Why Feminism Should Rediscover Sisterhood

Happy 2013 everyone! I hope everyone made it over more or less intact, and that your Januaries aren’t shaping up to be as horrible as mine. Quick whinge: I’m  horribly broke, not drinking, battling with a minor health issue and to top things off, my birthday is coming up and because I was too lazy to make any plans, I’ll spend the day at the office and I have just made my own birthday cake to take with me. However, my last 26 birthdays were pretty great, so in the words of Soldier Boy, I was probably due a crap one to balance things out.

Anyway. I realise that once again, it has been a long ole’ time since I’ve written anything of note, partly due to work commitments and partly due to inate laziness, but also because I haven’t really found anything close enough to my heart to write about. And at least that last bit has now changed.

As an avid follower of the feminist blogosphere, including, but not ending with, The Vagenda and Jezebel, I couldn’t help but notice a certain trend that I find somewhat worrying: namely that lately, is has become increasingly difficult to find articles where readers aren’t screaming blue murder in the comment section about “class privilege”. This Jezebel piece on unpaid internships is a prime example. Ignoring the elephant in the room that endless unpaid internships are not a female-only problem, it illuminates perfectly one of the core issues young graduates face: How to get that work experience that every employer asks for, but never helps to build up? The article itself is a well-researched, readable piece of astute social commentary, yet fifty per cent of the comments concern themselves with the fact that the writer’s parents were apparently wealthy enough to support her while she worked for free – “So much class privilege”, the first comment reads.

Now, whilst I understand that as a white, middle-class, (currently) straight(ish) cis woman I cannot claim to speak for All Womankind Ever (a fact that Times columnist Caitlin Moran has as yet to realise, although I am not a fan of the current witch hunt), I would like some of my fellow feminists to realise that nor can non-white, non-middle-class, non-straight ladies. Of course we must aim to be as inclusive as possible, but we must also accept that there is no “one size fits all” feminism. As a white daughter of parents with a secure higher income tax bracket, am I not allowed to speak up about my concerns? If I’m having a tooth extracted with a sledge hammer, I don’t care much if my next door neighbour is having his leg cut off with a rusty saw. First world problems are still problems.

My point is, I cannot escape the skin I was born in. I write about what I know, because that is what I understand and do best. Just as Caitlin Moran, who by the way was born on a council estate in Wolverhampton and never went to university, should not have to apologise for being successful (but should start thinking about how to deal with criticism), I don’t think I should have to defend myself  for my background, but I should be aware of my privilege, which I am. It is a sobering enough state of affairs as it is.

In the meantime:

sis-ter-hood (n): the feeling of kinship with or closeness to a group of women, or all women, based on shared conditions, experiences, or concerns.

Think about it.

I Haven’t Read 50 Shades, But I’ve Still Got An Opinion

I am a frightful snob when it comes to books. Many of you will know or at least suspect this, after all I didn’t just happen to be in the area when they handed out my Micky Mouse degree, so in a way I think I get to be. I do cleverly disguise this feature (which isn’t too popular with a great number of people) by proclaiming Harry Potter as one of my all time favourites, which I am not ashamed to read and bawl at in public, even though a lot of people frown at this. I freely admit that I’m cheating here, because unlike Eragon, Gossip Girl and, oh well, Twilight, I deem Rowling’s work Truly Great Literature. It’s not hard to endorse things you like.

That said, and because you can’t shake a very rigid squirrel these days without knocking over a stack of E.L. James Twilight-fanfiction-turned-ebook-turned-publishing-sensation-turned-annoying-public-debate 50 Shades trilogy, I have decided I want to use this platform to proclaim that No, thank you, I won’t be reading it. Neither in public nor in my sitting room nor, God forbid, in my bedroom. And the reason behind this is not any feminist outrage at the mind-boggling incapacity of the “heroine” Anastasia, or that I’m a prude. The reason behind this is that I think it’s a fantastically dull plot, with fantastically uninteresting characters, and fantastically uninventive language. And these are all things that I disapprove of when I’m assembling my bed- and bogside library.

My feminist outrage is directed at the outraged feminists who are writing outraged feminist blog posts and newspaper articles and talking in an outraged way on radio programmes about the 50 Shades phenomenon, and how women like it because they can’t handle Having It All, and whether all successful women secretly wish for an emotionally stunted bachelor to take a leather-studded paddle to their backside. Here’s my outraged question to all of them: What The Actual Fuck.

Here’s what: 50 Shades is porn. Badly written, smutty, softie porn, in which people are tied up in uncomfortable positions, and penetrated at uncomfortable angles, and a lot of the positions are a) humanely impossible and b) blatantly ridiculous. And women like it, because here’s the shocking secret: Women Like Porn. Women like reading about The Sex. We also like seeing The Sex on screen, and thinking about The Sex while we’re pretending to review an excel sheet, and having The Sex whilst we should be filing our tax returns. But the pity is, there is very little sex out there that is directed at or focuses on women (other than in the conventional YouPorn way of course), so we have to make do with what is out there. And whether you’re reading about Ana’s exploding castles in the sky in paperback form or NC-17 fanfiction about Buffy And Angel Without The Pesky Curse on your iPhone, well, that’s really no one’s business, other than your own and maybe the 20 of your closest friends who you discuss masturbation fantasies with. It’s awful enough that the killjoy patriarchy has tried to meddle with and limit women’s sexuality for hundreds of years by telling us what’s appropriate and what’s not. Please, you well-meaning feminists out there, don’t you start with us as well.

So I guess, and I’m not saying this lightly believe you me, we should thank E.L. James, for being a middle-aged mediocre writer fantasising about sparkly RPatz. Your readers owe you a lot, and if other, better writers follow in your foot steps, then so will I. Forgive me if I stick with Buffy and Angel for the moment though.