Today is voting day for the European elections in the UK. We’ll be heading down to the polling station as soon as we find the cards they send through that we always manage to lose two days before the election. Politics is not perfect. It’s not even, often, very good. But thanks to the great-grandmothers that scrapped and screamed and threw themselves in harm’s way until the establishment listened to them, I have a stake in this democracy and I want to use it. Emmeline Pankhurst and her kind are why I call myself a feminist.
It took me a long time to strip away the negative associations I had with the f-word. Perhaps you still have them – I wouldn’t blame you. I am not a feminist because I hate men or bras or love being angry all the time. I’m not frothing about the fact that the female ‘lioness’ is only a suffix on the end of the male ‘lion’, signifying the insignificance of the female (as I read in a textbook at university and snorted over).
(Note: there’s a lot to be said about the way we use language and the effect it has on men and women. It’s just, I suppose, that there are more relevant things to the lives of most women than ‘lion’ and ‘lioness’. Unless you write blogs on The Lion King.)
Here is why I call myself a feminist.
I am a feminist because I wanted a university education, and got one without being sent to a special women’s college, being refused a degree or having eyebrows raised at my frivolity.
I am a feminist because I can vote without being arrested.
I am a feminist because no one forced me to hand over my assets to my husband on getting married (Greatest Hits of Elton John, YOU ARE MINE FOREVER).
I am a feminist because I could choose to keep working, stop working or fashion my own working life after I had children, and all of those choices are valid.
I am a feminist because I could buy a house if I wanted.
I am a feminist because the decision about how many children to have and when is one we make equally, together.
I am a feminist because my husband has no more legal right to beat me than I have to beat him.
I am a feminist because I believe that women can think, and learn, and influence, and achieve any damn thing they put their minds to.
I am a feminist because Tim and I work in partnership, our strengths boosting each other’s weaknesses, and both of us have valuable things to contribute in every sphere of our lives.
I am a feminist because I owe all of these rights to women who didn’t have them, and made noise until they got them.
I am a feminist because so many women still don’t have them, and there is so much to be done.
I am a feminist because my boys need to internalise these things until they are unremarkable, and they’ll only do that if I show them what it looks like.
I am a feminist because if I have girls too, I want to send them out into this world on fire with purpose and possibility.
I am a feminist because I cannot, in having respect for the life I lead, be anything else.