Birthplace: Co. Durham
What does Feminism mean to you?
The first time I was called a feminist was by my Religious Studies teacher when I was 13. The term she used was actually “the grand-high feminist at the back of the room” as she asked my opinion about the Catholic Church’s view on abortion, and she said it with such enthusiasm that I knew it was a compliment.
Growing up, my family was never political. They had much bigger things to worry about, like having enough money to put food on the table, surviving various and unfortunate life-changing illnesses, and other things which are inherently linked with politics, but take up too much mental space to allow for thinking about the systems which have caused said problems in the first place. However, they were always incredibly encouraging and my opinions were always given space and time, even though I wasn’t necessarily always agreed with.
Being called a feminist was the first time I felt attached to a political identity, and it’s one I’ve stuck with since that day, though my understanding of feminism has grown and changed enormously. As a teenager, I used to say proudly that I was “not like other girls”, that being friends with boys created “less drama”. In previous, unhealthy relationships with men, I shrunk my feminism in order to seem more palatable, lest I be seen as a bra-burning zealot who hated men. I am now, however, more than happy to be seen as such, and can firmly say that I will never shrink myself again.
In my late teens and early twenties, my feminism focused heavily on issues which I had experienced, as I had the greatest understanding of them. I have lost count of the number of times I have been groped, cat-called, followed, had opinions belittled or been treated adversely on account of the fact that I am a woman. I have had my drink spiked in a nightclub, been called a bitch and worse because I said no, been abused by a previous partner. An apparent and unjust par-for-the-course as a woman.
It wasn’t until around 2014 that I learned of intersectionality when considering my feminism. The Twitter accounts of Bridget Minamore, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Jude in London opened my eyes to issues of race within feminism that I would continue to be blind to were it not for their time and education. Now, I do my best to follow a diverse range of voices on social media, and to ensure that me being a white feminist does not lead to my participation in White Feminism.
My feminism has come a long way, and I don’t think my 13-year-old self could ever have imagined what it meant to be an intersectional, anti-capitalist, anarcha-feminist, let alone to feel that those labels fit. Feminism for me is a vision of a world without coercive hierarchies and the ability to make genuine, free choices without the weight of societal burdens. Until that utopian point, feminism provides a framework for me to live as authentically as possible, a path of growth and learning about the struggles of others, and an ultimate goal for intersectional freedom.