The sun has got hir hat on, hip hip hip hooray!

// 27 April 2008

I’d like to start a new thread, based on a couple of comments in response to my post below, in which I said, jokingly, that I was putting on my ‘humourless trans feminist’ hat to write it.

Amongst the responses, two people made the same point:

Marlow said […] I’m in high school and friends of mine have made stupid comments about it but I’ve learnt that it’s best to keep quiet about certain things now or face the ‘Erin’s put on her ‘feminist’ cap again, let’s talk about something else’ attitude. […]

And Sara Helen added: […] Going completely off topic, I’m glad I’m not the only one with a ‘feminist cap’! That’s something which really annoys me – just because it’s an issue people (my friends) know I care about, somehow makes it less legitimate, and makes my opinion worthless. Eh? Even if someone else has brought something to do with gender issues/feminism up, and I start "talking feminism", it somehow gives them an excuse to tune out completely. I’d like to think that I’m getting through to people and making them at least think about what they say, but how can I – or anyone – when we just get ignored?

I would guess that this is not an unusual phenomenon, what are other people’s experiences? […]

I, too, have come across this attitude; the latest example was just a couple of days ago. I ran into someone I hadn’t seen for a while and was explaining about being a guest blogger here at TFW, and when asked what that was, I replied that it’s a ‘feminist webzine’. At which, the other person groaned and rolled their eyes before giving me a sheepish grin. The way I see it, a lot of people think that subjects like feminism are, for some reason, just too ‘difficult’, or ‘complicated’, or ’serious’ to discuss. It’s not a ‘fun’ topic, it requires that you apply a little thought and it seems that a lot of people are simply too preoccupied with just ‘getting through the day’ to bother.

Whilst I can empathise with that view – I’m sure we all can – I also think that feminism is such a big part of life that you really can’t shrug it off and hope it’ll go away. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: the brain comes free with the body, so why not use it?

Perhaps if more people thought about, and discussed, matters which are too often dismissed (wrongly, in my opinion) as being the preserve of ‘humourless feminists’, well, maybe the significance of things like inequality, oppression and so on would be more clearly understood.

In turn, that raised awareness might help us, as a society, move towards the situation where these matters are recognised as affecting all of us – and maybe then unhelpful labels like ‘humourless feminist’ would stop being used.

And who knows, on that perfect day, maybe even Graham Norton would understand why making ‘jokes’ about oppressed minorities isn’t funny. Now that really would make me smile…

Comments From You

Demexii // Posted 27 April 2008 at 8:31 am

I think you are wrong in why people brush it off so quickly. It has less to do with it is too taxing but that people don’t actually want to think about it. People are willing to debate politics a lot actually. But the problem I see is that many people see women as being equal under the law. So what is left is more “cultural” oppression and that means people see feminists as criticizing what they watch and play. That is taken personally. When you start to say what one enjoys is wrong one becomes defensive.

People see you criticizing something they enjoy and they say you are “humorless” and a “buzzkill” trying to defend what they are doing as correct (and themselves as not being a bad person).

Feminist Avatar // Posted 27 April 2008 at 10:48 am

I was doing a tutorial (with 1st yr u/grads) on the 2nd Wave the other day and we got on to the topic of alternative models of family life and the issue of romantic love. After a while, one of the students said ‘we’ve gotten a bit of-track’ and I am like ‘no’ the family, marriage, love is at the heart of what feminism is about- the personal is political. Having taught this class for a while, I know that students often have a very narrow view of feminism, but for some reason this surprised me.

I wonder then whether feminism isn’t understood as being about the everyday, but about the ‘political’ or ‘hot’ issues and so people don’t engage, rather than something that influences your whole life.

rose_hasty // Posted 27 April 2008 at 4:07 pm

In my first year of uni in 2002/3 I remember the first lecture we had on feminism by a well published feminist and academic called Ursula Vogel. It was a huge lecture hall with about 150 students and about half way through people just got up and started walking out. Not because they were concerned by or objected to the content of the lecture but because they thought it was so pointless they shouldn’t waste their time listening. Lots of young men and women left the room and the second, concluding lecture had less than half of the usual number of students.

I had always been interested in feminism, I just realised on that day what a f*cking uphill struggle it was going to be.

How depressing!

Marlow // Posted 27 April 2008 at 6:33 pm

I can remember one of my friends hissing at someone else to shut up because she was scared I was going to go all feminist on his ass. Things like that really, really annoyed me at first but I’d be spending too much time getting worked up about it if I let it get to me…

I think feminism is incredibly important but nobody wants to listen, another friend once told me feminism wasn’t needed anymore and it’s unbelievable how many people I know think that women should mainly look after the kids while the husband supports them.

Caitlin // Posted 27 April 2008 at 8:59 pm

I know exactly what you mean by the ‘feminist cap’ problem – I am regarded as the ‘token feminist’ in all of my classes at college and, generally, within my friendship group so I find that now people are practically throwing the cap at me (hmm…maybe I’m taking that metaphor a bit too far?). As soon as something vaguely gender related is mentioned everyone will turn round and look at me, waiting for a ‘feminist perspective’, or, indeed, ‘one of your rants’ as it is often affectionately put. How is it right for there to be one person in a whole class with a feminist perspective?! My teachers have started saying things like ‘oh, this’ll interest you Caitlin’ or, if I miss a lesson, they have been known to say ‘if Caitlin were here she’d have something to say about this’. What gets me in these cases is that they have clearly acknowledged that there is an issue, or at least something which can be perceived as an issue, but they still just wait for me to make a comment. People are more careful about what they say around me – but apparently this is a bad thing! It’s like they think I’m censoring them, when really once in a while when we have a conversation they actually have to think about what they say. As you mentioned, the idea of thinking is clearly less attractive than getting through the day. But rather than feminism being too difficult, I’d agree with Demexii that it’s more a fear of their lifestyles being criticised, or a feeling that feminism is a threat to the ‘norm’ of society, that prevents discussion.

SM // Posted 28 April 2008 at 7:52 pm

I’m in year 11 at school, and I’m always put forward in my class/group as The Feminist One So Be Careful What You Say, She’ll Have A Tantrum. I have a very sexist physics teacher and when he makes comments no one gives a damn what he says, they just turn round and grin at me because they think I’ll get in a state. It’s not just subtle stuff either- he once said in a practical to the whole class – “Wiring a plug is easy, you can either do it or you can’t. I tend to find if you have ovaries you’re in the latter group.”

Anna // Posted 28 April 2008 at 8:01 pm

SM — I am so with you there, I’m in year 12 and I get exactly the same treatment from my politics class (which is so right wing they make Thatcher look Marxist).

Laura // Posted 28 April 2008 at 8:10 pm

Woah, SM, that’s horrendous – you could complain to the head and CC your complaint to the board of governers, I’d like to think they’d be forced to take it seriously. But I imagine you are way too busy with exams!

Helen G // Posted 28 April 2008 at 8:28 pm

SM: I don’t think it’s anything to do with ovaries, you just need pink tools

El // Posted 29 April 2008 at 7:26 pm

I find that in certain situations/groups of friends, people have taken to making sexist remarks just to try and get a rise out of me, particularly with boys who seem to find it hilarious that I get angry about such “stupid things”. But then in other situations, people’s eyes just glaze over as soon as I mention anything vaguely relating and that’s even more disheartening.

SM: You should report him.

Sara Helen // Posted 30 April 2008 at 9:38 pm

Definitely agree with a lot that’s been said, especially Caitlin – i get the cap thrown at me a lot too! With regards to El’s comment about just trying to get a rise out of me, I can never decide how much of an issue to make of it – they clearly know it’s an issue, and are thinking about it, and usually apologise later by saying “you know I’m just kidding”. But they still say it! Does that mean that the sexism is slowly bubling to the surface and will evaporate with the jokes, or does it mean that the sexism is so ingrained that it cannot be taken out?

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