I was waiting for our FemSoc committee meeting, when the last edition of The Orbital arrived. I asked if I could read one and had only flicked through a few pages before I was shouting “have you seen this?”, to anybody that would listen.
“Automatically, the first thing that leaps to my mind when someone says ‘feminism’ is an incredibly butch lesbian with a buzz cut angrily shouting at police. In the 80s.”
I found myself reading the words aloud and repeating them in a tone of mock outrage. This was what people think of feminists; this was what people think of me? It’s true, I am angry, gay, have short hair, and I don’t shave. I will be the first to admit that I am a card carrying feminist stereotype, the only thing that I am lacking is the Doc Martens (and that is only due to the great misfortune that my student loan won’t stretch that far). But it irks me no end when people I have never met view these traits as negative and have a preconceived opinion about me because of my politics.
The reality is that feminists come in all shapes and sizes. The Feminists that I spend the majority of my time with (the members of RHUL FemSoc) have a variety of sexualities, temperaments and grooming habits. We aren’t one homogenous lump of feminist energy. Actually, sometimes it seems like we don’t have all that much in common beyond thinking that people of all genders should have equality and liberation from the patriarchy.
Having opinions and being outspoken about them isn’t really the best way to make friends and influence people. Most of the time it is probably a good way to earn a reputation as one of those “bra-burning radicals” (personally I would never burn a bra, they are far far too expensive). Feminism is surrounded by misconceptions which we spend a lot of time trying to debunk, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that trying to make a world in which it is safe to be yourself makes other people feel uncomfortable. However these misconceptions are something that FemSoc are planning to tackle head on when we launch a campaign at the end of this term to question these common misunderstandings, and lay out the real definition of feminism.