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

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

I REALLY MEAN IT!

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

Intelligence

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!

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