While I was moaning to my lovely, patient boyfriend (becoming embarrassingly self-aware of the hole of self pity I’d dug myself that day), he said something that reminded me of something that I’d lost sight of:
“Mais, I’m not sure that feminism should be something that makes you so angry”
He didn’t mean the anger and injustice which, by necessity propels the movement. He didn’t mean the rage and sympathy felt when you learn for the first time about the results of the systematic oppression and abuse of women across the world (FGM, Child marriage, illiteracy gap, wage gap etc). Of course not this kind of anger is one of the fundamental pillars of feminism; righteous anger, just anger, necessitous anger. Sometimes we need other people to be angry for other people- the voiceless and the isolated- or how would anything ever be achieved?
He didn’t even mean the (equally valid) vexation and frustration felt on a local level; the kind provoked by day-to-day contact with LADs, sexist lecturers, white male politicians who make decisions about the bodies of the female populace, people who think feminism ‘doesn’t need to be an issue’, and countless other provocations that women encounter every, single, day.
No. He meant that these types of anger should not be allowed to DESCEND into a spiral of dejected resentment. There is nothing productive about this kind of displeasure. Nothing will change if we allow apathy to grow and rot within us.
Sometimes, yes, you look at all the things above, and it can be overwhelming. You see more absurd politicians banning women from serving lunch in the Hague, you see another rapist walking free and then to top it off your (male) friend dismisses women-only taster sessions at the campus gym as grossly sexist because ‘it’s not fair, you can’t ban me from the gym just because I’ve got a dick’- once again bringing everything back to the astonishing fact than men have penises. The natural response is to order a large pizza, run back to your hovel and lament at the god-damn institutionalized patriarchy and how everything is shit and will always be shit.
But, to do this is to ignore and undermine everything that feminists (that’s you too!) have changed for the better, and will change for the better in the future. It is okay to sometimes feel dejected and overwhelmed by the general world shiteness, but in the battle towards the deconstruction of the patriarchy, to give up is to let it win.
So, the rest of this post is going to be devoted to a few things that I’ve seen in just the past week that reflect the tanglible good work and progress that feminism is making across the world and hopefully re-jig a bit of motivational joy and sunshine.
First of all, although all of the articles that follow have a positive stream, I will just state a trigger warning for anyone affected by FGM.
Since I’ve been at university, FGM has been a matter of increasing relevance and interest. Before the new year, no one talked about FGM, there had been no prosecutions in the UK since it had been made illegal in 1985, and Doctors and teachers were woefully unprepared and uninformed to spot and deal with cases in their vicinity.
In February, thanks to the change.org petition begun by Fahma Mohamed, Micheal Gove pledged to write to and help prepare headteachers to deal with FGM in schools.
Then, one month later, the first convictions for those guilty of committing FGM in the UK were charged and sentenced. Such events, though slow in coming, mark the beginning of the end to this abuse of human rights and culture. After reading these articles, I spotted something even more positive:
The work of this woman and others like her, such as Dr Phoebe Abe, show how change can happen, even when something seems so awful, and so entrenched, that even making a chip on the surface of it can seem impossible.
(Follow this link for an insight into Dr Phoebe Abe’s extraordinary work- making a difference when no one else would http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/crime/article3985708.ece)
The next article is from one of my favourite blogs feministwednesday.com, and again it shows in a very different that just when you think change cannot even be approached (have that one male ‘feminist’ friend in mind) is when the biggest differences happen.
This article is a couple of years old now, but I’ve put it in because I remember reading about this when the definition changed, and thinking it was incredible. I’d never thought of domestic violence in terms of emotional abuse though it seems obvious now, and I reckon that many women experiencing domestic violence hadn’t either, but now they have
So it’s half one in the morning and this turned out a little longer than I’d planned, hence the many linkages rather than erudite descriptions and reviews, but I hope all this lovely info has resulted in inspiration and motivation, and dispelled any lingering dejection that likes to accumulate on a Thursday afternoon when the weekend still seems far away. When you consider the sheer scale and scope of the institutionalized patriarchy, and consider just how many faucets of life it trickles it’s noxious blue glue into, it can seem overwhelmingly unfair, and unchangeable. But I think these articles (and the multitudes of blogs, twitters, and youtube channels that so many inspirational feminists run) show how, even when something seems immovable, change, if it’s wanted enough, is always possible.
Yay for feminism!