Set in a dark and damp corner of an East London pub, a soft storm is reaching its climax under the sweet hum of Frank Ocean. The cream of a light ale, brewed with age and set in stubborn tradition, floats about his pink mouth. We’ve had this conversation before and oh how he likes to taunt me! – how can anyone take feminists seriously, when they don’t all agree on the same things? – his tone is quizzical almost curious, but the tilt of his head, the expression on his face is all-knowing and condescending. By this point I’ve only had two vodkas but I’m drunk enough to house the desire to throw over his beer in frustration. But I restrain. I would hate to be pegged as hysterical. Instead I’ll take a deep breath, sip on a new age tonic and add that this is probably a fair point. Or not.
Feminism and its discussion of social injustice was never meant to be a one-size-fits-all pair of knickers – It was never meant to please you, John. I can see why it makes you feel uncomfortable – the history of contemporary feminists and their search for equality aren’t soothing tales to lull you to sleep. There are no capes or spandex, the baddies are hidden in plain sight and the happy endings are as scarce as the heroes are blue.
When the invention of the pill was freeing one woman from tyranny, Valerie Solanas and radical her SCUM Manifesto was busy freeing another. However, do these differences in opinion make either stance less real? Do they become less serious to the women that they affected? I suppose we thought that we had progressed from these issues some 40 years later. However, it turns out that progress in 2016 doesn’t equate to movement but rather fighting a different fight, in a different arena, with a different guy in another dimly lit pub. Men are still running countries, Forbes 100 businesses and women still having to justify their right to their piece of the pie.
In this great misogynist town beauty is in the eye of the drunkest, the more you glug, the more attractive everyone appears through your temporary but self-imposed beer goggles. Yet, four drinks down and I’m no prettier for it. I wince, I scorn, I frown with the thin lines of my forehead. Four drinks down and this conversation is no easier to swallow. John is rambling a thick but one-sided assortment of misogynistic commentary.
Capitalism makes me uglier each and every day as long as the ideals of perfection, the limitations placed on women become narrower and tighter. There’s still an attitude that prevails over western society; the type that embodies deep-rooted ambivalent sexism and an ignorance towards its solution. The type that makes the political deeply, regrettably personal. The type that starts with ‘pink is for girls and blue is for boys’ and ends with that very real glass ceiling that limits women around the world. There’s a bitter leave it to the lads taste in the air and it’s not just down to the hops in my pale ale.
Nevertheless, I have a plan to fight back and never fear as it’s far subtler than splashing beer around- though I’m mightily tempted! It starts with knowing that the political starts in the humble arena of your own narrative. It starts by knowing that the biggest change starts with the smallest steps. Female power is the understanding that your femininity does not make you less. It is the difference between two chromosomes, and not between success and failure.
A sharp bell chimes through the brown haze of the pub and it’s the familiar sound of the bar staff taking their last orders on a cold Tuesday. At that John slips his arms through his heavy denim jacket, hugs me goodbye and tells me to text him to let him know I’ve arrived home safe. His embrace is warm and enduring, maybe even as comforting as the opposition waving a white flag of surrender. It’s a hug that says “no hard feelings, I’m only a messenger”
It’s a hug that reminds me why feminists have fought and will continue sucking it to the men that have held them back in the past. It’s up to our generation to make contemporary feminism our own by challenging the issues that affect us. For as long as each woman in each corner of the global will be up against a different fight in her bid for equality, the solution will always vary.
Words: Kira Matthews
Images: Brenda Chi