The first time that I experienced feminism in the mind-blowing and life-changing way (the kind you usually get in people who are discovering religion) was when I read the Rookie article, 'Getting Over Girl Hate'. Up until then, I didn't know much more about Tavi other than the fact that she had a blog and she was really young. I would go on her blog and scroll through the archives without ever reading the accompanying notes or description; unless I wanted to know where something was from. After I'd read that article, and many of the ones that followed, I started questioning my misconceptions about girls friends, slut shaming and, in particular, my own self-esteem- made more profound by my intense feelings of misery and not-matching-up in the face of being told by someone special that I was no longer good enough. By questioning, I started to doubt. By doubting, I began to realise that the social values that I discovered my own self-worth.
Since that moment, I've pored over countless feminist articles and videos from Eve Ensler, to the spoken poetry of Katie Makkai, to the thought-provoking documentary Killing Us Softly, to the beautiful girl who spoke so perfectly about Slut Shaming (who I found after I rediscovered Tavi's actual writing), to quote after quote of Angela's wisdom. I posted outraged tweets about the double-standards of society and relationships, I had intense private conversations with my friends, I took out every book I could find about feminist history. By sharing these on social media, I sought to give girls the moment of discovery that I'd had that lifted me out of that blurry eyed, heavy chested state, out of the feelings of self-dissatisfaction and hate. While I never really got over them entirely (who can in this day and age?), I still feel that every step forward is one that everyone should take.
Katie Makkai - Pretty
Killing Us Softly Part 1
Slut Shaming and Why It's Wrong
Angela Chase talking about self-esteem
Unfortunately, that enlightened and hopeful mindset only intensifies my initial feelings of despair and horror when I'm faced with intense homophobia, widespread slut shaming and casual misogynistic support for abuse and rape. Instinctively, I'm the kind of person who avoids arguing about most social principles - when conversation turns to religion and atheism in school, I quietly slide away because I know that in arguments like that, nobody's fundamental beliefs will actually be truly challenged. The only true exception that I make is for feminism. I step in and argue whenever someone makes an assumption about a girl based on her clothes/pictures, whenever someone claims that being gay is a choice, whenever someone offers their support to Chris Brown while also denying his need for repentance, whenever someone negates another person's right to feel sad or happy, in the same way as these kinds of pictures:
Feelings aren't relative to what you have, guys.
And so on and so on. But after months of these conversations and debates, one of which was sparked by my friend that then went on for a few hours in our school study room, I feel like I've made no progress in sparking the same inspiration and self-satisfaction in somebody else. After every conversation, most of which end up in the same way as the religious ones that I'd avoided and the one in our study room that left both parties frustrated, I feel like I would kill to live in a more liberal town full of feminists and people openly proud of their sexuality. I feel like moving to that imaginary, accepting place made of candyfloss and gingerbread so much. Especially after becoming the school subject of widespread, rumour-fuelled slut shaming. I tell ya, it's incredibly hard to deal with Girl Hate when it's girls who are tweeting constant rubbish that; just like Angela said before, 'I just think people wanna believe things about people and so they decide certain things are true and they don't even ask, and it's not fair.. Cos you have to live with anyway'.
But then I realise that when you know there is so much potential in people, if they could only see it themselves, isn't it more frustrating to be in a place that you can't make a difference? Sure, I'm in a pretty crappy town with some dodgy people. But isn't that all the more reason that I should actively fight to be heard? So I end up here. Between wanting to make a difference but feeling that it's pretty much impossible unless everyone else is already aware and happy with themselves and understanding of each other. Coming to terms with my own feminist views is easier the more I talk about and engage with them. It's much harder to come to terms with the fact that there are some insecurities in girls that will take more than just me to help.
I feature this outfit alongside this rant because it got me a lot of beeps and jeers from cars and even more backhand comments from people on the streets. But I don't care. And I don't feel ashamed for what I wear. Nobody should.