Is being called “a raging feminist” a bad thing? Abi Symons doesn’t think so.
Feminism makes its way into a lot of my conversations. Loudly. As far as I’m aware, I don’t crowbar it into every conversation, but I do view the world through the prism of feminism.
Recently, a conversation that started off being about tipping culture, ended up being about sexual exploitation, employment rights and the pay gap. It led to my friend’s husband calling me a raging feminist.
After my initial reaction – what colours will I use when I put that on a T-shirt? – I realised something about it was bothering me. Because it’s not meant as a compliment, is it?
Don’t get me wrong; I most definitely am a feminist. I don’t consider that an insult at all. People sometimes ask why we say ‘feminist’ rather than ‘equalist’. For me, there is a weight to the word that implies its history. The struggle of women throughout time would be lost if we eradicated the very name of what they did. To do away with the word feminism would be to diminish what so many women fought so hard for.
“Like hysterical woman or bored housewife, ‘raging’ and ‘feminist’ find themselves sitting next to each other in a sentence with more frequency than I feel comfortable.”
Feminism reminds me of the sea – it’s more vast and important than we can imagine, its existence is comforting and it happens in waves. I am proud to be a feminist. But the raging part of the statement niggled at me.
Was it the idea that I was being categorised into a cliché? Like hysterical woman or bored housewife, ‘raging’ and ‘feminist’ find themselves sitting next to each other in a sentence with more frequency than I feel comfortable. I don’t like being pigeonholed at the best of times, but that was only part of the problem.
I think of myself as a reasonable feminist. An intelligent, thinking woman who believes in equality for basically everyone, not limited to but very much including women. (If you’re an evil dictator, you’ve already cast yourself as the villain and you have no one but yourself to blame, but even then I would still want you to have a fair trial and probably a decent cup of tea.)
But he didn’t call me a reasonable, thinking feminist. Perhaps I wasn’t comfortable with the idea that I was seen as raging. Because women aren’t supposed to rage, are we? We’re supposed to be calm, poised and dignified. Demure. We’re allowed to be hormonal or emotional but only when we’re tired or *shh whisper* have our periods. There has to be a reason for a display of emotion, like raging, that might be seen as an outburst. But what better reason is there for raging than inequality?
Because yes. I am raging. I am raging against all the things that women have to put up with every day. I am raging against extreme injustices like FGM or forced marriage or forced prostitution. I am raging against the casual sexism women endure literally all the time. Whether it’s the online abuse Caroline Criado-Perez received for her successful campaign to put Jane Austen on our £10 notes, or disrespectful cat-calling in the street or the ridiculous body standards women are expected to live up to by Western media. I am raging against the pay gap, the way women are often portrayed in pornography and the fact that we even have the Bechdel test to show how poorly women are frequently represented on screen or stage.
“A raging storm is one that is strong and powerful, and a storm like that can be breathtakingly beautiful in its intensity.”
I am raging against these things because they are unbearably unfair. I believe they cannot and should not continue. And that’s not all I’m raging against. I rage for LGBTQ communities and every daily injustice they face. I rage about how pathetic disability access is in so many public places. I rage against cuts to the NHS and reducing benefits for people who need them. I rage against racism. I rage against UKIP. Arguably those are the same. I am clearly raging at lots of things.
Raging can mean angry or furious but it can also mean great force or intensity. My friend’s husband may have meant it as a negative comment on my character or merely as a neutral observation, but the more I think about it the more I believe it is positive. The more I choose to take it as positive. A raging storm is one that is strong and powerful, and a storm like that can be breathtakingly beautiful in its intensity.
Women aren’t always seen as naturally powerful and our strength is often not seen as beautiful. When we rage we show our conviction. We stop caring about gaining approval or being liked and show that we are able to fight for the things we believe in. We show that we will not accept what has gone before and we will demand better. When we rage we should be proud, because this is how we effect positive social change. This is how we make the world better.
Next time someone calls me a raging feminist, I won’t be niggled at all. I know exactly what my response will be.
“You’re damn right I am.”
And then I’ll ride my blazing horse of feminist fire off into the sunset.2035 Views
Abi Symons is a writer, feminist and klutz. She’s handy with a pen and paper but not to be trusted near expensive objects. www.klutzface.com/blog