Gemma Arterton may find it “boring”, but feminism needs to be “stampy and shouty”, says Fiona Longmuir. Alright dear, calm down…
This week, Gemma Arterton declared that she’s not a fan of “stampy and shouty” feminism, finding it altogether quite boring.
Full disclosure: I adore Gemma Arterton. I really do. Her Tess of the D’Urbervilles broke my heart in the best possible way and I find her all-in-all so lovely that it makes me want to cry sometimes.
More full disclosure: Her statement wasn’t an out-of-the-blue attack on feminism. She was talking about her current role as Nell Gywnn and explaining that she liked it so much because it wasn’t stampy, shouty feminism.
As a woman living in the world – and I’ll try not to get stampy and shouty about this too quickly – I have to respectfully disagree.
As someone who talks feminism on the internet a lot, this is a point that gets put to me on average a couple of times a day. That we’d advance our cause a lot faster if we were… well… just a little bit nicer about it. And in general, I think being nice is great. It’s very nice to be very nice.
But when we’re talking about women taking up space and making their voices heard, we have to be pretty careful about what behaviour we reward. Because when people say women talking about feminism should be “nicer”, what they often actually mean is “gentler”, “softer”, “quieter”, “smaller”.
When people ask feminists to be nice, they’re more often telling us to take up less space, to be less disruptive with our disruptions. We need feminism because women are constantly punished for acting unladylike, so much so that our discussions of women’s rights are punished for it too.
“For too long, women have struggled to make themselves heard in sweet, unobtrusive ways and we get shouted over, barged past and stepped on way too often.”
Women are penalised for using their voices in ways that men just aren’t. If women take up more than 25 per cent of a conversation, they’re seen as dominating it. That is an actual, true fact. We only get 15 minutes of talking for every 45 men get and we’re still expected to spend them going, “Well, I don’t want to be rude, but if it’s not too much trouble, I thought we could maybe talk about… oh, it was just an idea, if we have time…”
This is magnified when women get loud, powerful or angry. Women raising their voices is still seen as wholly unacceptable. Go to any article about a female politician and I bet you a fiver she’s described as either shrill or masculine.
Angry women are hysterical. Angry women are overemotional. Angry women are irrational. This goes double if there are intersecting oppressions: see every “angry, black woman” or “butch, angry lesbian” trope ever. And that – forgive me if I come over all unladylike for a second – is bollocks.
I love angry women. Angry women are righteous. I frequently want to run around my Twitter timeline high-fiving women who have decided that they are so over taking shit.
There’s only so many times you can politely say, “Excuse me, can you get your legs out of my space/your hand off my ass/can you stop talking over me/can you stop telling Ken that his idea was brilliant when I actually had the idea 10 minutes ago and you ignored me/can you stop yelling at me from your car/can you stop yelling at me because I won’t have sex with you/can you stop sending me photographs of mutilated women on Twitter/can you stop masturbating at me on public transport?” before you accept that, sometimes, being polite isn’t going to cut it.
I’m not advocating barging around being obnoxious to everyone but I am fed up of the idea that we have to be relentlessly pleasant to people who are relentlessly awful to us. On International Women’s Day this year, I innocently stretched back my elbows and simultaneously impaled two men who were trying to barge past me in a queue. Not very polite. Not very mature. Certainly not very ladylike. But I boarded my plane feeling as though, by daring to own the space that I was taking up, I’d just punched the patriarchy in the face.
For too long, women have struggled to make themselves heard in sweet, unobtrusive ways and we get shouted over, barged past and stepped on way too often. It’s time for us to kick up a fuss. In the words of my life inspiration, Matilda, no more Mrs Nice Girl.
I bet hearing feminists stomp and shout about the patriarchy does get super-boring. I feel ya, Gemma. Do you know what’s even more boring? Being oppressed by it.
See a bunch of inspiring women refusing to be quiet throughout history in our new feature Saturday Morning Pictures, here.4768 Views
Fiona Longmuir is a professional storyteller, reluctant adult and aspiring funny girl. When not getting naked in tube stations and binge-watching inappropriate TV shows, she can be found scribbling at the Escapologist's Daughter.