Feminist events: Getting the boys involved
#Feminism. It is everywhere, and it is glorious. In my teens, I read Mary Wollstonecraft in my English lessons I naively (and temporarily) thought everything was fixed. Because a) I was about 14 b) Mary was not taking any shit from anyone in her essays and c) she raised some extremely good points as to why women were equal to men, and that was in 1792. Even though I’m terrible at maths I knew that was a loooong time ago and it was a no brainer: women were totally equal to men. We sang Auld Lang Syne and brought in a new Millenium not that long ago. During that time we’ve invented electric toothbrushes, 3D cinema and tourist packages into outer space. It’s a bit embarrassing not to have eradicated such old fashioned sexism by now, right? RIGHT?
Turns out, feminism is a never-ending campaign.
A glossy women’s magazine got my goat last year when it casually suggested that feminism was “having a moment“, like a type of platform shoe. It’s back you guys, and it’s so in fashion! On separate but related note, you can even purchase a £45 t-shirt from Whistles that reads “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” in child’s writing. (A sore subject today as the world questions why David Cameron won’t wear one, when his mates will). But that aside, I like the idea of the feminist memorabilia – especially when the proceeds go to charity. For example, I’m a big fan of the Caitlin Moran tea towel.
It’s an exciting time to be feminist. We have our ancestors to thank for doing incredible work: fighting for the vote, for proving we can do “mens’ jobs, for rebelling against stereotypes, for making it the norm to wear trousers and said a big ‘fuck off’ to anyone that suggested they wore a corset or rudely assumed they knew what to do with a needle and thread. The fight is not over, but we are moving towards a fairer future, so we hope, with some seriously badass women leading the revolution. (That’s all of us).
Whenever I feel a bit pessimistic or want an opportunity to meet like-minded people, I love going to feminist events. In London there are loads. It’s an amazing way to join an IRL community, ask some questions, listen to interesting people, and to go home feeling reflective and empowered. It makes me feel part of it all.
A few weekends ago I went to a talk with my boyfriend held at the Guildford Book Festival. The speaker was Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism Project. I’d read Laura’s book (of the same name), listened to her on things like Women’s Hour, and been interested in her points of view on feminist weddings, but I hadn’t yet seen her in real life. I liked instantly because she was fearless, passionate and wasn’t afraid of making people feeling a bit uncomfortable with her findings.
Her book Everyday Sexism is a collation of her project which all started online. Two years she set up the website and Twitter handle to encourage women to shout back at sexism they had encountered however ‘small’ or ‘insignificant’ it might seem. The point is that nothing is too silly or small. The project is about saying no to things like groping on the tube, being harassed on the street, someone making a “joke” about you “getting back in the kitchen”. It’s about micro-inequities. It’s the “Alright love” as you try and walk up to your front door, it’s the “get ya tits out” outside a nightclub. It’s the stupid, annoying things.
Laura reeled off stats that shocked us all. 15% of statues round the world are of women. Every seven minutes someone is raped. One fifth of House of Lords are women. 18 out of 100 high court judges are women. 1 in 10 of engineers are women. 84% of news articles are written by men. At the Royal Opera house it’s been over 13 years since a woman has written a piece of choreography for the main stage.
I’d heard most of this before. I’d read it online, or heard things over drinks with friends, or seen Laura on YouTube, or read it on Twitter. The Q&A is always really interesting – parents asking for advice, the debate about short skirts, the best way to respond to sexist comments, etc. But the most interesting thing about the evening to me was how shocked my boyfriend looked when I glanced at him during the talk.
Everyday Sexism isn’t just about women, it’s about sexism towards men too – and I immediately realised that I don’t necessarily always involve him in the ongoing dialogue or invite him to feminist events very often. I mainly talk about this stuff with other women, on Twitter, at events, at book clubs. I had a really interesting debate with him that night and I found hearing his point of view on the talk the most interesting part of the evening. We chatted about everything. The Ched Evans case, the feminist books out at the moment, the issues we still have, the problems we still face. Day to day, we talk about feminism (or related topics) a lot, we’re a very balanced couple and we know each other inside out – but it made me realise that I’d subconsciously been talking more about it with female colleagues at work or inviting my female friends to things.
I also noticed that most of the time, at these types of feminism talks the audience is mostly women. It’s about time we made a concious effort to invite the boys along. It effects them too. And that’s the whole point: we’re all in this together.
Thank you to Radisson Blu Hotels for the invite and for the lovely stay xo
“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE
"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"– The Debrief
“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic