100 Women

Woman 1

Name: Bella                                          

Age: 20                                                 

Birthplace: North London

What does Feminism mean to you?

When I was about eleven, I actively disliked feminism. I thought that to be a feminist you had to hate men, burn bras, not wear make-up and braid your armpit hair. I thought that all feminists were angry and man hating and that wasn’t something I was. I liked orange foundation, push-up bras and shaved my armpits religiously, so obviously I couldn’t be a feminist.

Throughout my 20 years of life on this earth. Half has been spent wary of men, since the age of 10 I have been cat-called, beeped at, shouted at. A constant ‘polite’ smile plastered on my face. One time at 16, a builder called me ‘Oi sexy’ and having a bad day at school I gave him evils and instantly got told I had ‘a face like a slapped ass’ . The worst, although not sexual harassment was at 13 when my 100 year old male counsellor told me my ‘legs were to fat’ for an eating disorder. That one really ignited a man hating fire in me. Women have also belittled me in a way that they wouldn’t to a man. One female teacher pulled me out of class and started the conversation with ‘I know you would rather be talking about boys and makeup than in a science lesson but..’ Another female teacher told me my top was too cropped and shamed me in front of the whole classroom, even forcing me to wear a coat throughout the lesson. I don’t think this would have happened if I was a man.

Every man that has been in position of power has violated it. My first job was at 16 as a waitress, my manager constantly invited me to dinner or hugged me without asking. The chef once put his whole hand on my lower back and told me that I had a nice body because his hand could cover my waist. When I walked up and down the aisle men would compliment my body or say ‘excuse me’ with their hands. You could fit a bus through the walkway, but yet they felt the need to place their hands on me to get past. At the time I knew I didn’t want to be touched without permission. But I believed that they were my colleagues, my friends. Being naïve and my first job, I didn’t realise what harassment was. My next job was at a pub where the bar was narrow so whenever a man wanted to get past his hand would grab my shoulder or my lower waist. It’s funny that women know the words ‘excuse me’ but men speak with their hands. My manager at the pub constantly asked me for drinks after work. On my second or third shift he texts me confused to why I had left when my shift ended, as he wanted me to stay for drinks. When I bluntly replied he said ‘No need to be rude I just wanted a drink (Smiley Face)’ By my third job in hospitality any man that came my way for a hug I would jump and make dramatic gestures to shoo them away. Or simply smile and say ‘I don’t want to be touched’. I’ve created such harsh boundaries that most of the time men think I’m rude. I recently got called a ‘typical English’ girl for not wanting to hug. I have the strongest boundaries because all men in the workplace have taught me, they can’t be trusted to not place their hands on me or take my polite small talk for wanting an after work drink. So I don’t care if all men around me think I’m a bitch. I would rather that than have to constantly politely set boundaries. My dream job is a workplace with all women, I was so excited to have a female boss in my most recent job. It’s not that I hate all men and want to be separate from them. It’s just when men are around, I can’t be my 100% self I can’t relax. I can’t make jokes and be bubbly without them thinking I fancy them. Life is just much easier around women. An experience that recently left me genuinely frightened was when I got off the bus and a young man followed me off. He started calling me repeating ‘excuse me excuse me’ I shook my head and carried on walking, he perused to chase me and he wouldn’t leave. I felt genuinely helpless. Someone intervened but it shook me. There was recently a thread on Twitter that asked women what they would do if men didn’t exist for the day. Lot’s of answers involved going on trips alone, taking walks in the dark, saving money on pepper spray. Most involved not being scared anymore.

Feminism exists to teach men boundaries, to show the world that cat calling, and intimidating women isn’t okay. I am a feminist because I believe all men and women should be equal. I don’t think it’s right a woman can sleep with 100 men and be a slut, but if a man does it, he’s a player. I just want men and women to be seen and viewed as equal. My hope for the future is that I don’t have to sprint from the bus stop to my house. Keys in hand, spend a fortune on Ubers to avoid walking home late, constantly be on edge for the next predator. I hope that my daughter will never be intimidated or scared to be herself in case she receives unwanted harassment. I just want to live care-free without having to be alert whenever I leave the house alone.

Sometimes I think I’m a bad feminist because I would be happy to have children and not have a career. I feel like I’ve let the suffragettes down. But ultimately there is no such thing as a bad feminist. Because feminisms mean that I have the right to CHOOSE my life. If I want to be a housewife or an astronaut, or lawyer or stripper that’s fine because it is my choice. As a woman, I should be given every opportunity to choose my future and be given equal opportunities. Some people dictate what it means to be a feminist. They say that trans women aren’t women, they fear them in bathrooms. Ultimately being a feminist is about accepting all women. Ovaries or not, it’s about supporting each other and celebrating each other not tearing one another down. As much as I feel safer around an all-female workplace, I know that feminism is about equal rights between men and women. You don’t have to burn bras to be a feminist. If you are tearing another women down for not being women enough, for choosing decisions you don’t agree with, for wanting to be beautiful then you aren’t a feminist.

 If I could make a change towards a feminist future, I would teach boys in school boundaries, I would teach them not to harass women, no means no and I would stop teaching girls how not to get raped.

5 thoughts on “Woman 1”

  1. “ Every man that has been in position of power has violated it”
    what a damning sentence for all employers everywhere. Employers, how do you know whether your female workforce feel safe?

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  2. When I was 13 I was waiting at a bus stop in broad daylight next to both my house and my school. I was alone and there was just one other man there. After sitting waiting for a bus for five minutes I turned around to find out what this odd noise was only to find the man next to me trousers round his ankles wanking.

    I’m not even sure if I told my parents at the time. I told my girlfriends and we decided to call the police. It was never followed up with me and I never thought about it again, suppressing the trauma as all young girls are taught to do from early age. instead of rage I grew up feeling guilty, afraid and weak.

    It only popped into my head again recently at the age of 30 when having a flippant conversation with my boyfriend about sexual harassment. I used it as a brief example, still not registering how disgusting it really was. Sadly it wasn’t even until the look on my his face some 17 years later did I think actually that’s really fucked up. Because as you so perfectly illustrate we live these experiences every day, they are normal.

    I had to write this because reading your post made me realise I shouldn’t be ashamed, he should. And we need to tell people (MEN) this is happening. Men need to be the reason this never happens again. Is it wrong to want to but your burdens on to other people and have them feel their weight? Because I want it to weigh on them heavily

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  3. There are so many experiences I could share , but one really stands out .
    I think as 18 & joined friends to live . on a kibbutz in Israel . My friend introduced me to a guy who he said I would find really interesting , into politics , lots of books . He was a lot older , a kibbtutznic , he had a fiancé. He invited me to his place , within 20 minutes his hand was on my thigh . I shouted at him “what on earth do you think you are doing”? He replied with contempt in his voice ,” that’s What you came for isn’t it” to which I relied , no “I came to talk about Israeli politics and borrow a book “. It was horrible , because I was trapped on the kibbutz with him , I Felt in this huge dilemma , should I tell his fiancée he was a sleaze ? But I felt scarred of her reaction to me , which is another issue how women may not support other women & refuse to see “their” men as abusers & hatred sets . I still think about them after 40 years , what was their life like together ?

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  4. I am so very very saddened to read of these experiences of a young woman especially when, in this day and age, men know exactly that what they are doing is wrong. You are so right, specific education is the answer. Not just in school but in the home. Parents have to ensure that boys are brought up knowing how to treat fellow humans. Fathers must set high standards and provide examples. And a mother should explain how boys should treat her, her daughters and all young women as if they were her daughters or his sisters.
    It is s shame also that feminism has such a bad name (still). But I am glad you are now proud to call yourself a feminist.
    Love ❤️

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