On coming out as a feminist

by Stephen Tall on January 23, 2017

I’ve long fought shy of the term ‘feminist’. On the occasions I was asked if I was one, I’d brush it aside: “I don’t want to be one of those try-hard guys who uses the label as bragging rights.” There was some truth to that.

There’s also some truth that I find it a bit presumptuous to say “I’m a feminist.” (Why should anyone care?)

But probably the biggest single reason has been that, at least until relatively recently, I wasn’t a feminist. At least, not explicitly.

If I was anything, I guess I was an implicit feminist. I believed in equal rights (genuinely) and reckoned that was enough. Women, I would muse in the abstract, should be free to do whatever they like; and thankfully, I’d add, their rights are now protected by law.

It was a complacency rooted in my own experience. My mum had a career she loved (teaching) to which she happily returned; after which it was my dad, whose hours as a church minister were flexible, who did the school-run. We all did our share (ish) of house-work, especially after my mum got chronic fatigue syndrome. My professional life has been in education, about as female-friendly a sector as you get, often for women bosses, which I’ve enjoyed.

Truth is, while I’m sure I must at times have been simply oblivious to it, I suspect I’ve been pretty insulated from sexism.

Then, gradually, I’ve become more aware that my previous experience isn’t a universal.

From little things; such as trying to buy my nieces presents which weren’t just dolls and princesses and glittery from the PINK half of the toy shop. To big things; such as my partner having to find a new job when she went back to work after our son was born because her company (female boss, incidentally) were utter shits about her hours.

And then once you see it, you notice it (the patriarchy!) EVERYWHERE.

Seriously. From dads failing to pull their weight at home; to Hillary Clinton’s horrific mauling by the media for the same things her male predecessors habitually did without attracting comment (yes, including the emails); to women being held to blame for being sexually assaulted if they wear what they want. (There was another example of that latter one just today; it’s what prompted this rant.)

So… I still don’t feel comfortable with the label, still a bit self-conscious of it. But sexism is still all around us. And the only thing needed for it to triumph is for wishy-washy blokes to do nothing because calling yourself a feminist makes you feel a bit weird.

So, sod it: I’m a feminist.