Stop Telling Feminists How To Be Feminists

I’m baaack. It’s been, 3 months since I last blogged, but I can’t hide it any more, I’m coming out. The rumours are true, I am a …. feminist. 

I’ll give you a second to recover from your shock, but don’t make assumptions about what I mean when I say that I am a feminist. I am not some bra burning, non-armpit shaving, man hating feminist. Although I’m not saying those are wrong things to be, to each their own. I just read a post called “Stop Saying “I Have A Boyfriend””, which I have linked if you’re interested in reading as some of you will agree with that post more than you agree with me, and that’s fine too. 

But I have an issue with it. (Surprise, surprise, eh?) This post is telling women that we need to stop using the “I have a boyfriend” reason when someone is blatantly hitting on you in a bar, whether you have a boyfriend or not. It’s telling you to go with the more direct “I am not interested.” response. I have to say – and some have told me in the past that my views on feminism are null and void because I have a boyfriend – that my first response in that situation where someone is obviously hitting on me is to say “I’m sorry, but I have a boyfriend.” Not because I’m assuming this is the only way I’ll get out of the situation, but because my first thought is “I have a boyfriend, I definitely don’t want to be flirting with you or giving you the wrong impression”. The response “I’m not interested” is also a valid and true one in that situation, but it’s also a rude way of phrasing it in my opinion. If the person will not except a reason before “I’m not interested” then by all means I’d use it, but I’d use it as a last resort to get my point across. 

Story time. There was a time, maybe about 4 years ago, that I was walking through a deserted Glasgow at just before midnight on a Wednesday. I was with a friend and we were on our way to get the last train home. These two guys clocked us at the top of Buchanan Street and increased their speed walking towards us. I instantly knew that were going to have a problem. They walked past us, but I knew that they were up to something. I was right. They walked past us, walked for a couple seconds then did a 180 and grabbed us. The guy who grabbed my friend let go quite quickly because she shrugged him off and told him to back off. The guy who grabbed me, however, had a death grip on my shoulder. He told me that me and my friend were coming back to his flat and he and his mate would show us a “good time”. By this point he was forcing me towards an alleyway. I tried to shrug him off, I told him to back off, any resistance I had against him made him really, really angry. So my last resort – and I’ve NO idea why this worked – was to tell him that I had a boyfriend. He backed off immediately and apologised. Am I saying that this is right? Heck no! Those dudes shouldn’t have grabbed us in the first place. They should have left us alone when it was obvious we were not interested and said that we weren’t interested several times. But, it came down to a matter of personal safety and that was the only thing that would make him back off.

Now, I’ve told this story before and I’ve had nothing but comments from angry feminists saying that I shouldn’t have backed down or that my “internalised misogyny” was obvious. But if it comes down to my feminist beliefs or my safety? I’m choosing my safety every time.  I know that that’s an extreme situation and most people being hit on in a bar won’t experience that, but I think it’s very dangerous to preach to women that we must do x, y and z all the time. Feminism is about equality, and I know there are a lot of you out there who think “If it’s for equality why is it called Feminism”, but that’s because in most cases women are the ones getting the short end of the stick. However, I would agree with people who say that men have certain inadequacies in some situations that is also wrong. Father’s rights for one thing. But that’s a whole other blog post. 

What I’m saying is that everyone needs to be smart about keeping themselves safe. If you ever get sexually abused or assaulted that is in NO way your fault and I don’t want anyone to think that I am victim blaming here. But it winds me up to see how the sheer volume of people who think that because the world SHOULD be a certain way, they’re going to act like it is and play the martyr card if something happens to them. Things like “I should be able to sit my drink down in a bar and leave it unattended whilst I go to the bathroom and be able to come back and drink it and have no issues.” Whilst, yes, that’s something that in an ideal world would happen, it’s not a safe thing to do. If you were to get drugged and whatever else that’s not your fault but there are things you can do to take precautions.

Like take the HPV vaccination. It’s recommended that girls (and I would argue that boys should be entitled to it too) should be vaccinated against HPV. Now, if you decide not to get that vaccine and get cervical cancer, is that your fault? No, it’s not. Because the chances of it happening are there with or without getting the vaccine. But there’s less of a risk if you get the vaccine. Just like in a club there’s less of a risk of you being spiked if you get a new drink instead of drinking the one you left unattended. 

But back to my original point because I’ve gone off on a tangent; no surprise there. The blog post in question states that if you use the phrase “I’m not interested” instead of “I have a boyfriend” it’ll give men the opportunity to learn about the “agency of women”. I’m not entirely sure I agree with that statement. If you have a drunk guy hitting on you that just isn’t backing down, he’s hardly going to remember the next morning which collection of words you used to get the point across that you wouldn’t be going home with him. 

Basically, my point is that feminism comes in all shapes and sizes and forms, and there is not a “one size fits all” approach to it. It’s also a bit naive to think that your opinion is going to the be the right one to change people’s minds and their thinking. It’s a group effort, it’s not one person and the rest of us following along like lovesick puppies agreeing with everything. Because that way feminism becomes less a women’s rights or equality movement and more a weird cult that will be taken less seriously than it is now.

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