The F-word in 2012

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: 

http://fuckiminmy20s.tumblr.com/image/21032801249 

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?

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 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.

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So, what’s your feminism? What are you reading? What inspires you? Is feminism even a thing anymore? Do you need it? Do we?

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6 comments

  1. Fi Parrey

    Yesterday I asked my year 9’s ‘who’s a feminist?’. I raised my hand, as did my student teacher
    one kid said ‘Asta is’ (yep, she defs is), no one else raised their hand.
    I said, who thinks men and women should be equal? All hands raised.
    ”Congratulations,you are all feminists. (you don’t have to hate men!)”
    It was awesome. they have no idea outside of the feminazi.
    Not on my watch.
    Loving the blog by the way.

  2. Zeta

    I think about this issue a lot, too. For me, classifying myself as a feminist is really important, for the reason that many others choose not to associate themselves with the label. The word has had (and still has) negative connotations since the movement began, and is often associated with being radical, ridiculous, man-hating, etc. I think it’s important that we moderate feminists (the ones who believe in the ideals, that women and men should be *equal*) claim ourselves as feminists, or the word will never be reclaimed. If we leave it to the outspoken semi-crazy feminists to call themselves that, feminism will keep being the “dirty word” that it is. I think that feminism is for everyone. There’s still a lot of work to be done to put men and women on equal footing, and without redefining feminism, the movement will continue to be swept into a radical corner where it doesn’t do anyone much good.

    • carlyhulls

      Completely agree with you on this, and I had replied to your comment months ago but it was left in WordPress limbo, sorry! I think reclaiming words is a really important step, because language has lots of power.We definitely need people like you and me out there to make being a feminist a ‘regular’ thing, not a radicalised phrase. So, thanks for joining me in the battle for normalising feminists!!

  3. housewifedownunder

    I occasionally write on this topic and I’m in a similar position as you.
    In all my past relationships, I’ve been the breadwinner. Now, I’m not allowed to work until I get my visa and my husband supports us both on his income. At first, this was really difficult for me and I felt guilty spending his money. But now I’m kind of used to it. I don’t have to ask permission to buy anything. We discuss any big expenses together, of course, but neither of us makes the other justify small purchases.

    And like your partner, my husband is the first man I’ve ever known who genuinely wants to take care of me.For him, it is really important that he be a provider. He would feel worthless, I think, if he were unable to bring home the bacon. In July, he was unemployed for two months (after a round of redundancies) for the first time in his life and he was extremely depressed. He kept saying he felt like a “failure” and “not a real man” because he had “let me down”.

    I’m all for women having equal rights. I think women should be free to choose their path in life and have access to the same opportunities that men do. But I don’t consider myself a feminist because to me, that word has taken on the negative connotation of being anti-male, and that’s not something I support. I don’t feel a need to compete with men or prove anything to anyone. And because, in Western society, at least, women do have the same rights and opportunities as men (and sometimes even have more privileges than men), I don’t really think feminism is that relevant anymore. In my view, the people who say women and men are still not equal are just nitpicking.

    • carlyhulls

      Thanks so much for that, its good to hear i’m not the only one struggling with this!! Its a tricky business that hopefully I can learn to be more comfortable with over time like yourself. As for feminism, the negative connotations of the word are hard to shake, I agree but I think until (young) men stop disrespecting (young) women – especially in Australian culture – or girls learn to stick up for themselves without being told they have ‘no sense of humour’ then there’s still a long way to go….
      Cheers for the comment!!!

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