Feminist Guilt

“Do you just hate all men?”

I’ve been posed this question in response to my fiery ‘feminazi’ (or worse, anti-men) comments. Why is my passionate anger and demands that society change, which, let’s not mince our words, stem from lifetimes of discrimination, met with sighs and smirks from people tired of the ‘snowflake generation’?

These confrontations are part of the reason that I, and many women, often don’t dare say what I truly want or feel. It’s why I constantly undermine and downplay my snapbacks at misogyny. It’s why even this article, which started out strong with a bold question, will now slowly begin to backtrack. As social creatures, none of us can truly leave behind our plight to fit in, and feminism can sometimes feel like a sure-fire way to ostracization.

Having been in several situations where the male to female ratio would intimidate even the strongest willed woman, I’ve had my fair share of casual sexism, and as much as I’d love to say I spoke up every time, I’d be lying to myself and you.

I was once asked to watch a film with a few male friends – their pick. It started off a fun night, everyone crowding round snacks and a laptop, but the novelty wore off with the first scene. When I say this film had more inappropriate, imbalanced and downright unpleasant sexualisation of women than actual porn, I’m not exaggerating. A couple girls, myself included, expressed slight discomfort, which was really major protest sugar-coated so as not to ruin the night (you see a theme?), but were met with eye rolls, laughter and ‘if you can get over the sexism, it’s a good film’.

I sat through that 2.5-hour film (which was terrible, by the way) and did nothing more, except exchange awkward looks with a friend every time an unpleasant joke was made, and the room erupted with booming male laughter and uncomfortable chuckles from the rest.

I think about that time a lot, how those men will continue to think that that it is okay to engage with misogynistic content and jokes. I keep thinking about how this inevitably plays into how they treat women, and how perhaps the sexist comments and harassment I frequently receive are somehow partly my fault.

But these thoughts aren’t justified. You should never, ever be made to feel like the onus is always on you to correct men, or women, making misogynistic comments. It’s enough to occupy your space, and to do it loudly while you can, but also silently when you can’t.

I’d like every woman reading this to say to themselves, ‘If all I can do today is exist in my space, it’s still enough. I’m enough”. Whether you’re a student in STEM, or a worker in a male-dominated industry. Whether you’re an athlete where women are underrepresented or you’re a part of a typically male social scene. Where you can, speak out, and know that the whole strong and beautiful movement of feminism is behind you. But when you can’t, don’t beat yourself up – let’s fill up the places few women go, then tackle sexism together.

It’s your ideology that makes you a feminist, and as long as you never lose your passion for change, that badge of honour will always be with you, no matter how many times you have let it slide. Remind yourself that there’s more than one way to catalyse change, and that it’s always okay to just live to fight another day.

[Hazel Imrie]

[Photo credits: Anna Shvets]

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