Women of the world unite? No thanks. My response to the Blogfest feminism debate.

I don’t know what I expected from Blogfest yesterday.  But it certainly wasn’t what I thought it would be.  I arrived at King’s place to a room packed full of influential women (and some men).  Women who have a voice and are not afraid to use it.  Intelligent women, strong women.  The high profile panelists and sponsors were a symbol of how far women have come and it was empowering to see the power that ‘Mummy-bloggers’ (but let’s not restart that discussion) have online.

Every session I attended was thought-provoking, insightful, useful.  The day ran seamlessly from start to finish.  From the debate about online abuse, to the most effective way to harness social media.  The delicious food and sumptuous cocktails, to the blog clinic and the writing tips from possibly the most informed panel of writers anyone could have hoped to see.

But we let ourselves down at the end.

The question ‘Can you be a mummy-blogger and still be a feminist?’ was always going to be controversial.  I think it’s safe to say, it was designed to be and yes, a lot of what the panel had to say was insulting – at best, but it was our response that I thought was most disappointing.  The twitter feed had to be taken down because it was too distracting for an audience of the intelligent women I mentioned earlier.  Eventually the whole thing descended almost into anarchy and the panel essentially shuffled off the stage before Jo Brand came on to rescue things. 

Everyone has a voice and we have a responsibility to use that voice.  Whatever sector we work in, whatever we choose to do, we have a responsibility.  It could be teaching our children that they can make a difference and that what they say really matters.  It could be arguing with the council that we need more parks; influencing multi-national corporations; even convincing the person to whom you’ve been on hold for 45 minutes that actually you are a valued customer and you do have the right to be heard. 

The point is it doesn’t matter. 

We are all influential in our own circle.  And if we’re not, we need to make sure we are.  I know it isn’t as simple as that, I’m ignoring many complex issues obviously.  I know there are glass ceilings and, to paraphrase a wonderful blogger in the audience at feminism debate , we live in a country where success is measured by wealth and earnings.  When you give up work to have and stay with your children, you necessarily lose that and it can be very difficult to find your voice let alone have it be respected. 

But we still can drive change.  We can teach our children to be good online and “real-world” citizens; we can show our children that women are equal to men; we are raising the next generation of world leaders.  If we sit and complain about how women have it tough and that they’re not taken seriously, that’s the message we’re giving out. 

In business, if our only concern is to get to the top, if we trample over everyone with our very non-feminist (ha!) high-heels, then we are perpetuating the view that career women are heartless bitches.  But what we really need to do is this.  If we want women to be (as they should be) thought of as equal to men then we need to stop this bickering, this judging, this petty-girly-back-stabbing because the ones who are holding women back in their fight for equality isn’t the men we complain about.  It’s us.  The women.

And to me that’s the issue.    I can’t work out whether Sarah Ditum was suggesting women can’t be “competent mothers” if they don’t go to university or not – I have heard there was a problem with the sound.  The sound of a shouting audience perhaps?  But so what if she thinks that?  If she does, she’s a pillock.  End of.  It isn’t insulting to women who didn’t go to university, it shouldn’t be taken as a step-back to women generally.  It’s her opinion.  As an individual. 

And, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that was the whole point of feminism in the first place?  For women not to be pigeon-holed and forced into one role or another.  For them to have a right to choose.  And by saying they can’t wear high-heels, they must not make jam (God-forbid) and absolutely must go to University and hate men is just forcing them into another box.

Feminism should be about women having the right to do what they want and choose to do. To have children and not be made to feel worthless; to be high-flying at work; to look like shit one day but a totally glamorous babe the next.  Every decision we make, whether good or bad, shouldn’t be affecting other women.  If a man does something wrong, whether heinously or not, we call him for what he is.  As an individual.  If a woman does, she’s doing woman-kind a massive disservice.  Whatever her point, Sarah Ditum was expressing her right to free-speech.  As an individual.  And our screeching, hysterical response was, quite frankly, a joke.   Women can’t park, women can’t drive, women can’t play football, play poker, have an intelligent conversation or heated debate without becoming emotional. Judge, judge, judge.  Blah-bah-blah.

Do you know what though?  I’ve very rarely heard this said by a man.  I know there are misogynists out there, too many of them, and I know that they seem to be the ones in power.  We cite David Cameron’s ‘Calm-down dear’ line  all the time as a prime example of this but having heard a lot of what else he has to say (regardless of his political agenda) I genuinely don’t think he is.  It was a stupid thing to say, certainly.  A very misjudged comment that has got him into a lot of hot water, at least as far as our perception of him is concerned.  But was it really an example of misogyny?  I don’t think so. 

It’s women who are more damaging.  We can’t do anything without fear of what our ‘sisters’ will think of us.  And it isn’t even just about giving women the right to be as, and I use this term very loosely, powerful as men.  Our friend looks nice, we tell her so.  But then comes the judgement.  She’s lost weight because she fannies around with herself instead of looking after her children.  Her hair has obviously been highlighted by a top stylist.  Shouldn’t she have been playing with her toddler?  She’s been promoted.  Bitch must be sleeping with the boss. She doesn’t spend any time with her family anyway, why does she bother having them? 

It’s pathetic ladies.

So I say this.  I’m not a feminist and I’m proud of it.

The feminists can shoot me down and quite frankly, I couldn’t care less.  I will continue to do what I think is best, for me and for my family. Not for the feminists, not for the women who scream and shout, not for the friend who will criticise me or my choices for being against woman-kind.  In the words of Jo Brand in her key-note speech, I will go forth “with a sense of righteous indignation.”but as myself.  As an individual.