This is an account of my own personal feelings at the Fem 11 conference last Saturday. My feelings aren’t “wrong” or “right”, they just are. I’m not holding Fem 11 accountable in any way for what I felt. I just want to share my experience.
I went to Fem 11 with three feminist friends. Me-from-two-years-ago couldn’t be more surprised if she heard this.
This helped with feelings of loneliness, social anxiety and general awkwardness which, I’m happy to report, remained at minimum levels.
I was excited to see so many feminists when we got together for the first session of the day at the Friends Meeting House. And I was even more excited when I saw Sandi Toksvig standing up to speak. *OMG, SANDI TOKSVIG!!!*
Sandi spoke about the differences between the “Right” brain and the “Left” brain, and how this correlates to men thinking with the “right” and women thinking with the “left”. In essence, men and women think differently, and the “male” style of thinking is linear, based on a logical succession of things. Or something like that.
This made me think along the lines I had already been thinking in for the past few weeks. I had been wondering lately whether the “scientific” mode of thinking is somewhat based on the type of thinking that corresponds to the more “autistic” part of the spectrum.
And this was followed by a conversation with a woman who was slightly autistic herself. She told me how she needs to know exactly what is required, in a detailed, logical sequential order.
As the day went on and I heard from other women, a thought began to form in my head. A slightly upsetting thought.
Other women kept talking about how “inspiring” someone’s words have been. And all I kept thinking was… “where are the arguments, the ideas, the facts, the theory, the economy”.
Sandi had said that men are the “thinkers” and women are the “doers”. And the penny dropped.
OH F*CK. I think like a man.
This explains why I am getting nowhere within the feminist movement. While other women want to discuss how they feel empowered by doing this or that, or how someone has “privilege” of some kind or other, I want to discuss the very real fact that THE ECONOMY DETERMINS EVERYTHING.
And nobody listens.
While other feminists want to organise campaigns and conferences, I stop and think “yes, but what exactly do you want to talk about? What are the ideas behind it? How radical is it when we are working for a solution within patriarchal capitalism…”
I want to discuss philosophy… feminists want to talk about how we organise and “do”.
This brought me, understandably, down. It triggered the old and well known feeling of being an “outsider”, ie: “I’m too feminist for the left and to lefty for feminism”. Great.
Oh No, I'm Ugly!
Then there was the fact that I was, after all, in a room with one thousand women. Most of whom were young. And pretty. And white, and blond. And dressed in pretty, feminine dresses and wearing pretty, feminine shoes.
Oh, look at that, the girl sat next to me is about ten, she’s wearing a skirt and eating a salad.
Yes, something had to give. It wasn’t long before a small but loud monster inside me started wailing…
“ALL THE OTHER GIRLS ARE PRETTIER THAN MEEEEEEE!!!!!”
I tried to remind myself that this was a feminist conference and that focusing on prettiness was totally missing the point. Which was a huge mistake, because monsters don’t understand logic or reason.
So off my monster went, quietly wailing inside me “I bet it’s easier to be a feminist when you are white, blond, pretty and feminine and normal and you all probably have boyfriends and I hate you”.
Luckily I was with friends, so I had other people to interact with, which stops you from even hearing your monsters. And that helps a lot.
Oh, Man! When Me?
Last but not least was the now familiar feeling of “omg, I could totally ran a workshop, why am I not giving a workshop, I know so much, I want to give a workshop, I’m ready, why am I not giving a workshop…” Which, in its loudest, angriest form, says “I AM SO MUCH BETTER THAN *HER*, I KNOW SO MUCH MORE, WHY AM I NOT GIVING A WORKSHOP, EVERYONE SUCKS”.
I know this feeling, I am good at spotting it when it shows up. And I’m getting better at dealing with it. Soon I’ll feel confident enough to give workshops and talks. Watch out world!
Ok, if you have made it to this point (thank you!), I want to say a few words on why the hell I’m bothering talking about my feelings and stuff.
I believe there is a lot of pain in the feminist community. This is entirely understandable! We live in a woman-hating world; we are women. We are bound to feel hurt.
But here’s the thing: we never talk about it. And the thing about pain is, when it goes unacknowledged, it finds another way through.
So at Fem 11, I noticed a lot of anger from the participants. A few of them actually shouted from the audience during the talks. And a few of the questions were dripping in anger and maybe even hate.
And I know this is not “common” because during Marxism it practically never happened. Keep in mind that Marxism brings together the same number of people, and for 5 days at that. And yet I never saw anyone shout at the chair person, or at a member of the audience who can’t stop rumbling (and believe me, there’s an awful lot of rumbling during Marxism).
And I understand anger and hate; really I do. I have just talked about my own!
Instead, it would be far more productive if we started by talking about it.
For example: “I am angry when I see a sexualised ad. It makes me really angry. I feel silenced and insulted; my personal boundaries have been violated. And I’m so pissed off.”
I know we do this, but we tend to shift the focus on to why it’s wrong. We go from “I feel angry” to “advertising makes money off titillating men, and men want to see women being objectified…”.
And that’s good too, and it has its place. But it may be worth spending a few moments on how something makes us feel as women.
Then, we have to stop and spend a few moments thinking on how something makes us feel as “us”.
For example: “I know that for me, Mary Tracy, seeing pretty feminine blond women makes me upset because it triggers my insecurities and feelings of being too ugly, too brown and unfeminine, and all in all unworthy of being loved”.
See? Coming clean with our feelings might not be easy, but it always helps.