Last summer I became a feminist, probably the result of overhearing a man in The Mitre in reaction to Jessica Ennis’ Olympic triumph, casually grumble ‘They should just stick to netball and typing.’ 

However, I didn’t really understand feminism. The only admitting feminist I knew doesn’t own a bra, wears shoes that look orthopaedic and doesn’t believe in tampons. I quite like boys, push my tits up, dye my hair lighter, use ‘slut’ as an endearing term and cry at ‘One Born Every Minute.’

I felt like I did not fit in with feminism; a view confessed by others. I’ve been told that I ‘don’t look like a feminist’ and my views were once met begrudgingly with: ‘Eugh don’t be a feminist my ex-girlfriend was ‘like that.’ One female friend thinks that feminists are ‘lesbians who hate men.’ My confusion was broadcast in my feminist ranting. An offender would be bombarded with a high pitched chaos of words with the odd ‘THIRTY PERCENT PAY GAP’ and ‘MARGARET THATCHER’ thrown in. And for this, I apologise to feminism.

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However, I am lucky enough to have a dad who bought How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran for me, probably with an ‘if you’re going to do feminism, you might as well do it properly’ attitude. Now, armed with the brilliant views of Caitlin, I am going to tell you why you are a feminist, you just don’t know it yet.

So, it’s not all about burning bras and hating men. We love bras (how could a girl run down the stairs pain-free without one?) and men are not our subordinates, we love them too and sex would not be quite the same without them. Men can definitely stay. They can even be feminists themselves (Ryan Gosling is a feminist icon, and women dig Ryan Gosling, enough is said.)

Feminism is about women having more of the world, about having their fair share of it, because it would be better. Not only are we blessed with all the nice, pretty, squidgy bits, we are creative, inventive, intelligent and funny. Now, well equipped with the vote and the pill, and no longer preoccupied with giving birth to our fourteenth child on the kitchen floor, Western women can reinvent the world so that it is suited to all of us, not just the men. The patriarchy could do with a rest now anyway. After thousands of years of building cities, fighting wars and supplying the world with great thinkers, it could probably do with a helping hand from the women.

What can we change then? The list goes on so I will only mention the one which keeps raising its misogynistic head. Strip clubs. Strip clubs let men and women down. They are unhappy places. The men have no kind or caring feelings towards the women pulling a thong down in front of them and the women hate the men. Magazines have printed interviews with girls who claim that stripping is empowering because it pays their university fees. Well, if girls really have to strip to afford education then that is an immense political issue and not a reason to keep strip clubs going. Unlike the average Jesters night involving men, women, very little clothing and alcohol, no one is having fun in a strip club.

So, to be a feminist is to support the liberation and freedom of women. Personally, I think that if a woman does not consider themselves a feminist, they may as well give their vote back to the patriarchy and return to cleaning the dishes.

51 Comments »

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  • Boyce
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    Pretty sure strippers are capable of the same minimum wage jobs as the rest of us. If they’d prefer to stack shelves no-one is stopping them. On the other hand, if I had tits I don’t see why I wouldn’t jiggle them for cash. I’m not sure what the argument you’re trying to make is, to be honest

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    Helen Clear
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    Thank you for your comment. I don’t agree with strip clubs because I think it deems women little more than sex toys for men. Throughout history we can see that men’s desire for women, and their failure to recognise women as separate sexual entities, has caused barbarity, because they were the dominant force with no restraints on their behaviour. An example of this barbarity is rape in marriage, which was only criminalised in England in 1991, and is still legal in some places, including Pakistan, Kenya and the Bahamas. In this context then, strip clubs seem incongruous in contemporary society. They are subtle versions of the history of misogyny. Furthermore between 60 and 80 per cent of strippers come from a background of sexual abuse. Men from their past have not treated them as separate sexual entities, so they come to treat themselves in a similar way. I hope you can understand my point of view a little more now.

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    Simon Boyce
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    If your statistic is accurate, surely it’s the sexual abuse that’s the problem and not the jobs they choose to take later in life? I’m not sure rape in marriage is a subject in any way related to strip clubs but I do appreciate you’re working your hardest to move the goalposts here.

    The fact is, women take this work because they want or need the money more than they mind getting their tits out, which is a judgement they are allowed to make, though people like you would want to take that right away. I’m sure these women are capable of stacking shelves or pulling pints. Your position seems to be that people shouldn’t be allowed to make that choice for themselves, for reasons vaguely related to tuition fees or the Bahamas or something. This is why I am anti-feminist despite being strongly for equal rights – core feminist ideology seems to be telling women what they can and can’t do and enforcing moral judgements on people who have a different point of view to you.

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    Sean
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    I think you are the one either “moving the goalposts” or missing/deliberately misunderstanding the point.

    You say, “The fact is, women take this work because they want or need the money more than they mind getting their tits out”

    I am not for telling anyone that they can not make this choice. The question is why they are faced with the choice in the first place. I agree with you about the sexual abuse point, and I cannot speak for the author but I reckon she would too. The problem is not the strip clubs themselves; the problem is that we live in a society where there is a demand for and normalisation of strip clubs- and few seem to want to question what the existence of strip clubs says about society.

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    Simon Boyce
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    You’ve clearly made a moral judgement on these women and the men who visit these establishments. I’ve had a friend who did this work tell me she enjoyed it, that she was generally treated well and that whe would rather strip and earn decent money than slave away for minimum wage. I have had friends who regularly go to strip clubs tell me about great conversations they’ve had with the girls and it’s really not the awful experience the article here describes. As long as people have the urge to be entertained in this was and people are happy to take this employment I really don’t see who has the right to tell them that what they’re doing is wrong.

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    Benjamin
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    What does the existence and demand for strip clubs say about our society? That men like boobs and unfortunately there is a determined group of people like you who find male sexuality somehow evil and are constantly lobbying against it. Its not just strip clubs – feminist groups are constantly going after lads mags – why? Becuase there are girls with their tits out? Why is that such a moral evil? Men like boobs and will pay money to see them, making it a crime wont change that, it will just make patrons criminals – now that would be a real injustice.

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    Sean
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    Please don’t tell me that I find male sexuality “evil”. What does that even mean? I am a straight man and, actually, a big fan of boobs. That comment just appears to be totally fatuous. And I never endorsed the idea of making strip clubs illegal – I’ve hardly ever heard anyone suggest that. I’m a bit sad to think that there are men who want/need to pay to see breasts, but I am not demonising these men.

    Personally I have nothing specifically against lads’ mags (apart from they seem to be aimed at complete idiots) but the idea that it’s just “male sexuality” is absolute bollocks. It’s like saying rape is just a result of “male sexuality” so we shouldn’t do anything to try and prevent it.

    The reason strip clubs bother people is not because we dislike the customers, or the employers. It’s because it is abhorrent that there are many vile employers (and I’m not speaking of all strip clubs) that are able to exploit women who are economically vulnerable in to working for them, and then men who are emotionally vulnerable in to handing over their money.

    Sean
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    customers, or the *employEES, sorry

    Sean
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    “Furthermore between 60 and 80 per cent of strippers come from a background of sexual abuse.”

    Not debating this claim as it wouldn’t surprise me, but do you have a source?

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    Hang on a minute
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    Can I take it that you also don’t agree with butlers in the buff, firemen strippers, David Beckham modelling in just his pants?

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    Sean
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    Kind of a pointless comment… has 60-80% of David Beackham been sexually abused?

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    Rebecca
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    If stripping is such a good way of earning cash (not saying it isn’t) then why don’t young guys do it too? Or is there only a big market for young women taking their clothes off? Why is that (… genuinely curious)?

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    Simon Boyce
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    I’m not advocating it, don’t get me wrong, just saying it’s a choice people make.

    There are plenty of male strippers. Haven’t got the figure for it, myself.

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    Hang on a minute
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    Er… Butlers in the buff, strippers for hen parties….

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    Yodelduck
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    You know buddy, males can make just as much money ‘jiggling’ their balls around as women. Seeing as you seem think you know exactly how you’d feel if you were woman, i.e. you’d happily jiggle your bits for cash, then I don’t understand why you’re not a stripper….

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    Simon Boyce
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    I’m not sure the missus would be too happy but I’m can try and persuade her to allow me, since you seem so keen

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  • Jack
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    Nice article, I think it finished a bit too quickly though. It’s feminists that claim to support gender equality yet actually come across as quite sexist themselves that piss me off. It’s sorta like positive discrimination. I think this is why quite a few men have a bad view of feminism. Your feminist peers could learn a lot from you!

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    Not a Feminist
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    I agree. Discrimination (positive or negative) is bad. People should get things based on their skills. For instance I am an engineering student – but would hate the idea that a company gave me a job in preference to a male candidate because “It made the equality figures better”. I want to be seen for my ability not the fact I am a woman.

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    Uninformed Bystander
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    Have to say completely agree with this. The idea of hiring someone because they are female inherently means that you are rejecting male candidates because they are male. “Positive” discrimination is a ridiculous notion and people should be employed purely based on whether or not they are the best person for the job, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, background etc. For me that is true equality and, as Jack said above, some feminists come across as highly sexist in their own views.

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  • Benjamin
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    I gave this article 4 stars and I really enjoyed reading it, primarily because it is infinitely more balanced and entertaining than previous feminist articles I’ve read. Also I thought Helen Clear expressed herself very well in the sense that she came across as a cool person and my girlfriend thought so too. However I disagreed with the final point about strip-clubs. Though I have never been to one for fun I did work for a strip-club once briefly as a promoter and the girls told me that on a really good night they could make £900 and that the highest they had earned in a single night had exceeded £1000.
    But of course its not about the money it’s about whether or not the girls felt comfortable working there of if they felt compelled to economically. The girls I spoke to regarded stripping rather casually as a source of income in which the only gripe was long hours in stilhettos. Whilst I would agree that strip clubs are not happy places, I don’t see why they need to be. And finally in regard to the point about students needing to become strippers to pay for education – that is just ridiculous you only have to start repaying student loans when your earning over £21,000 and even then it is only 9% of your income monthly and it doesn’t even appear on your credit rating! Furthermore if your implying that current student must resort to stripping to supplement they’re student loans – students from low-income families such as myself receive grants (rather generous ones ) in order to support themselves. Therefore, in conclusion I agree with Boyce, though he said it far more succinctly than I.

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  • Sunita
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    Oh god, Caitlin Moran is hardly a feminist icon. Unless you’re white and heterosexual. And ‘Western women can reinvent the world so that it is suited to all of us, not just the men’? Are you serious? Western women don’t represent all women, funnily enough.

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    Helen Clear
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    Thank you for your comment. I referred only to Western women because there are large parts of the world where women are still not entitled to the vote or the pill. Therefore they have no or little means to make change. To have written just ‘women’ would have been to overlook this fact, and would effectively deny the major subjugation of women in some countries.

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  • Banging Granny
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    What the fuck is this so many buzzwords I’m getting woozy.

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  • Alexandra
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    This is a ridiculously condescending article. It immediately makes the assumption that to be a certain ‘kind’ of woman is better, or more acceptable, than another ‘kind’ of woman – “…admitting feminist I knew doesn’t own a bra, wears shoes that look orthopaedic and doesn’t believe in tampons.” Why is this contextualized in a shameful way? The whole point of feminism is that gender and sex should not be intermingled. You can anatomically be a woman and shouldn’t have to conform to any gendered notions of what it means to be feminine. So, yeah, so bloody what if a girl doesn’t like tampons and wears stupid shoes and happens to be a feminist? You’re inferring that it somehow misrepresents feminism – or, even worse, degrades it. Which it doesn’t.

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    lee
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    yes it does!

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  • Ghloe Creene
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    Only just read this article, been in the kitchen all day!

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    Tom
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    What a wanker you are.

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  • Caroline
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    ‘Western women can reinvent the world’

    Why do they have to be Western ???

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    Helen Clear
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    Please see my reply to Sunita’s comment.

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  • Max “Miso” Gynist
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    Helen go make me a sandwich!

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    Green, C.
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    Check your privilege Max.

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    lee
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    lmao

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  • Jon
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    Ill support feminism once they start campaigning for equality on the frontline and quota’s in dangerous mining and deep sea fishing jobs, as opposed to just the boardroom.

    Im not holding my breath.

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    Helen Clear
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    Firstly, very recently the Pentagon ended the ban on women in frontline combat, and feminists campaigned for this change. Furthermore, are the campaigns for the ending of abhorrences like genital mutilation and domestic abuse not enough for you?

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    Jon
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    My point was that feminism is primarily concerned with feminists cherry picking what they want to promote, when it suits them. You seem to have completely missed that.

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    Helen Clear
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    Well it would be ridiculous if feminists picked what they didn’t want to promote, when it didn’t suit them, wouldn’t it?

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    Common logic
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    Helen I’m actually very impressed you wrote a whole article! I thought women could only write shopping lists, and thats when under instruction from a suitable male counterpart. Well done :)

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    Derp!
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    This is a really silly point. In principle I agree that if you’re doing feminism ‘properly’ it makes sense to promote equality in all arenas. But suggesting feminism would/should give precedence to women’s freedom to access dangerous jobs over their long overdue opportunity to access positions of power traditionally reserved for wealthy males is misguided and ridiculous.

    Much of this ‘cherry-picking’ correlates with the belief that, after being historically endangered through the risks of child birth, entrapped in the domestic sphere of a patriarchal world, women are long overdue equal representation in governance.

    It also appears that you’re cherry-picking topics you want to see feminists promoting, thereby underlining some of the problems that all political campaigns, feminism included, are liable to.

    All that said, I have met some self-interested feminists whose arguments for greater opportunities for women in governance are less to do with genuine equality than their own self-interested desire to get ahead. But that doesn’t mean feminism should be rejected.

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    Missed the Point
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    The thing is, positions of power have always traditionally been associated with positions of risk. Merchants generate wealth by risking what they have (and looking further back into history, their own skins), politicians were expected to have fought on the frontlines (up until this century anyway) factory overseers would have worked the machines themselves (then a dangerous job), etc. Even today, many of the most highly paid industry’s (oil, mining, etc) are also the most dangerous. The two areas are entirely linked, it would be difficult to have one without the other- risk and reward are two sides of the same coin, in a very economic sense.

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  • Karl Pilkington
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    Enough philosophy, on with the silly tabloid news please.

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  • an article that makes sense
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    I came here to post a witty comment but this actually made sense… the sotontab’s reputation for shitty journalism is at stake!

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  • AnonZ
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    Most feminists are far too ethnocentric. Promote global equality not just equality for females in the west?

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  • Dan Novak
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    Typical maniac, smearing feminists

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  • Liked the article but..
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    Let’s not forget that from a global persepctive, strip clubs give a woman the option of using her sexuality for a fair bit of money, predominantly in safe and legal environments. (you could even say it is an empowering thing for women to have this option).
    On the other hand there are countries in the world where thousands of girls are bred to become prostitutes from a young age, and others where women can barely get abortions within the law; strip clubs are far from the biggest problem for the feminist movement. As you said, ‘if you’re going to do feminism, you might as well do it properly’

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    Liked the article but..
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    Same problem I find with Caitlin Moran. A whole chapter on pubic hair? There is so much more that feminism needs to conquer than sexual stereotypes encouraged by porn. Such an ignorant view.

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  • Disgruntled old git
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    There’s a lot of feminist chat coming from this publication – lets get a misogynists articles!

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  • Alex
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    I’m a big fan of equality, feminism is pro equality, ergo I am a fan of feminism. Although I do hate that we need the word feminism, and that equality isn’t just the natural state of the universe, “two entities that are equal to another entity are equal to each other” (Lincoln good film).

    I think this article doesn’t do a very good job of explaining feminism (not that I’m an expert, or have ever read in great depth about feminism) I think most people’s views of whom a feminist is is distorted by the relentlessly and willfully ignorant media and the way some bigoted women portray themselves in the media.

    The pure concept of feminism is equality for women, leaving them free of gender stereotyping legislatively and socially. Your article, however, actually mocks a girl for the way she likes to dress/behave because it doesn’t align with your classical idea of feminine.

    As far as I’m aware, it is pretty debatable as to whether porn/strip clubs ect. are anti-feminist, which I would just like to re-iterate is anti-equality, I have yet to find a convincing argument this is the case, and would like to point out that there are male strip clubs and even porn aimed at some women (I have no idea how successful either ventures are) my point being that sex is now a commodity where EVERY personal preference is available. (also for anyone that says its easier to be a male stripper or porn star from what I have heard it is a horrendous experience.)

    I also thought you article was quite condescending; this is a university publication you would think most of your readership would be uni students, no? People who I sincerely hope understand the difference between a sexual orientation and the belief in female equality. Nay, more! I should say people understand that you don’t have to be a woman to not hate women. Maybe you are trying to make feminism more appealing to the masses, although I think you underestimate the masses, but maybe you shouldn’t do so by trying to distort what it is, and that is equality for women. I think most people don’t hate women, and want them to be treated as the equals to men that they are.

    TL;DR I think this article is patronizing, and the writer doesn’t comprehend the subject matter, and also this guy rocks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYaczoJMRhs and pretty eloquently explains how I feel about “feminism”

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  • Sean Connery
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    Feminism is the most hypocritical political identity I have ever encountered. It is basically female chauvinism. In my opinion gender is irrelevant, general equality can never exist as not everyone is equal. However for the sake of argument women are not equal to men and men are not equal to women, we are just different. Skilled in different areas. I think feminists struggle to accept what those areas of skill are.

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  • E
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    I think most feminists have been told that they a) don’t look like one b) are too pretty to be one and c) what is there to complain about anyway? etc etc etc. There’s a very preconceived notion of what it means to be feminist and its bizarre and out of date by probably about 100 years if it existed at all. The most usual reaction that has to be the most annoying is “oh yeah that’s great, I mean I’m not a feminist personally but I admire your passion/naivety”. Not being a feminist is on a par with racism or any other ridiculous form of discrimination. That’s why its so important to point out that you’re a ‘normal’ feminist, chip away a little at the ignorance.

    Someone once said upon meeting me “God are you a feminist? But you’re nice and normal and don’t hate men?!” No shit Sherlock, of course I don’t hate men. Its all peace and love man! There are some very angry feminists out there, but the idiotic responses they get to a perfectly rational and non-preachy attitude are probably what turned them that way. Its pretty hard to keep a calm straight face sometimes. One of my favourites: “but you have a boyfriend so how are you a feminist?” Wow, hmm, maybe he believes in equality and basic respect too? And to the questioner: “So how’s your sexism working out in the romance dept?” Not as well as you pretend, I reckon.

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  • Hannah
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    Great job Helen! Been meaning to read Caitlin Moran for a while. I recommend some easier research is to follow the work of Lena Dunham, the creator of Girls and the film Tiny Furniture. She’s a brilliant representation of what I recognize as feminism for our generation: a) doing what the hell you like no matter how sexy/ unsexy it is. b) taking advantage of every opportunity now available to women
    c) never stop fighting for real equality!

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  • Joe Green
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    The biggest flaw with feminism is calling it feminism. It implies it wants a female dominated opposite to patriarchy rather than the gender equality it supposedly stands for. As a results you end up getting a load of sour and ungrateful women with a vendetta against all men, the majority of whom treat the women in their life with a great deal of kindness and respect.

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