Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The First Myth

Last week I posted about my feelings on young women rejecting the label of feminist, you can read it here. I said I’d look at the myths and realities of being a young feminist (or not being), so here goes.

In my experience, young women today seem to have a particular problem with feminists, and the idea of being called one, to the point where many are quick to deny  any need for such a thing: “Oh no, I mean feminism was good when it got us the vote and equal pay, but it’s fine now, everything’s sorted, we are equal, if feminists push any more, women will be more than equal to men, and that’s unfair on men, we can’t have that, that would be TOO far.” One of the many reasons for this rejection is because of the First Myth of Feminism: ‘Feminists are ugly’. 

The general view seems to be feminists are ugly, hairy and are just angry because they can’t get boyfriends. Or at least that’s what the stereotyping would lead you to believe. It’s not that there is anything wrong with being these things, hell I have hairy legs now and that isn’t a protest against the razor and capitalist beauty standards (however more on this another time), it’s a mark of my laziness and the fact this morning I chose five minutes extra in my snuggly bed over the faff of shaving my legs, but alas we live in a superficial world, and no one wants to be labelled ugly. This myth is ridiculous on two counts. Firstly it’s a lie, of course feminists are beautiful, and secondly the fact the label ‘ugly’ bothers women so much clearly shows we are in need a good bit of feminism.

The problem is, ugly is a really powerful label. When I was 14 a boy who sat in front of me in lessons and who I totally fancied, turned around and told me I could be quite pretty if I wasn’t so lanky and spotty. As any teenager will tell you, the absence of being called pretty is being called ugly. From that moment on I wasted hours of my life staring at myself in the mirror willing myself to be less gangly and for the offending spots to bugger off, I just wanted to be ‘pretty’. The stupid thing is, if I’d spent all of those pointless hours hating how I looked doing my school work instead, I’d be a frik’in genius right about now.

This is why the label ugly works so well at keeping women away from feminism, it’s the easiest way to dismiss someone and her options, “don’t bother listening to her, she’s just pissy because she’s ugly”. It’s insane logic, no normal person would ever not listen to or believe, for example, their doctor because the doctor was ugly, yet calling a feminist ugly seems to discredit their option, and in one fell swoop stop anyone else wanting to identify as feminist for fear of the ‘U’ word. Crazy.

But then, maybe it’s not so crazy. We live in a society that tells a girl her self-worth should come from how aesthetically pleasing a boy finds her appearance, just turn on your television and pay attention if you don’t believe me. So for a girl to be told by a boy she is ugly, can be crushing. Right from birth girls are fed messages that the most important thing she can do with her life is be pretty, and gender stereotyping is everywhere. Even on cards. I swear if I have a child and I get a card like these, I’m going to scream. My baby will be brilliant AND beautiful and their gender will have nothing to do with this.

What we really need is for girls to grow up being taught that being themselves and doing what makes them happy is the most important thing in life, and what genuinely makes them happy, not what they think should. We need them to be told every day that beautiful is a kind heart and a curious mind, not physical appearance.

 I read somewhere a while ago that children learn to recognise their reflection in the mirror around the age of two, by about two and a half little girls are starting to dislike what they see, little boys do not. I wish I could remember where I read this, because it provoked such a strong reaction in me, I hate the thought that we live in a society that is teaching little girls to hate the way they look, and teaching them that looks are more important than anything else. I hate that we live in a society that grown women are so scared of the word ugly that they won’t identify as a feminist and join together to fight this crap. 

All women everywhere are beautiful, inside and out, and we need to start telling each other, and ourselves, more. We need to learn to value our intelligence, personality and creativity, over our looks, so others do the same. We could conquer the world, just as soon as we stop reading those nasty “get a HOT bikini body, in only two weeks” articles in glossy magazines and staring in the mirror dreaming of a tummy tuck/boob/nose job. We need feminism, and we need to talk about it loud and proud before anything can change. Even if it means some idiot calls you ugly for it.

And besides, if a person judges you, it says more about them, than it does about you.

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