Asking me if I’m a feminist might be one of the most stupid questions you can ask.
I just read Caitlin Moran’s brilliant article in Esquire “12 Things About Being A Woman That Women Won’t Tell You” and it got me thinking.
Specifically it made me think of a date I went on a while ago.
The date started well but then we fell foul to the unfortunate fate that afflicts many a bar goer. The resident bar drunk decided to start talking to us, and never leave.
He was an old guy, married to a woman about 20 years younger than him, which in theory I don’t actually object to, although many people do, as long as the relationship is still even and balanced.
However the more he spoke the more derogatory the comments about his wife became. They showed an utter lack of respect for her as a person. Instead he seemed to see her as an object and a slave. The comments weren’t anything new or special, they were the standard ones you’d expect such as: “she knows her place”, “she should always make sure there’s food on the table when I get home” etc. etc. etc. You know the drill.
Obviously, as I hope all of you would too. I spoke up and voiced my disapproval of his comments, trying to make him see that they were just a little bit sexist.
I should probably mention here that I’d had hardly any sleep before this date as I’d been up till 4am playing poker with my housemates the night before (yes I’m a woman and I play poker. I can also sew. So confusing I know).
So due to the lack of sleep my debating skills weren’t exactly up to their usual standards nevertheless I still felt I was making some progress with this really quite unpleasant specimen of a human being in front of me.
But then something incredible happened. My date, a well-educated man in his late twenties, turned to me and asked:
“Are you a feminist?”
My sleep deprived brain sat there staring at him dumbfounded for a second thinking, did he really just ask me that?
I mean I know some guys aren’t on board with the whole feminism thing yet (although lots of you are, good on you brothers) but I just couldn’t understand how that was really even a question that would need to be asked of a women?
I mean did he really imagine a version of that situation in which I answered “no”.
I was so confused.
I thought maybe I’d misunderstood. Maybe he was meaning something different when he said the word feminist than I do.
So I asked:
“Do you mean am I for men and women being treated equally and having equal rights?”
(Apparently I have a look that makes it look like I have s**t on the end of my nose. I tend to reserve it for when I think people are being exceptionally stupid. I have no doubt that was the face I was making as I asked this.)
Anyway, I carried on:
“If so, well then of course. I really don’t understand how or why any woman wouldn’t be.”
Genuinely I don’t understand Unless you’re a masochist (who enjoys pain, humiliation and suffering) how as a woman, could you not want to be treated as equal to men? It doesn’t make any sense to me. So I pressed on:
“Or are meaning do I hate men by asking if I’m a feminist?”
Now I really wish I’d read Caitlin Moran’s article before this incident so I could have asked him if he was scared I was going to burn his penis and put it on a Penis Bonfire. I would have loved to have tormented him with the Penis Bonfire. But instead I very dully said:
“Because if so, well then of course not.”
It just seemed like the biggest non-question to me in the world. And I was genuinely astounded that a 29 year old guy who’d been bought up in a western culture (I specify this as there are most certainly parts of the world that need more work then others when it comes to feminism) could possibly think that I would have any answers other than the ones I did to that question.
I mean really, what was he expecting me to say?
“No I don’t think women should be equal, I think I should be treated as a second class citizen just purely based on my gender and focus all my efforts on looking pretty to please men rather than on being intelligent and achieving something in my life.”
Oh, come on.
Although my date wasn’t actually being sexist in asking that question he did reveal a spectacularly large amount of information about his intelligence level and way of looking at the world in asking that question. Enough to make me think that whilst he may not have shown himself to be sexist outright, he might not be outright again sexism either, which as far as I’m concerned is pretty much the same as actually being sexist.
And just in the same way as I wouldn’t be friends with or go out with someone who is racist or homophobic I also won’t be friends with or go out with someone who is sexist either.
If you want to be my friend or go out with me don’t ask me if I’m a feminist. Ask yourself if you’re a douche and if you’re not then we should be fine because then there should be no question as to whether you’re a feminist or not.
So it’s a little bit late but happy international women’s day.