I have wanted to write to my children – especially my daughter -about feminism for a long time. Since I was first targeted by a handful of women who decided that I was sickening, because of the way I write this blog. The trouble is, when a woman writes about feminism, there’s always the chance that a feminist will pitch up and attempt to put her in her place. So I wimped out and asked a man to give me his opinion.
Stuart Heritage writes for the Guardian, amongst other gigs, and co-writes the brilliant LUV & HAT. If you can get past the fact that he never misses an episode of X Factor, he’s also incredibly cool. Here’s his advice to a 9 year old girl with everything to learn and a will to change the world:
How to be a feminist
Ugly confrontations. Open booing. Such a vulgar display of all-out antagonism that everyone involved should probably feel quite ashamed of themselves. This is what happens when you book Toby Young to speak at #Blogfest instead of me. I hope we can all learn from this horrible lesson and move on with our lives.
Oh, right, my mistake. The ugly Blogfest hoo-hah wasn’t about me after all. It was about feminism; specifically whether or not somebody can be a mummy blogger and a feminist at the same time. I didn’t attend Blogfest myself, but I saw how petty and nasty things got on Twitter. And that’s Twitter, for crying out loud. Twitter’s default state is petty and nasty, so for something like this to stand out, things must have got incredibly bad tempered in there.
You mummy bloggers clearly can’t reach a consensus on this issue by yourselves so, as a man, I’ve decided to tell you what the truth really is. And I’ll do it by using nice short words, so that I don’t confuse your pretty little heads.
(This is a joke, by the way. Don’t come and fight me. I’m a man, so I’m much stronger than you and I will win. Oh, I’ve done it again. That was a joke too. Right, look, let’s start again. Helen asked me to write this, and told me that she was compiling a series of life lessons for GG, so I’ll address this next bit directly to her).
I think your mum got in a fight the other day. It was a silly fight, and she didn’t win it. But nobody else did, either. Nobody was right, and nobody was wrong. Like I said, it was a silly fight.
The fight was about what makes you a feminist. Someone said that if you raise a family and enjoy making jam, you can’t be a feminist. Then some other people said that if you tell people that they can’t be feminists because they have families and enjoy making jam, then you can’t be feminist either. It’s quite confusing. If you listen to everyone, then nobody gets to be a feminist.
The problem is that everyone has a slightly different idea on what feminism is, and everyone really REALLY wants everyone else to agree with them. For some reason, people enjoy thinking that they speak on behalf of all women when they talk about feminism. The fight your mum got in the other day proves that this isn’t true.
So it’s up to you. If you think it’s feminist to work hard and raise your children to be smart and conscientious, then you’re right. If you think it’s feminist to start your own business and make a professional success of yourself, you’re right too. If you think it’s feminist to have a job that involves writing lots of angry columns about feminism where you furiously disagree with everyone who doesn’t agree with your precise definition of feminism… well, that seems a little bit counterproductive, but you’re still right.
Anyway, that’s just what I think. You might disagree with me. And that’s fine. It’s like an English exam – there’s no right or wrong answer (it’s not like a maths exam, by the way. There are definitely wrong answers in maths exams. You should probably study harder for maths exams). When it comes to feminism, you’re allowed to believe whatever you feel happiest with. The trick is to try and be as inclusive as you can, and not to get angry when someone disagrees with you.
Anyway, I’m a bloke. I’m the last person who should be telling you any of this. You’re a smart girl. You’ll figure out your own path.
PS: Your mum is very cool. Be like her and you’ll probably be fine.
So, feminism. I know what I think. But I want to know what YOU think. And thank you Stu for the great advice. I hope my girl – and my boy – takes it x