When I was first getting into this kind of work, “woman’s empowerment”, a friend of mine said to me over a coffee ‘I am not a feminist’. The remark seemed to come out of nowhere, and I remember at the time thinking what a bizarre thing it was to say.
The word feminist hadn’t even entered my mind in relation to the project I was birthing & I certainly didn’t consider myself to actively be one (I didn’t consider myself to actively not be one either - the thought just hadn’t crossed my mind).
When I got home that day I googled the word ‘feminist’ and this is the dictionary definition that came up: "advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men”.
Now this friend of mine was a highly qualified (I mean 2 Ph.D. highly qualified), highly intelligent, incredibly beautiful ambitious determined woman. Her life’s work was devoted to cancer research. She was on a mission to do good in the world. Yet she had felt it essential to put her cards straight up on the table and declare herself a ‘non-feminist’.
She was into female leadership too, and was definitely excited by my creative & outside the box ideas on how to “empower women”. We were kind of opposites in nature (INFP vs ESTJ), our characters so very different, yet we felt a real affinity for each other.
I often wondered what it was that made her make that comment that day, though I never asked her. It felt like a strong wall being put up between us, like she wanted to make it clear that she thought the work I was doing was somehow 'dangerous' - she was intrigued to know more but it felt like a naughty fondle behind the bike shed that we probably shouldn't do again incase we got caught.
I was so oblivious to the wider implications of the word that after I read the dictionary definition later that day I genuinely thought ‘well how can anybody not be a feminist? Who in their right minds doesn’t support the social, economic, political & legal rights of women being equal to men? It's 2015!’.
And of the course, the whole can of worms was opened right up right there. The more I progressed down my line of work the more and more I heard the word feminist, and the more I realised that to some it has become a 'dirty' word.
The rebel in me wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a ‘feminist’ because I didn’t want to be somebody else’s pre-defined label. A label that makes some women want to scream from the rooftops that they are not feminists (when according to the dictionary definition above, the definitely are).
As a teenager, Joe Strummer had been my idol. Pretending I was him on stage in my bedroom with imaginary Fender & DM's got me through those rough teenage years and I was deeply influenced by his art, music & social commentary.
“Passion is a fashion” it read in one of his stencils. I thought about this saying for years a teenager, about what it meant for society. About how it could be fashionable to be passionate about something. To jump on the bandwagon without really knowing what it means, the longing to feel included & be part of a movement.
The very last thing I wanted was to be passionate about something just because it was fashionable. I was anti-fashion. I wanted to think for myself. Joe Strummer style. So I resisted calling myself a feminist for a while.
As I continued to follow my heart, eventually my path found form in front of me, it was (& is) to advocate the creative & spiritual liberation of women so that they can realise their true potential in this lifetime (100% of this liberation takes place in our own minds by the way).
So it's pretty hard to say I’m not a feminist now because clearly I am, I definitely absolutely whole-heartedly actively support the social, economic, political & legal rights of women being equal to men. I mean the word is in my Business name.
I am so obviously a feminist now that you would think I kept men tied up in my cupboard & petrol bombed football clubs in my spare time (the word seems to have become synonymous with the phrase 'man-hating psycho bitch').
Well, you'd be pleased to hear (hopefully) that I don’t do any of things. Most of my spare time actually involves me eating Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream & adventuring with my version of the A-Team leading a totally anarchy free life.
Do I need to proclaim that I love men now that I openly accept the label of feminist? Because if so, then here it is: I LOVE MEN. I think they're frikin fantastic. I even have 2 male cats...
The truth is that I'm all about personal responsibility, I'm not a fan of talking about how the patriarchy did this or that to me. I'm here to put myself in the game & guide other women in doing the same. Had I been born a man, I would probably be doing the exact same work only "empowering men".
If this story resonates with (or triggers) you, then consider: where are you afraid to speak your truth for fear of being labelled/ ostracised/ criticised? Where are you holding yourself back because of some perception of external circumstance?
So to summarise (that's the academic in me speaking), the title of this blog post is a provocative lie. I am a feminist. I am a masculinist. I am a human rights advocate. I am a socialist. I am a capitalist. I am a human being. I am a lover. I am a daughter. I am a friend. I am a free spirit. I am bound by law & order. I am a paradox. I am all of these labels and yet none of them all at the same time.