Thursday, 1 September 2011

On Feminism

Picture this scene: I am at a go-karting track in Tenerife. I am with my husband. We are shown to the go-karts which sit in a line in the middle of the pit lane. There are two girls, myself, my husband, and five other men. I sit in the kart I come to first, it is the last one in the row. The two girls are in their late teens and thus go into the smaller karts which sit at the side of the pits. They go off first. We await the start.

This is the point at which a face appears in front of me. He asks, “have you done this before?”. I reply “no”, indeed, I have never raced a go-kart here before. He looks at me very directly and points to the pedal underneath my right foot. “This…is to go”. I look up at him, frowning and smiling. “This…” He continues, pointing to the pedal under my left foot, “is to stop”. I nod very slowly, smiling in irritation. “Not at the same time” He mouths each word obviously and waves his hands across each other to fully convey the message. “Ohh-kayyy” I reply, rolling my eyes. At this point I expect him to move to the kart in front of me, containing Stuart, to repeat the ridiculous exhibit of just how dense people can be. I imagine us laughing about it together on the relay bus back to our hotel. Laughing and smiling. Suffice to say, he does not move on and tell Stuart.

When I realise this I am angered. My first thought is, “why me?”. My Second thought is “well, duh”. As I fester with tingling waves of irritation they start the kart at the top of the row and off he drives. The second kart is now started, and the third, until they are starting Stuart’s in front of me. As the man who starts the karts comes to mine he looks at me and asks, “have you done this before?”. I give him a quizzical look, “Yes, I have driven a go-kart at home.” He points to my right foot and I stare at him in the same way I stare at approaching charity muggers back home, but unlike them this one does not take the hint. “This foot… is go” He nods emphatically, I feel like a child. “This foot” my left “is stop”. I feel like I have the intelligence of a marble. “Not at the same time” he stresses, speaking to me the way idiots speak to foreigners on situation comedies. I look at him incredulously, “I know how to drive a car” I implore. “Go slow your first lap” He says. “Yes, I KNOW” I say through clenched teeth. Whilst saying this my kart has been started and the first one to explain to me about how to flex muscles in my feet is behind me saying “go… go…gooooo…” in the same tone that children use to taunt each other. I put my right foot down and fly out of the pits in a haze of fury and humiliation. I don’t know if it is just that I am good at driving or if the red mist came down but somehow I managed it. It doesn’t matter but for what it’s worth I was fourth fastest, beating four of those unassailable entities who can do no wrong, also known as men.

I am no feminist. I care not for stereotypes of bra burning and rejected chivalry. A girl at university once told me she was an “anti-feminist” and I was impressed by her… balls. I think of it now and then I remember the rigours of go-karting and I feel as though that god-damned piece of wire and fabric is choking the life out of me. Despite this, I still can’t get around the fact that I like men. What’s more, I admire men. All my idols are men. All items in my life that do not have a very obviously pre-assigned sex (i.e. if they are pink or have long eyelashes) are men. I would not do very well with languages where nouns are gendered. Blame me, blame my upbringing, I am the antithesis of a pink princess. I want to do everything men do and unlike many who would call themselves feminists, I don’t want to flaunt my femininity whilst in the middle of a rugby scrum. I don’t know that you can really want gender equality when all you want is for gender to not be noticed at all. I find it very hard to place myself when I know that I am unable to be a woman in the perceived way that I would be able to convey this. For me, being a woman is having inconvenient periods and a lower level of physical ability than men and that is it. All the rest is society and that is it. I’m fed up of feeling inferior because everyone wants to champion the woman who uses her feminine charms to work her way to the top. To me, that, and all the rest of it, is sexist.

For some there are key criteria for discerning when being discriminated against based on sex is over. For example, when women and men are paid equally. For me, the issue won’t be over until nobody thinks of it again. If a woman is paid equally to a man it won’t matter that she has the same amount of money, she’ll still be treated based on sex, not on competency. Until people stop thinking in terms of sex, only then will it not be an issue. This is so complicated I can only imagine the sheer number of problems that there are for people of mixed gender.

Here’s the thing for me. You may think to tell me that those go-kart people were obtuse sexist morons who should be reprimanded. You may tell me that even if they were there are a whole host of them out there and that I personally can’t fight them all. You may tell me that I should use my sexuality to the best of my ability and embrace exactly who I am. I am woman, hear me roar.

This is who I am. I am a person. I am not someone who deserves to be judged based on their sex. I like to wear clothing that doesn’t sexualise me. I can’t do the whole girls at their sleepover talking solidarity sister bit. I like “male” activities but there is no way in earth I will participate in them if I feel like people notice me because of my sex. For them to notice me because of me; that is all I want.

I suppose to cut to the chase I am a feminist inasmuch as I find discrimination against women, and sexism unacceptable. I hate being patronised because of how I look. Imagine in that go-kart a black individual is singled out and patronised due to their being different to the other people participating, I cannot begin to imagine the amount of shit that would hit the fan if that went down. Yet, oh dear me, here I am, a stupid woman who can’t drive a go-kart, let alone a car, let’s make her feel like she has the worth of a peanut and send her on her way. I hate that this happens and I don’t know what you can call it but there is no way it can be sexism if I am just swapping being singled out in a negative way to being singled out in a positive way. I’m fed up of playing the game. I’m out. I’m no feminist, I am nothing; and I hope you’ll treat me that way.

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