Bringing you regular rage against the patriarchy, drenched in sarcasm and capslocks #FEMINISTFRIDAY

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Is Everybody Faking It?

This is a break from the norm. Not feminist Friday chat but normal service will resume on Friday. This is all kinds of crazy.

I’ve had a bit of a reflective, possibly self-indulgent, few weeks recently. I’ve talked a lot and listened almost as much (the last part is particularly new for me…). This all began when someone, who I don’t know at all, emailed me about one of my previous posts. In this I talked about the need or expectation to try and have it all; the home life, the career, the feminism. The person who emailed me said she found it difficult to read because she has been trying to have it all, but never felt she did any of it well enough. To the point where she has stopped trying because she feels she can never be as good at it as she needs to be, or as good as others. It sounded like it was becoming a psychological struggle. Now, not being in any way a qualified counsellor I wasn’t about to provide her with any advice or support via email, but I thanked her for getting in touch and asked if I could talk to other people about how she was feeling. She very kindly agreed.

Since then, I have talked to feminist friends about this and they agreed that it can be hard work and we started talking about perhaps this might be a causal factor in why more women suffer from mental health problems. One of my very good, very assertive, feminist friends said:

“Even within feminist circles there is an absolute stereotype of what a feminist should be. So even when you’ve come to the wonderful realisation that you’re a feminist, the likelihood is, you’ll suffer a second identity crisis the minute you start engaging in it.”

Hmm. Maybe. But I think it’s actually more personal, I think it’s about self-esteem, and feminism won’t necessarily give you that, if you don’t have much of it in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, feminism has given me confidence and certainly made me politically engaged from a young age. But has it given me all the self-esteem I need? No.

I then decided to scrawl the internet (As I do often in the vain hope of finding some kind of answer. Google being my new religion, apparently) and looked for articles on feminism and self-esteem. All of it was about body confidence. The internet is a pretty big place and all I could find were blogs, news articles and social research on self-esteem around my looks. Now, by no means am I free from having self-esteem issues about my looks. The mirror and I have quite the battle every morning, followed by a mid morning battle with a car window, a lunch time battle with the glass door of the sandwich shops that sells my secret enemy: Carbohydrates and an evening battle with the weird reflective security screen on the bus. I have my issues.

But, I’m not looking for self-esteem issues related to physical appearance – that is, of course, hugely relevant to feminism. I want to know about the self-esteem issues around our capabilities and intellectual capacity.

I was talking to someone earlier today who I have a huge amount of respect for, I often compare myself to him and come up short. Yet even he, when I asked, said he often second guesses himself before putting an opinion forward. I was amazed. He puts on a really good show to convince you otherwise. I wonder how many other people, I assume are super confident, are the same? Could it be? Is everyone faking it, even just a little? Even the really egotistical ones? My mind is blown.

So let’s do a bit of social research, just for my overly curious mind. Whether male, female or other; whether feminist or not (that’s a stupid one); whether young or old; have you ever:

  • Not put your hand up during a class or meeting, because you don’t want to ask a question that you think everyone knows the answer to?
  • Decided not to apply for that job, because you could never be what they are looking for?
  • Hesitated before putting your opinion forward and thought ‘Maybe I’ll just email it after the meeting’?
  • Not put what you really think under some semi intellectual article someone shared on Facebook, cause you don’t really know enough?
  • Made a decision and then immediately asked everyone around you if they thought it was the right one? (whilst acting totally cool with it all)

I hope some people nod and agree with some of these, if not, I’ve just made my unhinged inner monologue very public.

But I wonder how many people you think are super confident and you compare yourself to, actually nodded along too?

The hypothesis is: Many people think those around them are more confident or don’t have the same concerns as them. I think that’s because everyone is putting on their best face. So while we you may think the person in front of you is more confident and capable, they might be thinking the same thing in their head about you. We let few people in on our deepest concerns.

So everyone is trying to be like the most confident person in their lives, whilst that person is desperately trying to be like someone else, more confident…so when do we actually know we’re there?

What a mental clusterf*ck. Quite frankly.

So comment below or on Facebook or whatevs and try to be honest. If you rather not make it public, email me.

Curiously yours,

Talat x


My Feminist Journey So Far…

This is a bit of a special blog – nothing from me this week. Introducing my niece…Laters x

My aunty has been talking to me about politics and campaigning for years (she never really has much other chat). I’ve always admired it, but wondered what makes her so passionate (read as ‘angry’) about the world and its problems. I mean, she lives a good life, in a privileged country; she doesn’t appear to have any adversity in her life – so what exactly is she trying to do? From talking to her more and learning things myself, I’ve realised that it is not necessarily having experienced injustice yourself, but more knowing that nobody should ever have to experience it. Whether that is poverty, homophobia or sexism. It’s about wanting to create a world where everyone is treated the same and treated well.

There are two main things I’ve learnt from these conversations about feminism:

  1. You don’t have to have experiences severe sexism to know it exists and stand up against it.
  2. I have actually experienced sexism; I just didn’t know that’s what was happening.

 The second one is the scariest and the one where most women my age are at.

I honestly never thought I would be interested in feminism, it’s embarrassing to say, but I formed an opinion on something I knew nothing about completely based on stereotypes – burning bras, never shaving your legs, hating men and all that jazz . (Although my aunty’s unhealthy fictitious relationship with several male celebrities should have probably given me a clue to this not being accurate).

I stereotyped feminism without actually knowing what it really stood for. 

After being taught and actually understanding what feminism is, my opinions have completely changed and I started to think “this is actually pretty cool, I think my friends would be interested in this too if someone explained it to them the way my aunty is to me”. After learning about feminism I really started to realise and pick up on inequalities between men and women, in the work place, in social spheres and society. I just keep remembering a sociology class from first year, we were discussing the public and private spheres in society, my tutor (major feminist) became agitated because some guy in my class sniggered something about women only being in the private sphere; domestic home life, cooking and cleaning, raising children. While men were in the public sphere being the breadwinners. Back then I really couldn’t care less about what was going on, it was a 9 am tutorial and me showing up was pretty impressive. But now that I’ve learned a bit about feminism, I get why that kind of thinking isn’t ok. Yet, it seemed like it was such a natural thing for him to say. My tutor got angry… but no one else did. In fact, the rest of the guys (and girls!) laughed about it after the class.

I’ve realised that women’s rights aren’t just a chapter in a history or sociology book – they are relevant now. It will affect me and my friends in just a years’ time when we graduate and start working life – where we will get paid less, promoted less and stressed more. I’ve learnt that inequality affects every woman even if they don’t know it. I had no idea until a few months ago and I know there are so many young women like me who are in the same position.

Since talking to my aunty and learning about feminism I find I get angrier more often (not as often as she does…), when I hear boys I’m friends with or at uni making “lad jokes” I find I have to stop myself shouting at them. Learning about feminism has definitely made me realise that I have a political voice, that I can form my own opinions separate to those of my friends and my family. I find that I’m more inclined to say what’s on my mind whereas before I would stay quiet because I’d think “this person knows more than me, I don’t know anything and I’m just going to sound stupid” or I’d think “what’s the point in saying anything, the person probably won’t listen to me”. I guess that learning about feminism made me want to change the way people viewed me and gave me the confidence to be something different. I suppose it kind of helped me go through the phase of being a girl to being a woman. I want to be a powerful woman whose voice is heard and respected. A lot of this change I’m talking about is down to the nurturing from my aunty who’s guided me through this process and taught me a lot, but feminism was the “backbone” so to speak. I also find that in general, me and my friends have started to debate and discuss feminist topics and what it means to us rather than the things we used to talk about, which was, well, nothing really! So it might have started with just me – but now there are more of us and thousands of more now doubt, if they had someone to speak to about it.

I still have lots to learn. I want to learn how to make a difference for the next generation. I want to learn how to discuss feminism better and get the point across to my friends, I want to learn more about the bigger picture and how feminism affects the whole world. But for now, I’ve learnt how it affects me and made me more political – and that’s a good place to start.

So yes, if my aunty asks, even though I rolled my eyes when she started this and I sometimes still pretend I’m in the library/going through a noisy tunnel so I don’t have to answer her calls; it’s working and I think I like it!

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