2012 seems to have been the year of the F-bomb. Left right and centre from Julia Gillard to Katy Perry to Marissa Meyer to Lena Dunham its been dropped. Women in the public eye declaring whether they are for, against or dismissive of that divisive idea – Feminism. What it means now days, is it a dirty word and how, exactly does a ‘modern twenty-something’ live by its tenets, if at all?
I couldn’t live the life I have if it weren’t for feminism and, if pressed I would define myself as a feminist because I strongly believe in equality for all, not just women. Somehow though, being an out-and-out feminist is seen as almost dirty, unnecessary or a defunct battle. Its got me questioning whether I can still make that claim, to be a fiery, feisty modern feminist in my current situation.
What has been hardest for me this past 6 months is bending my strongly defined sense of self and feminist principles through necessity. Before I left Australia and most of the time I was travelling I could easily define myself as ballsy, opinionated, educated, fiercely independent and unafraid to voice my views or travel alone on the path less known. Through sheer circumstance I’ve had to adjust these behaviours and relinquish a lot of control over my life in order to continue living here in Austria. Why? Well for starters…
1) Language. Dear god its harder to be outspoken, opinionated and sure of yourself when basic communication is difficult. When I don’t know the cultural codes, when the everyday structure of my life is dependant on someone else speaking for me. That, at its very essence, is what I imagine being a 1950’s housewife was like. Its a necessity here but oh how it burns to be silent or spoken for at a dinner table or in a social gathering.
2) Financial dependency. I’ve been unemployed since August. Ergo, having the freedom to do what I want with money – whether that is exploring museums, having a blowout shop- fest at Zara or just treating myself to a pleasant coffee at a nice ambient cafe – has to be asked for, and, in my mind justified. Let me be clear, S is spectacularly good and generous and kind, he would (and has never) said no to anything I’ve asked. But the niggling fact that I have to ask, the guilt I feel for spending his money on indulgent frivolities for myself – that sears my sense of independence like you would not believe. I can’t stand it. Can’t stand spending his money when he hasn’t bought himself a thing since I arrived and is supporting us on his single income. Can’t stand not contributing. Hate that I am entirely dependant, when for so long I had my own income to do with, and travel where, I pleased. The gypsy trip-leaders life was tough, but it had its perks; no rent, no phone bills, no real life bills at all. Therefore entirely disposable income. Which was great, until the season ended and I was flat broke and stuck in London, one of the most expensive cities on earth.
3) First proper grown up relationship where someone WANTS to take care of me. Its lovely. Yet in allowing someone to take care of me nearly 24/7 am I sacrificing my ability to make decisions for myself? Slipping into the oh-so-easy track of letting all the loveliness wash over me because arguing or stopping it seems disruptive and pointless? Why would I STOP someone being excessively nice to me? That’s crazy! And yet…I miss that fierce joy edged with fear of doing things for myself – bravely, stupidly, blindly. I need to find the right balance here.
All of this was brought to a head last night when I thought about going home, to Melbourne returning to the stomping ground of that fierce, crazy independent girl from 2 years ago who decided to take a chance on a job offer on the other side of the world. Have I changed? Have I become the terrible cliche ‘girlfriend’? Am I THIS girlfriend:
From the fabulous F*ckiminmytwenties Tumbler page by Emma Koenig – go browse it now!!
On paper, what i’m doing right now is a challenge and some might say still brave and bold. Living in a foreign country, away from my friends, family and support network, unable to speak the language and trying to build my own career and social circle. Sacrificing certain freedoms and my feminist ideals because I have no choice at the moment. Yet ‘betraying’ them makes me feel like shit. I’ve been getting upset because I feel like I’m betraying a part of myself living this way, putting pressure on myself to maintain these ideals that are currently impossible. Join the dots and it boils down to – being a feminist makes me feel like shit right now. That’s not the point of it, is it?
So I can understand why Katy Perry disavowed feminism – feminists haaatee her, which comes across as hating someone for being successful. Even if she did get there with cream shooting bras and lesbian-porn-laced hits. I can understand why Marissa Meyer saw it as a non-feminist issue to have a baby while CEO of Yahoo. Male CEO’s don’t get magazine covers when they have a kid. Being the pinup of feminism is HARD. Living with feminist values is hard. The high standards I set for myself are hard. But I know I have a hell of a lot more choices than I would’ve 50, 20, even 10 years ago. So yes, I’m going to watch Girls as the much better depiction of my life than SATC ever was, and I’m going to read cultural commentary like Caitlin Moran and Ariel Levy and hope that I can figure my own way out. But give up on it? Never. No matter how dirty that word gets.
So, what’s your feminism? What are you reading? What inspires you? Is feminism even a thing anymore? Do you need it? Do we?