I’m not immune.Posted: December 22, 2010
It’s awesome being a feminist. You learn how to kick ass to a higher standard than before. You begin to realise that the reason you feel so inadequate half the time has nothing to do with you and everything to do with patriarchy (or something like that). It justifies your anger about inequality and you realise that you are not the only one feeling annoyed about the pay gap, or sexual double standards (etc.).
But it’s also hard. Being aware of that pressure does not mean that you are immune to it. You are under just as much pressure to look and behave a certain way. And once you are aware of all of the connotations of conforming to those pressures it causes so much inner confliction. Or at least, it does for this feminist. But that may be my large guilt complex. I blame the patriarchy.
Sometimes it feels like the easier option is to conform. Many more educated and erudite persons than myself have written on conformity and its problems, and so I will not pretend to be an expert. To all extents and purposes I don’t look like a non-conformer, and perhaps I am not truly one. Questioning the social structures that surround us is non-conformist to a point but I don’t always practice what I preach. Like I said, it is easier to just do what everybody else does. It sometimes gets tiring being that ranty girl at parties whose disapproval of rape jokes rains on everyone’s parades (although rightfully so!). And yes, I think it is important to talk to people about feminist issues and make them question their own opinions and perceptions, but to be the person that always takes the feminist line marks you out very clearly as ‘that girl’. And sometimes I just want to be ‘a girl’ (patronising connotations of the word ‘girl’ notwithstanding, it is my moniker of choice – I do not feel qualified to be a woman and I certainly am not a lady).
Even though I am aware of Ariel Levy’s ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’, I still want to try pole dancing. Even though I am fully aware of ‘The Beauty Myth’ and the potentially harmful effects of make-up I still cannot leave the house without at least foundation and mascara on. Even though I know about pornification and social expectations of women to look like porn stars, I still want to dress as Goldilocks for a NYE party – in a tiny dress and knee high socks. It looks cute on me, okay? And even though I am fully aware of slut-shaming and how it needs to be tackled, I don’t always speak up or voice my experiences or challenge others. Don’t judge me. I fully admit to being a bad feminist sometimes.
To bring this back to the point I was trying to make, just because I am a feminist does not mean I am super-human. I am just super-aware of all of the bad sexist shit that goes down. Which just increases my guilt and inner conflict when I want to do something that makes me fit in. Is it a feminist decision if I am aware of all the issues and choose to do it anyway? If I know my options and make the choice to behave how I am expected? I’m not sure.
Because when a culture values women as objects, it is impossible for me to not sometimes want to be objectified. I still want to be angry about it, I just want it to happen. What woman, what person, wants to be unwanted? To be the odd one out, the one that no one wants to dance with or talk to? And obviously it is a choice that we as feminists must make, what is more important – fighting gender stereotyping and the overbearing expectations of the patriarchy, or being accepted? And most of the time I choose the former, but sometimes I want to fit in. I’m not immune.