Supporting Women -
by RCD - Let a Woman Speak
As a teenager I didn't think much of other women. I had fallen for the stereotypes: catty women who sharpened their claws on each other's backs and smiled sweetly to your face. Admittedly, my own experiences hadn't been great, with my school years littered with competitive girls stealing each other's boyfriends and my work life just an older, more subtle version, designed to keep you in check lest you developed ideas above your station.
Women in my own family were a strange bunch, mostly middle-class aunts who spent their time trying to outdo their neighbours with new hot-tub installations, and my mother, working class, the black sheep, who pistoned between trying to look as if she could compete, and tiring of the charade and withdrawing entirely from social occasions.
Then I found feminism and my perspective changed. I saw the defences all of the women in my life had erected to protect themselves. The competitiveness as a way to boost the ego, to be seen, the desire to be someone in a class where you are told from birth that you will always come second to men.
It changed how I saw myself too, and I began to systematically try and work through my own barriers: trust, body image, friendships with other women, self-worth, sexuality, hunger, thirst, desire, want, want, want.
Then I found gender critical feminism: a litany of feminists who wrote experiences I could relate to, an online community. Mumsnet. The explosion of young men and women, boys and girls, publicly denouncing their own bodies in response to societal shackles.
I was named a TERF, given the label cis (the former I play with, the latter I reject), and day by day, post by post, news article by news article (mostly condemning the women who did not believe in gender as a feeling, and the brave, lone voice of Janice Turner), the urge grew stronger, the itch became worse.
I had to do something.
I became part of a group, started talking about how I felt about myself, other women, the world. And amongst the protesting, the consultation responses, the rallying cries, I realised I had found my people: women.
There are many aspects of feminist activism that are terrifying. The fear of attack, both verbal and physical, is real, and something many women have faced. There's the fear of losing people you care about, should you openly talk about the rapidly-becoming taboo. And there is the fear of the loss of self, as more papers are released by government officials that declare they believe "woman" is nothing more than a feeling in a man's mind.
But I have discovered on my own journey that one of the single greatest things about feminism is the sheer strength of support of the community that you find yourself a part of. Women send each other messages regularly, just little notes that say "I support you." Women go out of their way to lift each other up when one of their own is dealing with the impossible to comprehend, as seen with the outpouring of love for Jean Hatchett. Women invite women they have never met into their homes, into their cars, to help them attend the few events where they can speak out and be themselves.
The events. The events. If you haven't been to one, you should. The warmth, the solidarity, the spirit, the inspiration you will receive from other women is beyond anything I can describe. You will feel safe, no matter the protesting going on outside. Other women, women who have no idea of your class, your status, your background, your political affiliation, will have your back.
Becoming a feminist is a journey in self-growth, but it is also about becoming part of something bigger than yourself; something that matters.
Feminism will link you to the billions of women all over the world who are struggling with their own battles. You will cry with them through their pain, and you will celebrate alongside them for their successes. You will feel part of the history of suffragettes, and the little girls being born now who will see a very different world to the one we were born into.
Feminism gives you purpose, yes, but if you are anything like me you will realise that purpose has always been part of who you already were. We are females, we are women, and we have the resilience, the persistence, the motivation, the energy, and the support to fight for as long and as hard as we have to in order to be seen in the world as the women we actually are, and for our rights to be respected.