To All the Lionesses of the World

Published April 8, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Bit of housekeeping first – I’m in today’s Sun Herald (Sydney), an interview I did back in January about fat activism and living in a fat body.  Take a look!

Anyhoo…

A friend posted this article to Facebook recently and it has got me thinking about what my aims and methods are as a feminist and fat activist.  I don’t agree with everything the writer of the article stands for (bringing “love and light” to the world – yeah, I’m more looking for fairness, respect and equity, not a big old hug fest where everyone gets along all rosy, and the whole “warrior princess” thing makes me want to barf) but I did connect with her perspective on feminism not being about “winning” – it’s not a zero sum game – that building up basic human rights for women (and fat people) is not about winning over men (or thin people), it’s not going to reduce anyone else’s rights to expand ours.  There’s enough space in the world for all of us to have our basic human rights met without one group or another losing theirs.

Pieces like this make me think further about where I fit in the world, where my “place” is.  Particularly as so often people are out to “put me in my place” because they’ve decided that I am somehow out of it.  Either because I’m a woman who doesn’t apologise for her emotions, or sit quietly when other people (ie men) want to speak, or because I’m a fat woman, who refuses to be ashamed of her fat body.  There is always someone attempting to “take me down a peg or two”, “put me in my place”, or “remind me not to get too big for my boots.”

Well, I say, if I’m too big for my boots, it’s time to get a new pair of boots.

I really believe that the world won’t be changed by tapping the people in power and privilege on the shoulder and whispering “excuse me” in a small, polite voice.  Not at all.  We need to raise our voices, get bolshy and if nobody takes notice, start metaphorically shoving our way through.

I can’t tell you the number of times that I have had people denounce feminism to me, saying that women who fight for their basic rights need to moderate themselves in some way.  Be more polite, don’t get angry, don’t put men down, don’t hate men, don’t be so extremist.  As if somehow, demanding that women be treated as human beings and be allowed to have complete autonomy over their own bodies is extreme!  Or that it is somehow denigrating, hateful or damaging to men!

My pet hate is when people (particularly women) say “I’m not feminist, I’m equalist.”  Sometimes they misuse the word “humanist” to mean the same thing as “equalist”.  This is more internalised misogyny, that need to be polite, pleasant and “fair” to men so that they don’t feel threatened by women demanding to be treated as human beings.  Again, as though fighting for women’s rights would be directly removing rights from men – which is a complete fallacy.  This shaming of feminism, as if it’s somehow harmful or unreasonable, is carefully nurtured by those who are against women having autonomy over their bodies and lives, and those seeds are sown in the minds of women so that they remain compliant and work to police other women.

I believe that the constant calls for women to be “moderate, to “settle down”, and “don’t get so emotional/angry” and “don’t be so extreme” are just deeply ingrained misogynistic messages that tell women we are not worthy of being heard, that displaying emotion (especially anger) is somehow shameful or wrong, and that it is “extreme” to expect women to be treated as human beings.

Not to mention that any display of emotion from women other than smiling compliance is seen as anger.  If you set boundaries, express passion or dedication, or even just disagree with someone, it’s labelled as “angry”.  Firstly, women have many emotions, all of them nuanced and unique.  And secondly, so WHAT if a woman is angry about the injustices towards women in general?  We SHOULD be angry at the way women are treated all over the world.  We should be angry that we are not allowed to decide what we do with our own bodies.  We should be angry that generally women are paid less than men when they do the same work.  We should be angry that our bodies are considered public property, to be groped, probed, raped and examined without our consent.  We should be angry that women who are from further marginalised groups, be they fat, women of colour, women with disabilities, trans*, poor or any other marginalised groups, are even further oppressed than women with privilege.  We should be angry that around the world, girl babies are murdered just because of their gender, “culled” because they are seen as a burden.  We should be angry that women are used as punching bags for the frustrations of some men.

I ask – knowing what is happening to women of the world – why AREN’T you angry?

Get angry.  Show emotion.  Argue.  Speak up.  Demand better.

We won’t change the world by purring prettily, or mewing in mild protest.  We’ll change it by roaring.  After all, both lions and lionesses roar.

Where’s your roar?

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15 comments on “To All the Lionesses of the World

  • That’s a great post, I read that too, asking people to be polite when they demand to be treated as humans.
    I’m extremely polite because of fear, I was taught to be compliant by abuse and as part of mental health programs so I am terrified of asking for space and rights, I am fighting my fear and deserving to be angry but that’s a complicated process, reading posts like yours helps me a lot, thank you.

    I don’t know if I am a feminist or not because of one reason, as a disabled, mentally ill and non-binary trans* person I was insulted and bullied in many feminist places and many others have the same experiences, so that’s what makes me unable to call myself a feminist, except in some peripheral groups. Hard to know when it’s safe.

    • Yeah I’m always baffled that we need to “ask” to be treated like human beings with the same rights. No, I’m not asking, I’m demanding.

      I know that fear too – I used to be like that. Finally I’m getting past it now, as I am about to turn 40!

      And yes, I understand your reticence to self identify as feminist. I believe that any movement that DOES NOT include you, and others who identify from other marginalised group is in fact not feminism. Feminism is intersectional or it is not feminism, it’s just co-opting some of feminism’s aims.

  • “And secondly, so WHAT if a woman is angry about the injustices towards women in general? ”

    This. THIS!

    It bothers me to see this anti-woman shit manifest itself in so many ways– worst when by other women. For instance, my stepmother (a woman who I love and respect) said something about my father’s three uptight bosses, who happen to be women in their late 50s. He doesn’t like his job and would like to quit or hopefully retire soon. She said “I don’t know how he spends all day around these pre-menopausal women– nothing against you having your own business, but I would never want a woman for a boss.”
    Granted, she’s from the generation where women’s only options were to stay home and rasie kids, or become secretaries…but as an “angry feminist” I didn’t know what to say to her. I was just stunned. It’s always more awkward when dealing with that kind of attitude when it’s a family member who you love. I know I’m not the only one who has this situation due to having loved ones from different generations.

    But I also fucking hate it when random people on the street, etc. always men, tell me to smile more. I know guys who get their fair share of random people bothering them, but I think women get it a lot more because we’re just told to “stop being so dramatic/emotional” and take it. I glare at shitheads who catcall me, look at me suggestively, etc. I am entitled to give dagger-eyes to someone who I perceive as a threat/is trying to invade my personal space. The subway is not a goddamn singles bar. I will continuously roar about street/public place harassment!

    • I hear you Rachel, I really do. So often in my life, women tell me to not be so angry, or make misogynistic statements about how they don’t like working with women, or how other women are “out to get men” and all these sorts of things. It’s worse when it comes from other women!

      And the “smile” thing makes me stabby too!

    • Oh, the “smile, Honey” thing–gag! I would smile if I had a chain saw and could rip them a new one with it.

  • Hear hear! Well said! The ‘humanist’ thing bugs the hell out of me as well, along with just about everything else you mentioned. I get mad, I get angry, I get LOUD and I refuse to back down about things that matter to me. I’m sick and tired of hearing ‘well anger is scary! You’re alienating allies!’ Fuck that! If my allies aren’t as mad as me, they’re not very good allies now are they?

    • Yes, well the whole “humanist” thing is a misappropriation of a word that belongs to another movement altogether really, isn’t it?

      It’s so great to hear another lioness roar!

  • “it’s not a zero sum game – that building up basic human rights for women (and fat people) is not about winning over men (or thin people), it’s not going to reduce anyone else’s rights to expand ours. There’s enough space in the world for all of us to have our basic human rights met without one group or another losing theirs….[snip]…This is more internalised misogyny, that need to be polite, pleasant and “fair” to men so that they don’t feel threatened by women demanding to be treated as human beings. Again, as though fighting for women’s rights would be directly removing rights from men – which is a complete fallacy. ”

    I agree with your post. I identify as an angry feminist and am quite fond of the bumper sticker “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

    What I was struck by was the sections I quoted above. I agree that working for social justice is not a zero sum game and that achieving previously denied rights does not take anything away from groups that already have them. The example I think of is marriage. My father, believes that if LGBTQ people were allowed to marry each other, it would somehow lessen his own marriage. I think that’s bs and that he’s saying that to cover up his fear and prejudice.

    What people in the dominant groups do give up when marginalized groups get treated equally or equitably is their *privilege*. Whether or not they realize it, they feel that fat people or women getting being seen as equal makes them less “special,” which I argue is how it should be. And they are scared of that. I also agree with the pervasive myth of scarcity and zero sum-ism feeds this fear.

    • I love that bumper sticker! I’m gonna get one!

      How on earth does allowing same sex couples to marry diminish heterosexual marriages, I just can’t fathom that one at all. I think you’re right, it’s because they can’t face their own fear and prejudice. And you’re right – it’s that old superiority complex coming through – losing privilege would mean they can’t see themselves as superior to people, wouldn’t it?

  • Yes! I totally agree with this! There is so much pressure to appear “ladylike” no matter what is happening to us. It’s like we are children and showing anger is bad manners because it displeases men and the male ideal.
    I am still working up the courage to be unapologetic for my very real anger and concern. Thanks for this!

  • I loved what you said in the SMH. How can we ordinary people manage to see through all the crap being peddled at us when the self-appointed guardians of our public health are still selling this damaging misinformation.

    Until recently, I had spent the last 20 years too busy trying to diet myself into the ‘right’ body to realise how angry I was. Now that I’ve stopped though, damn right – hear me ROAR!

    Ang :)

    • Thanks neverdietagainuk – it’s ridiculous isn’t it – we’re told we should eat less and exercise more, but any fatty who has eaten a salad or exercised in public will tell you, the amount of abuse we get for doing just that is phenomenal!

      Roar away my lioness!

      • [sarcasm alert for the ironically challenged]…

        Well, it’s obviously just a token effort anyway, since we’re clearly spending the rest of the time on our sofas stuffing our faces with cheeseburgers. Obviously. Why else would we be fat? Thin people are thin, so why aren’t we?! If only we weren’t such gluttonous sloths….

        Keep fighting the good fight xxx

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