A chance hair colour remark in a cafe made our writer Cath Janes see red.
By that, I mean I overheard students chatting at the next table. Clearly on the same degree course, they were sharing a pile of text books and discussing enzyme production. Then I heard a stratospherically sexist statement by one of the group and it all went tits up.
Only, the comment wasn’t made by a man. It was made by a woman as she loudly, and without any hint of nuance or sarcasm, announced, “I don’t get this bit but that’s just because I’m blonde. It means I don’t always understand things.”
And what did I do? Nothing. Because she was a woman.
I’ve booted myself ever since. The fact is that, had a man made this comment, I’d have ninja-kicked the table, hairdrying his eyeballs with my hollering. Yet because this was said aloud by a woman, my sexism compass spun like a top. I’m so used to leaping to the defence of women that I was physically incapable of leaping to the attack of one, even when she’d so violently offended my feminist sensibilities.
As a science student, that girl knew she was talking bollocks and, worse, she was actually teaching the men at the table how to be sexist (this blonde vs IQ thing was bogglingly new to them).
More than that, she was repeating whatever unutterable shit she’d been taught without even questioning it (so perhaps she’s the victim, but that’s for another rant). Whatever. There were so many levels on which I wanted to challenge her that NCP could sponsor me.
“I talk to every woman I meet as if she is also an ardent feminist who dreams of revolution and a giant patriarchal bonfire. So when I come across a woman who is perfectly at one with sexism, I implode.”
Now, if a woman had said that on social media (*waves to Louise Mensch*) I’d have taken her down. I’ve already written about how I tackle the sexism in online crafting groups when female members insist that girls only like pink, and I’ve been called an “evil feminist” for doing so. I’ve also railed hard against the 42 per cent of women who voted for the foof-molesting balloon of tangerine mince that will be the next US president.
Meeting this particular brand of sexism in its physical form, though, left me too confused to act. I simply didn’t know how to deal with her and that was partly because we were in public. After decades of barking at how women are told to behave, to publicly to do the same thing made my words snag in my throat. Who was I to tell this woman how to act, when I’ve spent so much time fighting for her right to do it?
So I’ve wondered if the problem is mine. Perhaps it’s ME who is being sexist in that, instead of seeing us women in a thousand diverse forms I’m seeing us as an amorphous pile of humans who all think alike. I’m some reverse Trump, where instead of forcing women to fuck me, I’m forcing them to demand respect.
You see, I believe that all women crave equality even if they don’t realise it (there I go with the amorphous blobbing again). I talk to every woman I meet as if she is also an ardent feminist who dreams of revolution and a giant patriarchal bonfire. So when I come across a woman who is perfectly at one with sexism, I implode.
It’s a thought that I can barely comprehend, not least because I thought we feminists had our work cut out educating men without having to educate women too. When women make wildly sexist remarks they’re engaging in the most dangerous form of self-sabotage and the fact that this impacts upon my blonde eight-year-old daughter makes me piss shards of glass. At best, this woman reinforced sexist attitudes that day and, at worst, she spawned a new one.
All of which means that, yes, I did let down the sisterhood in the coffee shop. Fuck. Forgive me. From here on in I promise to not be blinded to sexism by feminine wiles; I’ll give the hairdryer treatment to everyone regardless of their ovary count. Come that revolution the bonfire may not be made entirely of men. Now fetch me an eggnog latte will you, darlin’? I spilled the last one all over my crotch.
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Cath Janes is the brains and stabbed fingers behind Kraken Kreations, which sells shouty, hand-sewn home decor and accessories for modern women. She also sews feminist and anatomical embroidery, dances in her sewing shed and once had a snapped sewing machine needle embedded in her right tit.