This is a ramble and in places a rant and if you want brilliant, witty cohesive discourse on sexism and equality there is heaps of it out there. Go look. In fact even if you don’t want it go look.
I had a happy childhood. I grew up surrounded by strong independent women (my mother is just plain awesome and my aunt was very high up in civil service) and men who admired and respected them. We even had a woman PM (put the politics aside for the sake of childhood impressions here ok? Thanks).
It never occurred to me growing up that being a girl meant things would be harder and by and large I can’t say I’ve noticed they have been. I’m lucky, I’m bright, I’ve always had a great family to support me and I’ve never been told ‘you can’t do that you’re a girl.’ I’ve also had a lot of strong female friends and male friends who think that’s awesome.
I’m explaining all this so you understand that I’ve been a little slow on the uptake. All the kerfuffle about equality in genre fiction, creeping at cons, street harassment and low level sexism have over the last year or so penetrated my happy obliviousness and been milling around. I haven’t, by and large, waded in on the rows, often because I often agree with points made from various stances and it’s hard not to just end up in an endless cycle of accusation and arguing that does no good to anyone.
Lately though I’ve found there is something I want to say. It’s not news to anyone, but I need to state it here and crystallise my thinking on the whole matter for my own benefit.
Here it is.
UK Culture is not supporting of strong, wilful independent, free thinking, outspoken women. There is a pervasive cultural sense of ‘sit down, be quiet and stop making a spectacle of yourself.’
I am sure the same is the case in many other cultures, the US is more openly aggressive towards women at the moment and lets be clear I’m talking about a hard to define, underlying cultural vibe, not individuals. Individuals may be asshats or heroes or something in between but are not in many ways as dangerous as the widely and often unwittingly perpetrated culture of ‘be soft, be gentle, be pretty and that will make you happy.’
Part of the problem of course is that none of those are bad things to be, as long as you are also told, be a warrior, be yourself, be strong, be smart, don’t try to be something for someone else.
I’m noticing it more and more these days, I see it in the workplace, some times in the subtle switching off because really what could I know about bus tech I’m a girl. Yes and I’m a professional in this field whereas you are a partially informed hobbyist who has firmly grasped the wrong end of the stick so shut the fuck and listen for once. So I answer the same issues again and again with the same people. It’s one example.
It’s in the way people underestimate us, in the silent ‘for a girl’ in the tone at the end of ‘you do X really well.’ It’s built into our language ‘don’t be a whiny girl/bitch/pussy’ and the idea that ‘she’ can laugh ‘too loudly’. How can you laugh too loudly it’s a sound of joy and there is no such thing as too loud when expressing joy!
Other people have talked far more eloquent about the culture in nusery’s and playgrounds to excuse destructive behaviour on the part of boys as though girls don’t have those urges too! Trust me, when I am frustrated I feel very destructive, full on razing cities to the ground destructive!
And I hate, loathe, detest, revile and will continue to challenge the ‘it’s hormones’ comments made to young girls to excuse not bothering to deal with them. No, it’s not, they are upset, they are entitled to be upset and perhaps you should find out the reason why before dismissing it as related to girl parts you total fuckwad! (yeah ok that one goes out to Flick)
So that’s it really. I guess there wasn’t much of a point, just that I’ve noticed and I am challenging myself to be more conscious about the language I use (‘he’s a cunt’ no longer acceptable, ‘it’s a cunting nightmare’ probably ok) and in my own life neither accepting nor enabling this attitude of ‘sssh, just sit there and we will get to you in a minute, good girl’.
Perhaps the point is in the title. Who do you think you are? Who do you want to be? Why would you let anyone take that away from you, even a little bit?