Feminism and questions

It might be considered “asking for trouble,” but today I went for a lovely walk back along my usual route – the first time since the incident last week.

I admit that I was scared, and that I spent much of the walking scanning around behind me. But it felt really important to do it. Sort of like reclaiming my territory. Fuck you – you might have scared me, but this is my neighbourhood, and I won’t be forced out of it.

The sad thing is, I noticed my reaction to other people has changed. Not so long ago, I made a point of smiling at passersby while I was out walking – male or female. I met people’s eyes. Today, I actually got off the footpath to avoid being close to someone walking past. A man lifted his chin at me in acknowledgement and I stared at the ground and hurried by. I saw another man coming out of his house and I considered crossing the street so I wouldn’t be anywhere near him.

The actions of one effect many. Those people probably don’t deserve my reaction, or my fear. In fact, I know many men who have felt very upset that they caused me fear, because they would never intend any hurt or offence. But it’s impossible to fight against your instinct of self-preservation. And men trigger that instinct.

I had a lovely long discussion with my Dad about feminism, over Father’s Day afternoon tea. Dad’s a bit old school but he’s up for talking about anything. He takes on board everything I say and he challenges me and asks questions, which is awesome. He asked me, “But what about women who choose to wear skimpy clothes etc, for advertising and music videos and all that. Isn’t in their choice?”

Of course it is. They own their bodies, they have the right to do what they like with them. I said to Dad: “Yes, it’s their choice. But should they have to make that choice in the first place?”

Should we live in a society where it is asked of women to strip down and display their bodies to sell products? Yes, Miley Cyrys is absolutely within her rights to make the choice to gyrate on stage in a lycra bikini – but should she feel like she has to, to sell her music? (And if anyone is going to question her right to do it, they should also question the right of the 36 year old man to be up there grabbing her).

Yes, I don’t necessarily agree with the women who choose to help perpetuate the stereotypes. (Ie the actresses that appear in those bloody KFC ads I keep banging on about). But not everyone sees the world the way that I do. Not everyone has had the same education or experience, or the financial situation, or the ability or capacity to say no when asked. Which is why I’m asking if they should be asked at all.

I’m not saying I know the answers to these questions. I’m a very very new feminist, I’m still learning, I learn new things every day. But I am very passionate about it, and I love discussion, and I love seeing people’s eyes open (especially men’s – hah!)

Take Blurred Lines, for example. The original clip is revolting, and the lyrics are highly questionable – although I’m sure I have seen more explicit clips and heard more shocking lyrics. So why did the women who appear in the video, agree to do it? I love the feminist parody, I think those women are fantastic, and in particular the line “You can’t just grab me – that’s a sex crime” makes me laugh every time I listen to it, because it’s brilliant and so true, and it responds to the original lyrics so well. There are elements to the video that make me uncomfortable, but overall if it gets the message heard then that’s great,

The message got more attention yesterday, with Daniel Farrell’s blog “Why I disagree with feminism” creating lots of conversation (haha). What I loved was my friend Lauren’s response – “Why I disagree with feminism (hate gender equality)“. Not only is it a fantastic correction of all the ridiculous claims and assumptions made by the original, she’s also balanced, and very kind in her approach.

I witnessed a conversation between her and Daniel on Twitter following the publication of her piece. Instead of tearing him apart, she defended his right to write his opinions, and just suggested that he needed to do more research – and that she was happy to have a discussion any time.

I think that’s amazing. Seriously, I think that’s just great. We need more people like that. Yes, the instinct is to rip the idiots to shreds – but that doesn’t further our cause. It just creates anger and the defensiveness I mentioned in my previous post on feminism. It helps no one.

Again, I don’t have all the answers, or even a few answers really – but I want to talk about it. I want to learn. At least then when I’m putting my opinions out there, they can be informed. And I can help keep spreading the message.