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!
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?