Tag Archives: Melissa Benn

I am not a feminist. Am I?

We have recently returned from our annual trip to the Edinburgh Book Festival. 

One of the speakers was Melissa Benn, who has recently published an interesting book called ‘What Should We Tell Our Daughters?’. A link to the talk can be found on my blog, assuming I managed to do something technical and do it well. I shall resist all coy feminine self-deprecation relating to the masculine world of The Computer.

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking. Which I guess was the idea behind my attendance.

Am I a feminist?

I have never really thought of myself as one.

And what is a feminist anyway?

Yes, I believe in equal opportunities for women and girls vis-a-vis men and boys, but don’t most people? Would all those with the same belief describe themselves as feminists, or is there more to it?

According to the audience reaction to my rather inarticulate question towards the end of the talk, I am a feminist. I just don’t feel like one. I think the crux is this – I do not feel worthy of the title.

To me, feminists have campaigned, striven and fought for equal opportunitues. I have done not a jot for my fellow women. I have not thrown myself in front of a horse, or campaigned outside parliament. The closest I have come is writing to my MP when I was discriminated against in a mortgage application by virtue of my womb. When the MP, and in turn the Minister for Women (I think that was her title), got the wrong end of the stick, did I pursue it? No. I shrugged my shoulders and couldn’t be bothered. That is not a feminist.

Oh, and I was the ‘Women’s Officer’ on my FE college’s student council. I am pleased to report that nobody came to me with any specific difficulty but I probably put the role on my CV nonetheless.

I believe in equal opportunities for gay people. If I am defined as a feminist by virtue of my belief for equal opportunities for men and women, how am I so defined for a similar belief in relation to gay people? As far as I am aware, there isn’t a word. Homoist? I am not a gay activist. That is one step further along, and that is where I am at with ‘feminist’. I am undeserving of the title. I have written 30,000 words on why the Church of England should accept same-sex marriage but haven’t sent it to the Church of England. Peter Tatchell would  have Uhu-ed it to the windows of Church House (Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3AZ, if anyone else can be bothered).

Is it time we ditched ‘feminist’ and just accepted that there should be equal opportunities for men and women, boys and girls, and that those who think otherwise are missing a chromosome or two? Same goes for issues concerning race and sexuality.

The feminist label is unhelpful. It gives something a very political agenda, which can be frightening and off-putting for many due to the negative stereotypes surrounding the words ‘feminist’ and ‘feminism’. 

Perhaps sadly, in the same way that a heterosexual is the best advocate for equality regardless of sexuality, a man is currently best placed to advocate for equality regardless of gender. Simply because there is less agender (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Those striving are banging the drums to weary ears and fresh voices are needed.

It isn’t about the stereotypes, it’s about common sense. And common sense is equality of opportunity.