trigger was pretty along Friedan's lines, and not one I've seen in the posts so far - that there are norms of women's roles that are just too 'easy' - passive, reactive, supportive: the quality that has been described as "permission to fail" - sort of summed up in those t-shirts that say "I'm a natural blonde, please speak slowly" <grrr>

- or, indeed, the Minette Marin type of newspaper column that insists that any woman with children who tries for a bit of horizon that is wider than the domestic is kidding themselves (at best, and probably actually a Vicious Freak).

See also Florence Nightingale on the death-in-life of the suffocated idle 19th-c bourgeoise - nothing to do, no demands, except that you be decorative, refined, initiative-free, feminine. Oh no, don't give us the vote, ooh, we wouldn't know what to DO with it. <tinkling laugh>

But I think I should be a bit more political, now.

Lovely thread idea, by the way.

MrsWobbleTheWaitress Sat 20-Mar-10 07:37:19

I am loving this new topic, I have to say.

My mum often says to me that I'd have loved to have lived in the 60s. Someone on here already said about being someone who would be considered a 'radical' and I think that's what my mum means about me. I feel very strongly about issues, and have very strong principles. I would definitely have been a suffragette had I been born in those times. I would have been on Greenham Common in a flash.

I always make a point of commenting when someone makes a casually sexist comment. My brother does the 'boys are better than girls' thing just to wind me up (and I do the opposite back!), but I know that he's as much of a feminist as I am, except there's no way he'd say that.

I'm bloody proud of being a woman. I'm proud that I have the choice to bear children, and to breastfeed them. I'm powerful because of that. I'm proud of my job. I work hard to make sure my children are having the upbringing I feel is going to give them the best grounding for the rest of their lives. I am proud that I married a man who is also a feminist and who would join me in picking people up on casual sexism, who doesn't join in with the sexist, mysogynist banter at work, who feels eternally grateful that I cook dinner on the days he's working, rather than just assuming that that will happen. We are grateful to eachother for the contributions we make to the family and value eachothers contributions equally, whether they involve money or not!

I'm pleased I've chosen to give up paid work to bring up our children, but I haven't done it because I'm the woman, but because it was me who wanted to do it the most!

And I'm really excited that I had children young enough that when they're old enough, I've got enough working life left to have a whole new career.

Sorry for that rather long rant!

SugarMousePink Sat 20-Mar-10 10:01:20

So glad someone else picked up on the Minette Marrin issue! The column she wrote recently about "alpha mummies" made my blood boil!

I'm still waiting for my family to begin (hopefully one day!) but I don't know when I get to that stage (fingers crossed!) if I will want to cut my hours down and spend more time at home, stay at home FT or to hop straight out of the birthing pool and back to work shock grin like Dr Helen Wright did.

Either way, it's bloody hard enough as it is for women to tunnel through the glass ceiling and achieve high profile jobs that have traditionally been the province of men, without one of your own slinging arrows at you! I agree, some women want to be at home with their kids and current govt policy doesn't lend itself to that if you are already employed, but some women don't. Some want to work and have something outside of the home for them. If you'd spent years building a career that you loved, why should you be expected to suspend it just because you've had a baby, if you don't want to?

Beachcomber Sat 20-Mar-10 11:09:03

Gosh becksydee what you say about your work sounds very interesting. I bet there are lots of interesting thread subjects there where you could write an essay that we would all be very interested in.

SugarMousePink Sat 20-Mar-10 15:16:58

Seconding Beachcomber - would love to hear more about your experiences there Besckydee...

motherinferior Sun 21-Mar-10 14:16:50

I was brought up allegedly to be one; then I realised just how sexist my upbringing had been, and became what I would term a rather more aware feminist when I was, ooh, 19.

Solo2 Sun 21-Mar-10 16:01:40

Re-writing Enid Blyton aloud with my sister but changing the names/ genders of each character to highlight how ridiculous it was to polarise girls/ boys in specific roles....NOT wearing the 'right' girly clothes and having girly hobbies and always identifying with male role models on TV/ in books....Reading Spare Rib at University and visiting the local feminist bookshop in same town, avidly reading all feminist lit.....

....Later...realising I didn't have to pander to the needs/ tastes of men in order to become a mother and having children alone using a donor....This has got to be the most liberating act of my life. There was a period between teens and late 20's when I 'learned' to do the feminine thing/ look the way men expected (and other women) etc in order to 'get a man'/ join the female race...

Despite having a SAHM mother and a highly regarde father in a profession in the public eye, realising that a lot of the power lay with my mother and her female ancestors - matriarchs in charge of huge extended families where the women had the power...yet of course also were disempowered by societies norms...

But these things dishearten me now....having twin sons who have imbibed sexist attitudes despite being raised solely by me - given the pressures of their peers and societies ("Don't be silly Mummy, nurses are women and doctors are men!" etc)...seeing the pressure on younger women to wear uncomfortable clothes and make-up and act a certain way in order to 'fit in' (obviously highly dependent on the individual as some proactively choose to dress and act a certain way for their own desires)....Being suspected of being a lesbian, even by my own late father who I thought knew me well, only just because I chose to have children alone and haven't been in a relationship for several years....

mathanxiety Sun 21-Mar-10 17:07:52

I grew up in Ireland. (And maybe that says it all...)

One of my earliest memories of sexism in action was seeing and hearing the crude and unbelievably hostile invective hurled at 'wimmin drivers' by men in their cars and from the pavement in the early 70s. The anger of men at the invasion by women of their 'turf' was clearly visible on their faces and in the clenched fists and various hand gestures, and nobody thought anything of it. I see raunch culture as an extension of that anger, a revenge fantasy against women.

My family background was very bourgeois, where the women were sent to finishing school and married off, but my Dad in his own way (mainly a lot of cautionary tales about the perfidy of men and their tendency to blame others for their own failings, and also through teaching us to play cards really well) tried to prepare us to watch out for our own interests as women. He had very lefty leanings, hated elitism despite a very elitist education and upbringing, and had great sympathy for the downtrodden in Irish society as well as for the oppressed British working class. So thanks Dad.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Mon 22-Mar-10 11:19:15

Absolutely, glasjam: "What made you not a feminist?" Will take that and use it.

wastingaway Mon 22-Mar-10 14:24:44

I was a 'tomboy' growing up, but also liked barbies etc. I just liked what I liked. My Mum was a hippy librarian type, so if I wanted barbies I got barbies, if I wanted cars I got cars.
Mostly played outdoors, and made up stories though. I think imagination helps one see outside the stereotypes around us.

I got into left-wing politics around 16, read The Whole Woman at 20 and have gone downhill ever since, so I am very glad to see this topic! smile

Fennel Mon 22-Mar-10 15:24:58

I wasn't raised as a feminist, though there were elements, my father always insisted we girls shouldn't let people tell us that boys were better at maths or science. But I always noticed inequalitites. And observing my parents - insufferable overbearing father, mother pandering away to his every whime, uncomplaining while doing the housework and childcare and also a full time professional job and further degrees - did make me and my sister react strongly against traditional gender roles, and marriage too. We've both been active feminists since our early teens. My mother doesn't get it at all, she can't see why a woman would want to be a feminist.

My first feminst campaign was aged 6 in infant school, the boys did woodwork, the girls got to do sewing. I organised a campaign and the girls were permitted to do woodwork. We chose to make dolls' furniture grin

mathanxiety Mon 22-Mar-10 18:17:12

Did the boys get to do sewing?

PS I love the word 'whime' -- it's perfect (no sarcasm intended here, I really think it's brilliant)

Fennel Tue 23-Mar-10 10:48:50

It's good isn't it "whime". Though a typo. I could be a mixture of whim and whine.

No, the boys didn't get to do sewing. For some reason they didn't complain about this.

SkaterGrrrrl Tue 23-Mar-10 12:28:23

Obviously political anger at the status of women the world over. But on a personal level:

One of my sisters was raped in her early teens. Cant even begin to describe the anger. This incident more than anything makes made me realise how "the personal is political". Rape didnt just hapen to someone I love, it happens to women as a class.

A mum who waited on 2 husbands hand and foot doing all housework, cooking, childcare etc. One husband left her for another woman and the other spent every penny of her money and ran up massive debts until she finally left him. She now lives alone and is broke, doesnt know how to budget or insure her car - she doesn't even know her bank sort code (or where to find it). Relied totally on her husbands, both of whom nearly destroyed her.

My father has 3 daughters and a son. The sun shines out of the son's ass. Different rules apply to him, because he is a boy. The favouritism is palpable.

I went to all all girls school where we were encouraged to be very academic and very ambitious.

Reading Women Who Run With The Wolves as an impressionable philosphy student hmm

Kathyjelly Tue 23-Mar-10 12:36:33

My dad refusing to let my mum drive the car because "women are no good at that sort of thing"

Jazzicatz Tue 23-Mar-10 12:45:54

Lots of reasons, but one of the overriding for me was listening to my mum come home from work when I must have been about 9 and telling my dad that her boss had asked her again to get her tits out and had spent all day sexually harrassing her. My mum still can't see there is anything wrong with that and just excuses it as 'that's what men do'. Since then I have been shocked by the continuing objectification of women and the politics of rape.

msrisotto Tue 23-Mar-10 12:49:44

When I was looking for a job to fund travelling after school. My family are into development and i've known builders all my life but I was laughed at when I asked about working with them as i would distract the men.

I never really thought about it or any of the other casual sexism i came across until i left home (my dad wanted a boy, i was the last child so he treated me like a boy in effect, playing sport together etc). At home, I never felt sexism, it was when I left home i was affronted with it.

A lecturer at Uni introduced me to feminist literature and i was fascinated.

dotty2 Tue 23-Mar-10 12:55:59

Being brought up by parents who encouraged me to believe the world was my oyster - even though they definitely would not describe themselves as feminists and persist in addressing letters to Mr and Mrs (DH surname). It's odd that those two traits should go together in their attitudes, but I guess they got the more important one right.

And - more controversially - my faith as a Christian. I know that for many people the church has been - and continues to be - a repressive and patriarchal institution, and that lots of what the Bible has to say about women is incompatible with feminism. But I believe in a socially-constructed Bible (that is, it might have been inspired by God, but it was written down and edited by men who were a product of their time and culture). And, for me, a crucial message of Christianity is that we are all made in the image of God - whatever our gender, race, or sexuality etc - and that it is our calling to take that seriously in our relationships with everyone around us. I feel quite diffident expressing that view on this thread - but it's my experience.

motherinferior Tue 23-Mar-10 13:01:50

Ooh, that is interesting, Dotty2. (I have just read Sara Maitland' book on silence, by the way.)

mathanxiety Tue 23-Mar-10 14:31:12

Dotty2, I feel that way too wrt Christianity. Am RC, and people tend to see a massive contradiction between the conduct and attitude to women of the RC church and how I see things, and wonder how I can reconcile the two, but I take the same tack as you do.

Fennel Tue 23-Mar-10 14:38:01

I was actually introduced to a lot of feminist thought through the church and through reading and listening to feminist theologians, my family are evangelical Christians. I spend a lot of effort trying to reconcile the two before realising that for me Christianity and Feminism are incompatible. And I could never ditch the feminism. That was a long time ago now though, but I suppose you could call it an influence in that the first active feminists I met were Christians. (which may just reflect the lack of intellectual and political stimulation in small Wiltshire towns 30 years ago. It was hardly Greenham)

GardenPath Wed 24-Mar-10 03:41:29

Becoming an 'unmarried mother' (in the early 70's) at sixteen and having to sacrifice an education and thus a life because I didn't have her adopted. Not a choice her father had to make. Not that, as a working class girl, an education was considered particularly important.
And the slow dawning of realisation that, while I'd been a 'tom-boy' all my childhood without even thinking about it, played cricket, football, done all the most dangerous 'dares', was 'one of the lads', (and god forbid anyone who gainsaid), earned my 'place' in the club, never even considered, consciously, I wasn't as 'good' as anyone else, I was, in the end, only a girl after all. The inequality and unfairness of it all hit me right between the eyes.

And resentment - that bearing and raising a child, probably the most important job anyone can ever do and one that about half the population does - is not recognised as a contribution to society, is not work, and has absolutely no value. You have to have a proper job for that.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

mtor Wed 24-Mar-10 04:47:15

Both my parents left school at fourteen and wouldn't have identified with the language of feminism at all. They were also both quite old school in terms of how they saw and applied gender roles. Yet they did share out the work and the responsibilities equally and made decisions together. There was very much a shared power relationship in the house that I grew up in. When I left home it was (and has continued to be) shocking to me that this wasn't everone's experience here in the uk even amongst those who apparently had the same upbringing. I know that the expectations my upbringing gave me make me appear challenging to others (mainly men) and there is something fascinating to me in that my low key, non politicised, essentially conservative parents managed to do this just through living their lives together in an equal partnership. I think that this might be the start of why I am a feminist (although of course then you think about equal pay, sanctioned discrimination, and the fact that most States do so very little to ensure that rights of their female citizens are respected.......and why would you not be a feminist)?

DemonChild Wed 24-Mar-10 12:41:53

I think I've always been a feminist, my parents always led me to believe I could do anything I put my mind to. My mum has had a very successful careers in fields that are considered 'male' (stockbroking and IT) and she has never let her gender stand in the way of her career or ambition.

BUT, I didn't have the mental agility to work out why some things angered me growing up. For instance at my (all boys, except for 6th form) school, there were boys who used to walk past me saying 'smile, cheer the fuck up' and it used to infuriate me and I didn't know why. Now I know it was because I didn't like or respect these boys and had no desire to make myself 'appealing' to them. But they just assumed that I should care about their opinions.

A small thing I know but I've only just worked that out.

antoinettechigur Wed 24-Mar-10 21:49:39

I really struggled to respond to this. Don't know why. Maybe because being a feminist feels like the right, default setting.

Anyway, DP and I were watching the last in the Feminism series the other night. He hadn't seen the other ones. We have been talking about feminism a lot recently (thanks to MN, I think!). So DP was quite interested in the programme but didn't understand why women would become feminist activists, he felt isn't it enough just to try to live by your principles. Also, he asked, isn't being a stripper or lapdancer or lad's mag soft porn model a choice and so not a negative thing?

That discussion made things click into place for me. We talked about the differing messages girls and boys get, that our daughters are at risk of being more compelled to think and worry about their appearance and appeal than our sons. We talked about what kind of choice being a lapdancer is, why would someone feel "empowered" by being groped by a stranger? Also that I think that every woman I know must have lost count of the number of times she has been given the message that her body is not hers - by being groped, leered at, insulted for not meeting an ideal, otherwise sexually assaulted. I have truly lost count of the number of times a man has physically impinged on me in one of these ways - but I feel for a most men, fortunately, the experience of being invaded or scrutinised in these ways is rare.

So that's why I am a feminist.

Also I'll never forget my aunt being refused a mortgage because she was a single woman (in the 1980s). She was told that the bank would look again at her application if my elderly, sick, retired grandfather would co-sign. She was a solvent woman who had been in the same professional job for 20 years.

She kicked up hell and managed to get a mortgage. But even then I knew it was so wrong that she had to fight.

RonaldMcDonald Thu 25-Mar-10 00:15:06

seeing so many strong, proud, women being treated like shit and having little power to change their lot

so, birth, really

Petsville Fri 26-Mar-10 20:41:49

I was born one, I think - became one consciously through seeing my mother being miserable and downtrodden at home through conforming to social expectations that a mother of young children shouldn't work, and my father expect to be waited on hand and foot, and realised there was a name for what I was when I was 11 or 12 and started reading feminist texts. Spent the whole of my childhood and teenage years fighting family expectations (my father comes from a very conservative patriarchal culture), got away to go to university and never looked back.

Another Christian feminist here. And some of the most inspiring feminist women I have known personally are priests who fought for years and years to be ordained.

NameWithDrawn22 Mon 04-Mar-13 13:17:47

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slug Mon 04-Mar-13 13:25:34

I'm assuming Rapeseed is one of those straw feminists so beloved of the MRAs.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 05-Mar-13 00:30:38

This is an interesting thread and I'm glad it was bumped and that I missed the MRA comment - result!

FreudiansSlipper Tue 05-Mar-13 10:26:15

the woman in my family are very strong. They did not always have feminist views because they had been conditioned by family and society but I was made aware from a very young age that they had to put up with so much just because they were woman and I should not do so

so from a very young age also influenced by some great teachers I remember one having a very loud argument discussion with a parent who had allowed his son to look at porn magazines her saying this degraded all women has stayed with me as they do. We were 12/13 at the time this boy already had a terrible attitude towards females

LizbethK Tue 05-Mar-13 23:28:08

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MarinaHantzis Tue 05-Mar-13 23:53:56

My dad left when I was a baby and my mum brought me up alone while working 3 jobs.

KRITIQ Wed 06-Mar-13 00:07:08

I watched part 1 and 2 of Makers: Women Who Made America and remembered with fondness how and why I identified as a feminist when I was about 16.

I was one before that, but only really picked up on the term when I read some literature from the ERA YES campaign in what was sadly, shortly before the Equal Rights Amendment failed to pass the Illinois General Assembly and never became part of the US Constitution. Things started to lurch back to the right around that time generally. The programme reminded me of how the gains for women's rights started getting clawed back, bit by bit, but my 16 year old self would have never imagined, for example, that abortion rights would feature so prominently in the presidential election last year. Gah.

Anyhow, the programme might not make that much sense to those who didn't live in America at the time, but probably still worth a look to compare and contrast how the movement evolved here and there. Lovely to cheer Shirley Chisolm and boo Phyllis Shafley (who's still alive and still an arse, damn it!)

KRITIQ Wed 06-Mar-13 00:10:14

Ah, didn't realise this was a zombie thread. Anyhow, hey, check out the link! smile

Startail Wed 06-Mar-13 00:23:20

I was born one.

I was cleverer than any boy I met up to the age of 18, so I expected to be respected as such.

Resented massively having to wear a skirt and not do wood work.
And felt equal pay etc. we're total no brainers.

Never thought that 35 years or more later that I would still have to call myself a feminist.

Skirts and high heels being thought of as necessary for apart work wear. Far worse gender segregation of toys and clothes for children. I never wore pink and rode a orange off road bike.

Still awful unfairnesses in parental leave and the assumption mother will pick up all the child related stuff.

DD2 still has to ask why women's football gets no TV time and why they have to play pricy netball.

The Internet has made porn and sexual bullying worse.

Religions seem to remain or become more institutionally sexist.

There are still too few women in politics and business.

If you had asked me at 5 or 15 is I was a feminist I would have said yes.

I'm sorry to say I will still have to be one until the day I die.

Buffy85 Wed 06-Mar-13 00:40:34

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Hazlett Wed 06-Mar-13 00:43:18

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TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 06-Mar-13 00:51:13

Personal safety issues in my teens.

Mumsnet in my thirties grin

BrendaWendy Wed 06-Mar-13 01:16:45

Whilst I am a proud feminist, I feel misandrists who want to be more than equal give us a bad name. The very women who marched and protested who inspired me as a child would be ashamed of these 'feminists'.

BrendaWendy Wed 06-Mar-13 01:21:46

Startail, I think maybe you overestimated being cleverer than all of the boys you knew, since you don't know the difference between were and we're.

Hazlett Wed 06-Mar-13 01:22:04

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Sunnywithshowers Wed 06-Mar-13 12:49:40

I can't remember a 'eureka' moment as such. I've become more of a feminist the older I become.

I made a complaint at work about a man having a semi-naked woman as his screensaver - that was the late 90's.

BrendaW I agree with Hazlett that women shouldn't hold themselves back - they should be whatever they want to be. And how many misandrists do you actually know?

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Wed 06-Mar-13 12:53:27

DD2 still has to ask why women's football gets no TV time and why they have to play pricy netball.

I assume you mean prissy? Does she think that because it's predominantly played by women? i.e. because it's a woman's sport it can't be as good as a "men's" one?

WoTmania Wed 06-Mar-13 13:41:30

I think I've always been a feminist but didn't realise until I became a SAHM and saw the difference in the way I was treated and society's expectations of me in that role.

seeker Wed 06-Mar-13 13:44:26

I was born a woman and I have a brain- therefore I am a feminist.

eavesdropping Thu 07-Mar-13 12:06:02

what seeker said grin

I think for me, it was my mother's influence. She is a feminist and growing up, I took on her views on various things such as Page 3. I remember first hearing the term "glass ceiling" from my mum at quite a young age. I come from the kind of family that has "proper" discussions about politics, current affairs etc., so feminism was just one more thing we would talk about.

It has surprised me in recent years to discover that not all women would call themselves a feminist. To me it seems such a basic and ingrained thing to be if you're female.

Deliaskis Thu 07-Mar-13 17:32:53

I have never identified myself as a feminist, at all, didn't really get it, for a variety of reasons (mostly positive ones, like good role models and strong academic presence etc. which meant I never saw being a woman as an 'issue' for me growing up or in early adulthood), then I had a baby, and started to become a bit incensed at the presumption that goes with that role, which made me start to re-think my take on being a woman in general as well as being a mother.

Coming on here has made for thoroughly thought-provoking reading and is helping me shape how I feel.

Still wrestling with personal anxieties about appearance (I'm more Miranda Hart than...well...any of the other midwives no CTM), and searching for the elusive middle ground on that.

So I guess I'm a fledgling feminist, still figuring it out, hoping that I find a place for me to just be me, and that I can have my thoughts straightened out in time to pass the good stuff onto my daughter.


badguider Thu 07-Mar-13 17:44:43

I was raised in a very equal household in a 1970s gender-neutral way (dungarees and lego) and excelled at maths and physics which I was encouraged to do at school because it was the late 80s and early 90s by the time I went to uni to study those subjects and people were quite into encouraging women into STEM subjects.
I never felt disadvantaged by my sex so never felt the need to devote much time to 'feminism' as a cause.

I realise now that I subconsciously spent time in company and situations where I was treated equally - I did martial arts at uni which were very mixed sex sports clubs, and I spent time with environmental activists and geographers in pubs where everybody of both sexes wore jeans and grubby jumpers rather than clubs where people dressed up to their gender roles smile

As I got older I gradually realised that there are many many women who do not have the priviledges I have had of being able to surround myself with likeminded people and also that there are situations in society where you have to interact with sexism and deal with it rather than always being able to build a bubble round yourself.

BettyBlueBlue Sun 10-Mar-13 00:19:37

I think I had "very feminist" ideas from an early age. I wasn't brought up in a feminist household but my mum is a very intelligent woman, who got divorced soon after having me, and didn't comply with the typical female stereotype.

I remember going to visit my cousins, in a family where the girls had to make the beds and set the table because they were girls while the boys could just play outside because they were boys, and thinking "Gosh, that's so wrong!".

I met my step mum in my early twenties in Spain and she's a real feminist. I think talking to her helped me structure and shape thoughts that I had in me since I was a child.

Then I became a mother, and that made me realise that gender is still a huge issue in society, and how empowered - or disempowered - you will be within that society highly depends on whether you were born a man or a woman.

I'd call myself a feminist any time, but I'm aware that a lot of people/women are not comfortable with the label, so I'm sort of quiet about it. I know that most of my friends share my views, they just don't like calling themselves feminists.

BumgrapesofWrath Sun 10-Mar-13 00:30:01

Watching my mother being walked all over by my father, and her accepting it, did it for me at a very early age.

FastidiaBlueberry Sun 10-Mar-13 11:02:18

The behaviour of men.

SplitHeadGirl Sun 10-Mar-13 18:54:20

For me it was as simple as having my daughter. I just stopped seeing things the same way. I had my son and realised that feminism is important for him too...and now I have another little girl on the way. I can NEVER understand how people with children are not feminists.

I have found this thread really thought provoking and I could write pages and pages on the reasons I am who I am and that I probably always have been a feminist (in hiding). The fact is that I only started to identify myself as a feminist when my child was born 1.5 years ago, I want a more tolerant open-minded equal world for him to grow up in.

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