When did you first identify as a feminist and what prompted it?

(48 Posts)

I was just wondering, really. smile

For me it wasn't until last year at the age of 31, and it was thanks to a thread on Mumsnet about why some women don't identify as feminists. I went on all ready to post but instead found myself agreeing more with the feminist posters. I tentatively started lurking here (I'd previously found FWR very aggressive and intimidating so had avoided it) and I've been here ever since. smile

I'm still very ignorant about the types of feminism and feminist theory etc, but I think I've learned a lot so far.

I think it was a few years ago. MN was brilliant at helping me understand why I felt so angry about situations that seemed to happen only to women, and the blame that is heaped on us for merely being female.

I went to my first feminist conference about 3 years ago as a result of MN which was wonderful.

YoniTime Sat 05-Oct-13 19:27:46

I actually don't identify as a feminist. I see feminism as a tool women can - and should!- use to understand our situation/oppression and to make changes. It's a very important tool. I don't think it's very important to identify as something, I've met sexist men (and women) who call themselves feminist.
The important thing is values and how someone acts. Sorry if it's off topic I do understand that others find it important to identify as feminists. I'm glad you started to lurk here and stayed, I've learnt a lot here toosmile

SplitHeadGirl Sat 05-Oct-13 19:53:41

Right after my eldest daughter was born. I started to think more about the kind of lives women have, and the kind of life SHE would have....I came here, and read a lot of past threads and visit every day (don't post much as others here say everything so much better than me - the women here are among the most interesting, clever and educational people I have come across online) and that was that.

NiceTabard Sat 05-Oct-13 20:22:54

Teens? Can't remember not, after I was a child.

It just seemed like the obvious thing to be. I couldn't understand when people I knew weren't. When I asked a couple of friends (aged 16) they said it was because they didn't see a need for it as what was wrong with the way things were. They are both in very "traditional" relationships now. So I guess they genuinely didn't see a need for it.

That's interesting, Yoni.

NiceTabard if you had asked me at 16 I wouldn't have seen the need for it either, but because I genuinely believed that equality had been achieved. hmm

NiceTabard Sat 05-Oct-13 21:10:16

Actually I know what it was, it was low level street harrassment and knowing people formed an opinion about me based on me because of what I looked like. My personality / interests didn't fit my appearance, yet people assumed things about me based on appearance, and so for me it was always obvious that something was wrong.

GretaGroovy Sat 05-Oct-13 21:23:12

12. My dad prompted it. He explained to me about titles and how historically men gave daughters to husbands and how you could choose not to think about yourself that way. I can't say he went into equal pay and wifework and the way it all goes to pot when you have kids, but he did at least make a start grin

EBearhug Sat 05-Oct-13 21:54:27

As a teenager, I suppose. I was brought up doing everything - housecleaning as well as using a saw and stuff like that. I think a key point was that I went to a single sex secondary school, and we were told we were the business women and leaders of tomorrow. I also had a grandmother and loads of great aunts, who unusually for their generation, had all done some sort of higher education. I didn't know it was that unusual when I was at school, because I didn't know any different. No one ever told me stuff like girls aren't as good at maths or girls can't do a particular career, or anything else like that, so I didn't particularly see a need for feminism, but I was also aware of things like women winning the vote, the equal pay act, the Greenham Common women, so I knew that not all generations had had it my way.

Then in the 6th form, we had shared classes in some subjects with the boys school, and when they were planning a French trip, a decision was made that all the boys would be in individual tents, and the girls would be in one large tent. It never occurred to me not to question why we were being treated differently, just because we were girls, especially as I was in the middle of working through DofE, and was far more adept at putting up a tent than most of the boys. As a result, I was camping in an individual tent for that trip.

There have been other things where I've been really taken aback that people have expected me to do something or behave in a particular way (like tidying up after a party, where the women were expected to do the washing up, and the men were set to take down the gazebos and stuff. I insisted on doing the gazebos.) Now I'm in my 40s, and more aware that not every family is like mine, I don't get quite so surprised these days that there are still times when people make assumptions about what I will do, can do, just because of my sex, but I am still a bit surprised.

It's probably not a coincidence that I work in a particularly techy area of IT where I have often been the only woman in the department, and always in a minority.

TensionWheelsCoolHeels Sat 05-Oct-13 23:08:38

I think I'm always wary of stating that I'm a feminist because I don't feel educated enough on the subject. I probably am more confident in that assertion now, mainly down to the FWR section here and all the fantastic discussions that I've learned so much from. A lot of the subjects discussed have chimed with some gut instincts I've had on various issues over the years but never been able to verbalise why something bothered me.

But my gut feelings on 'injustice' stem from way back into my childhood, being expected to do domestic chores while my brother sat on his arse. It still rankles with me that both my parents thought that was reasonable and I'm 40 now! I think the 1st time I faced actual discrimination in an organised setting was after returning to my job after maternity leave. Again, I was quite stunned that I was judged entirely differently because I'd had a baby and was deemed no longer capable of doing the job I'd done for 14 years previously.

WhentheRed Sun 06-Oct-13 00:30:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Spiritedwolf Sun 06-Oct-13 08:32:08

I've always valued fairness, as many children and teenagers do. But largely I was brought up and educated in a culture that told me we had equality now, that feminism was important because it got women the vote and equal pay hmm but it was a historical thing.

Even when I did Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies as a crash higher in sixth year, and we did a topic on Women and Christianity, where there was talk of different treatment of women because of different interpretations of the bible, I didn't think it was particuarly about me, because I wasn't a christian, and anyway, it was about things to do with religion like female leadership in the church. We must have had some discussions in class about things like sexual violence, because I remember one of our teachers who was male said that if he was raped by a male stranger and reported it to the police, he would be believed and that it was unlikely that he would face the same scrutiny as women do/did in court about whether he was likely to choose to have a one night stand. But largely I didn't realise there was a huge problem with everyday sexism.

My awareness was raised by having a female friend as an adult who was already very aware of feminism (interestingly another RE teacher) and by Mumsnet.

But I really got passionate about the subject myself when I was pregnant. For two reasons. One, I was going through something that is unique to women, and the subject of women's rights with regard to care during pregnancy and childbirth seemed very relevant - and discussions about the care of children do too now. Two, I choose not to find out the sex of baby till the birth. This gave me a lot of food for thought about what difference sex and gender make, and I worried a lot about how to raise a child who would be comfortable in their own skin, with their own interests rather than the narrow blue/pink stuff that's thrust upon them.

biryani Sun 06-Oct-13 09:01:57

Like many girls, I sort of assumed that if you worked hard and applied yourself, you would achieve your goals

biryani Sun 06-Oct-13 09:02:14


meditrina Sun 06-Oct-13 09:07:08

I can't remember ever not.

I am old enough to remember the passing of the first ever equal pay Act in the 1970s. But I'm not sure that was a formative moment, though memorable. Being brought up by a mother who was in a career that is still considered male-dominated, and who prized a good education for her children of both sexes, were important factors. And discovering that one granny was a suffragette came as no surprise.

biryani Sun 06-Oct-13 09:12:21

Bloody tablet!

I first "identified" as a feminist when Lady Diana Spencer simpered her way into the public consciousness by marrying a prince and living a fairytale life just by being born priveleged and being in the right place at the right time. To me she was the antithesis ofwhat a woman should be: she was ill-educated and entitled. Even in the early days she played on

biryani Sun 06-Oct-13 09:18:04

her feminity to manipulate the public by lowering her eyelashes and generally acting shy and submissive. Later on she used her feminine charms to get the public to side with her against her husband.

I was outraged!

It was very gradual for me, with some distinct markers.

I got pregnant quite young. I had very ingrained ideas in pregnancy and birth. But being rather inquisitive, though it was OBVIOUS that pregnancy was easy and birth happened surrounded by medical professionals, I bought and read all the books on the subject. A lot made for very illustrative reading. I realised how the whole process has been shaped and controlled by, largely, men. It shocked me. And I made my decisions based on knowledge thereafter, not social norms, and as a young woman, experienced the opposition and controversy that causes.

After having my firstborn dd I found mumsnet. Which I'm partly embarrassed to admit, shaped my identity and view of the world greatly. I found politics, a love I have for food, I learnt to question and to think a lot more about my actions, and choices. I breastfed, and discovered all the mixed views and reactions that causes (i was cast as either corpus mother earth or preachy green idiot) I found people were repulsed by it, I started to notice how hidden it is and question why. I was offended by eurgh breast milk! Attitudes in mainstream TV. I found and read Gabrielle Palmers the politics of breastfeeding. I think this may have been the pivotal moment. Amazon recommended the beauty myth after the Gabrielle palmer book (at the time I wasn't ready to be annoyed at the presumption that breastfeeding books are apparently an indicator of feminist interests- which are largely demonised and this connection is another example of how odd breastfeeding is seen within our society) which led to wife work, fat is a feminist issue, and MN fwr board.

I'm very happy to have found feminism, but do sometimes hark back to the days when a pamper party for my 4yo was just boring, not offensive, and Disney films were easy to enjoy.grin (not to mention how much more angry I am, pretty much all the time, whenever I am out/watching TV/reading books/shopping)

ArmyOfPenguins Sun 06-Oct-13 10:36:46

About thirteen. Shortly after an incident at a party where I snogged an older boy who apparently had a girlfriend. I didn't know this. I got called all sorts and no one criticized him. Quite the opposite in fact. He also joined in with the insults toward me. I was very pissed off.

CaptChaos Sun 06-Oct-13 11:05:27

Last year.

I had been brought up by a very traditional Grand father, who told me constantly that I could be anything I wanted to be, do anything I wanted to do. Up until last year I had believed that that is what I had done, right up until the moment that I was told that I couldn't do a particular job because I was a woman. (I am aware that this is illegal, and that, -- if I never want to work for the company I am in again-- I could take this man to court)

I had always believed feminists to be unreasonable, the important battles had all been won, hadn't they? Lurking on FWR opened my eyes, a little extra reading opened them further, and I now identify as a Feminist. Much to my husband's exasperation!

motherinferior Sun 06-Oct-13 11:08:02

All my life. My mother identifies as a feminist. She isn't, in fact, what I'd term a particularly consistent feminist, but it was a start.

I am part of the generation of 1980s feminists who were really quite scary grin which is perhaps why I get a bit jaded when I'm lectured at on the FWR boards here (not so much now, but there used to be a poster who berated me all the time).

WoTmania Sun 06-Oct-13 11:29:19

In my early twenties when I became a SAHM.
Looking back there was inequality in the way I was treated compared to my brothers/male peers at school and within the sports I did but I never noticed it and definitely didn't link it to the bigger picture of general inequality and sexism.
I always had very 'male' interests and hobbies and was lucky (?) to find a group of male friends which meant that much of the general out and about sexism never affected me.
MN was instrumental though in cementing my thoughts when I discovered it a few years after having DC1 and giving me a structure to my feminism.

rosabud Sun 06-Oct-13 13:32:44

When Mrs Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979 and I was 12. Not because I supported any of her policies, but because my dad announced that as his countrymen had elected a feamle leader (we were living abroad at the time), he was now ashamed to call himself British. Howver, my mum told me, not in my dad's hearing, that she thought a woman Prime Minister was a great thing. I don't think I knew the word feminist at the time, but it was a defining moment that made me realise that men's attitudes to women were illogical and unjust and that, for a woman, there was no point having anything if we didn't equality.

I also had the good fortune to go to a girls' school which strongly encouraged girls to think about careers etc and was able to go to university (a fact about which, ironically, my dad was immensely proud, as I was the first person in my family ever to stay in education beyond 16). At university I went to a lecture/workshop by an Australian feminist, Dale Spender - it was not so much a lightbulb moment as a lightning strike moment, really, and I have found feminism fascinating and essential ever since.

MaddAddam Sun 06-Oct-13 14:16:59

Mid teens. I have the Mail to thank. I always had the sentiments, even when I was at infant school (I ran a successful campaign to get the girls allowed to do woodwork not just sewing), but at 14 or so I went round to a friend's house and read a Mail rant about leftie pacifist lesbian feminists at Greenham. It was the most explicit item about feminism I'd come across til then. It made them sound raving mad but it piqued my interest.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 06-Oct-13 21:28:46

As a teenager in the late 1960s, I became involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the US. Like many others, I began to make the obvious connection with women's rights and became an activist in the Women's Liberation Movement. I am still a feminist activist.

RubyrooUK Sun 06-Oct-13 21:50:06

My mum brought me up to think that I was equal to anyone. In fact, that anyone was equal to anyone else, regardless of gender, race, background. She was very active politically in the 60s.

But then I noticed that my mum, who identifies as a feminist, had given up a high profile career so my dad could pursue his dreams. And that she still did all the domestic duties as well as being the main earner financially. And I got angry and knew that I would not want to live my life by those rules.

I wouldn't say I am particularly learned about feminism although I have read some of books mentioned here. It's more that instinctively I feel feminist in my outlook. If that makes any sense at all...grin

FloraFox Sun 06-Oct-13 21:58:32

I'm a cradle feminist. My mother was a feminist and a socialist activist and it was part of our daily lives. I had friends whose parents taught them to "know their place" and I'm very grateful to my mother for teaching me never to know mine. I count myself very fortunate to have been raised by a feminist mother.

whatdoesittake48 Mon 07-Oct-13 11:11:45

I read "the women's room" when I was 12 but didn't exactly understand it. I tried again when i was 14 and just got it. it coincided with my Mum deciding to go it alone without my Dad and seeing her struggles with fitting in with his patriarchal views. before I knew it I was a feminist through and through.

All I knew was that I needed to be something to make it clear to myself and others that I wasn't going to put up with the crap I saw other women go through. However, simply identifying myself in that way didn't stop anything I have been a victim too many times to count.

I thought describing myself as a feminist would mean I would never be a victim - soooo wrong. I was just a victim who knew she was a victim.

This is a really nice thread to read.

For me it came in two stages. I think I was always vaguely 'feminist', but I would have assumed that basically every decent person was a feminist, that we all wanted equality for women, that the world was getting to be pretty much equal and it was all ok.

Then gradually, I realized that it wasn't like that. At university I came across some quite seriously nasty misogyny, then I lived with a partner who simply refused to accept that he could do work around the house, or cook, or treat me like a human being. His needs always came first. So that was a wake-up call.

Then I came on here, and I think I got much more confident about it, and a couple of years ago I started teaching undergraduates and realized that some of them were really struggling with these ideas. So I started consciously saying I was a feminist - not just identifying as one but speaking up about it.

emcwill74 Mon 07-Oct-13 13:37:30

I think I've always been a feminist in my thinking but didn't know much about feminism as a movement and up until a few years ago I was a bit scared of the word and wouldn't use it to describe myself. I've always been anti-page 3 (my parents had the Sun delivered all through my late childhood and teens) and when the whole hacking scandal erupted and the NOTW closed I suddenly thought the tide was turning against Murdoch and this was an excellent time to start rallying people against it. I wrote lots of emails and letters to various groups and my MP etc, and also found the FWR forum (and hence MN in general) and about a year later I saw the NMP3 petition and was so excited that someone else was doing something too! It was the whole Page 3 issue that made me open a twitter a/c and there that I feel I 'learned' a lot about feminism in general by reading blogs that people posted links to, as well as reading discussion on here, and realised that this is exactly what I am. I am really proud to identify as feminist now.

BuffytheFeministFeminist Mon 07-Oct-13 13:43:59

My parents have always been feminists, both of them. They raised my sister and I to believe that we could be whatever we wanted to be, there was no hint of "you can't, girls don't do that".

And then came academia and Mumsnet, which encouraged me to read and think and observe and made me realise that even though girls are raised to think they can do and be anything, society doesn't really believe it!

This is so interesting. smile

I was raised to believe that I could do anything as well, and when I was working I never experienced any kind of barrier (I worked in 2 male-dominated fields). But my dad has never lifted a finger to do any housework, despite he and my mum both working full-time, and seems bewildered if my mum complains about it.

meddie Mon 07-Oct-13 18:50:03

All my life I have been aware that women were treated differently (born 1966). At primary I refused to do needlework and made a huge fuss about being allowed to do woodwork
A lot was to do with the fact I was a tomboy and all the things I was interested in I was told I wasnt allowed because I was a girl.
I joined the cubs before it was allowed,thanks to a wonderful forward thinking leader.
The feeling that there was a lot of injustice towards women finally got a name in my teens and I identified straight away.
I hate how feminism has been associated with butch man hating dungaree wearing lesbians (societies view not mine) and this has prevented many women identifying with it.

TombOfMummyBeerest Mon 07-Oct-13 19:12:43

At the core, I think I've always had feminist leanings, even as a child. I appreciated strong female role models and outspoken women who did what they wanted, how they wanted.

I most identified as a feminist in university, though, when I had friends who were in bad relationships and refused to get out of them because they "felt safer and better" about themselves when they had boyfriends. I became adamant that women should respect themselves and see themselves as worthy of love because they believe in themselves.

Now that I have a daughter, I'm more vocal about it now than ever before. She's amazing, and I refuse to let her self-worth be dictated by men or Mean Girls. Sometimes I'm more concerned about the latter.

roadwalker Mon 07-Oct-13 19:26:11

I don't know that I would actually label myself as a feminist but have believed in equality at a young age

When my brother (who really didn't want to) became an altar boy I complained to the priest that there were no altar girls
I guess I was about 7. He was so sick of me complaining that he let me ring the bell during mass
I only got to ring it twice. I must have really wanted my voice heard because instead of a single, subtle ding I really went for it and belted it out

unfortunatedischarge Mon 07-Oct-13 21:01:33

Always been one but was lsightly embarrassed to identify as one, would never have used patriarchey in convesation (for example)...

Being pregnant and realising what it actually means to first be seen as an incubator... and the terrible ideas people have about what it means to be a mother or a pregnant woman or god forbid a breast feeder... or maybe even before that when I dealt with infertility and felt like less of a woman because my "girl parts" didn't work properly and hearing stories of men saying they'd leave if their wives couldn't make them babies angry cause that's a
ll women are a series of parts available for fucking or breeding

and then having a dd and realizing all the great things I had as a kid were no longer available in the colors they actually are and only come in pink and glitter or with a sign across the front that says "for boys only" arghhhh!

unfortunatedischarge Mon 07-Oct-13 21:06:14

Also dd is a terror who runs around the house shooting webs out of her hand because she is spider man/woman (depending on her mood) and jumping head first off tables...and baby ds is a sweet snugly little cuddler who just wants to sit on his my lap while wearing dd's glittery pink castoffs... how long before they realise they are "doing it wrong"? And have to give it all up?

My dh and I are both on the extremely side and I think basing on the rest of the males in our families it would not be a surprise if ds turns out to be a 6'6 man mountain (and a vegetarian as that's how they are being raised) will people see that as a walking visual joke?

Also dd will be very tall too will she feel like I did about myself? ashamed of her hight and strength?

hermioneweasley Mon 07-Oct-13 21:08:53

Can't remember ever not identifying a feminist, but I think finding my mother's copy of "the female eunuch" helped give voice to my thoughts and views

I saw sleeping with the enemy at fifteen and merrily recommended mums friends watched it over Sunday lunch. I really have a Jonathan Ross worthy description. I was shocked in the car on the way home where mum gently pointed out the 'idiosyncracies' of their home was due to the exact situation of the film. I knew then without knowing a word for it what I was.

Give the H his due he really covered well. I'd never have guessed without mum saying later. Still feel dreadful about it 20yrs later. Poor woman dead now too....

joanofarchitrave Mon 07-Oct-13 21:12:45

I don't remember exactly when. Ebearhug, your family sounds quite like mine (wonder if you are a cousin or my sister...) My mother was and is a feminist though more of a classic first wave feminist than a second wave one; my sister gave me Our Bodies Ourselves for my 16th birthday. I went to an all-girls' school. I remember telling my aunt during my first year of university in a very shocked way that one of my female friends at college didn't see the need for feminism any more. She said 'well perhaps she is right...' and that started me questioning all sorts of things.

I do now feel that capitalism, rather than patriarchy, is what seeks to categorise us, as we can then be sold more things to differentiate ourselves further (e.g. gender divided children's clothing, much more prevalent now than ever before). I am not quite sure whether I am still a feminist, if I am honest. I do still have a visceral reaction to people being grouped and generalised about.

That and I'm from Essex. I've suffered jokes since able to speak. Gives you an early start....

Bearleigh Mon 07-Oct-13 21:21:01

I grew up with mixed messages in the 1960s, with my mum impressing on me the desirability of having a career, yet telling me that men should be paid more than women because they had families to support. I have ignored all of that and am pretty happy with what I have achieved in my work and family. I have also been lucky enough not to have suffered too much from extreme sexism, including not being assaulted or whistled at in the streets.

What has recently heightened my consciousness though is the website "Everyday sexism". Reading the crap that some women have to put up with has made me much more likely to challenge the everyday sexism that I do encounter.

I am proud that Babybearleigh, a 14 year old boy proudly calls himself a feminist and has female friends.

EBearhug Tue 08-Oct-13 11:32:38

joanofarchitrave, I'm pretty sure I am not your sister, but I do have a ton of cousins and second cousins and so on, and I'd be surprised if there weren't some in MN, so it's possible.

.oO(Hmm, do I need to tidy up my posting history...)

I think I have held feminist beliefs since the mid 70s when I was given a book called Heroines for my 9th or 10th birthday. I wanted to be Valentina Tereshkova!

It was however, many years later when my father called me a feminist as an intended insult that I realised "Yes I am one aren't I" grin

CailinDana Tue 08-Oct-13 16:26:38

Mumsnet prompted me to actually identify with feminism, more from reading the relationships board than the FWR one. But the first time I remember being aware of misogyny/inequality was when I was about 12 and doing very well at school when my father said he thought educating women was pointless as their place is in the home. The fact that he had at that stage been a SAHD for 10 years while my mother worked full time in a professional job requiring a degree didn't stop him from mindlessly spouting these views. I felt very hurt and insulted but I also learned that sexism wasn't a logical thing and that it had no foundation in reality. It taught me to seriously question the dynamics in my parents' relationship such as the way my mother always did all the laundry and most of the housework despite the fact that my father was at home all day while we were at school. I was something of an unusual teenager in tjat I was baffled at the way intelligent girls seemed to turn into giggly doormats around boys. I had zero interest in boys - they just seemed incredibly immature and annoying. I didn't get in a lather over Brad Pittt or Take That because liking someone you didn't actually know seemed weird to me.
I got into relationships in my 20s and had mixed experiences including rape. I did find myself succumbing to traditional expectations at times. Then I met dh and though he does have the usual male sense of entitlement he was willing to listen when I challenged it and has changed massively in the last 11 years IMO.
My interest in feminism as an actual movement was slowly set alight when I was pregnant with my ds but I still felt it wasn't for me (successfully brainwashed into thinking feminism was about whining when there was nothing much to complain about, in spite of my actual experiences) and really it's only in the last year or so since being pg with and having a dd that I've begun to think yes I am a feminist largely for my daughter's sake.
It's easier not to be a feminist IMO - seeing the hidden inequality everywhere while people around you seem oblivious can be beyond infuriating at times.
One thing - I had swallowed the capitalist message that to be a true feminist I couldn't be a SAHM. It was only when I actually talked to real feminists that I realised what bullshit that was. I am a SAHM for my own and my children's benefit and I am not a skivvy or a servant.

YoniTime Tue 08-Oct-13 16:55:59

It's easier not to be a feminist IMO - seeing the hidden inequality everywhere while people around you seem oblivious can be beyond infuriating at times.

I think it's difficult for women no matter what.

When I wasn't aware of feminist ideas I would go around feeling like shit because of sexist things but not really understand why and blame myself a lot. I had terrible self-esteem and had internalized a lot of misogyny.
Now that I'm very aware of things all the sexism and misogyny everwhere and clueless people is depressing/enraging but at least I know what's going on. I have better self-confidence. But yes, the awareness is taxing.

78bunion Tue 08-Oct-13 17:19:14

I grew up when all those books came out in the 70s and the Equal Pay Act. Any clever woman would have been and will be today.

I can't remember not being... But one defining moment was when I got friendly with a couple who both worked FT. The DW announced that she wasn't a feminist. But she was in the Police and I pointed out to her that if it wasn't for her female predecessors standing up and demanding employment equality, she wouldn't have a job (or at least, not outside the typing pool). Her just taking for granted the fight that others had been through so that women could do a "man's" job and have equal pay really made my blood boil. angry

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