Written by Charlotte Atkinson.
Like many great things, this started on Twitter. I reached out to Sophie after I saw her tweet asking for contributors. The reason this is great (not this piece, I’m only on the third sentence) is because I never would have seen the tweet if Scarlett Curtis hadn’t retweeted it.
And Here We Are. The Power Of The Internet!
Maybe Piers Morgan will be able to use it for better things… I devoured the audiobook of Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) in a day. I didn’t actually know what to expect from the book and all the powerful, successful contributors, but by the end of the book I was definitely surprised.In my experience of YA novels, BBC Dramas and Netflix Originals, when women ‘open up’ it’s to reveal that they have been broken or weakened in the past.
Over the years I have consumed books and films full of tough, fighting women, but there’s always a bit where they share some horrific experience. It’s as if being broken makes them relatable. When the series Jessica Jones was released one reviewer commented that audiences find it much more fun to see a woman struggling with the throes of PTSD rather than moving on from it.
Seeing women struggling seems to be the key to gripping, personal drama. It’s not just from a viewer’s perspective that I have seen this, either. I produce films, so a big part of my job is reading scripts. It’s a common feature in a lot of the scripts I’m sent and, honestly, I wish it wasn’t.
Traditionally, the two biggest experiences are anorexia and rape. These are both totally out of a person’s control, making her the powerless victim. Suddenly the audience sees that, deep down, she has to be saved! Then the male protagonist saves her and everything is fine. So because of my warped experiences of mainstream entertainment, I presumed they’d be talking about huge, devastating moments that broke them and how they rebuilt themselves.
I’m a bad feminist.
All of the women spoke primarily about ordinary, everyday experiences. What this brought to light is how often ordinary female experiences are brushed under the carpet. The everyday sounded groundbreaking in the book. Keira Knightley’s vivid description of blood running down her legs as she rushes to comfort her newborn daughter was enough to embarrass onlookers by her hospital bed, and freak out the press. They then grabbed the chance to pit her against the Duchess of Cambridge as if they were bound to enter into the long-held tradition of bitter female rivalry. But this probably shouldn’t have surprised me.
We are so uneducated about female issues that we remain shocked at Kate’s post-birth bump. So many people presumed that her stomach would magically snap back to its usual flat state, not realising that this is an unnatural expectation.This isn’t written from my high horse, I am in no position to do that. Considering how surprised I was by most of the book, I’m clearly also severely uneducated.
Sophie suggested I pick out my favourite section of the book to talk about, and I can’t do it. Keira’s was beautifully, naturally shocking – an honest, real depiction of birth and life after it. Lolly’s contribution of her bizarre experience in a quiz show sticks in my mind because you just couldn’t write that stuff. Gemma Arterton’s piece, written in character, is also striking. She wrote the experience of her character in a Bond film opposite Daniel Craig. What struck me was how creepy Bond sounded. He gets away with it in the films, but on paper I hated him. I was amazed at how much I had to discover about the ‘ordinary woman’s’ everyday experiences. It’s not always about overcoming great hardships or making the impossible happen.
Sometimes it’s about plodding on, cheering on your sisters.Feminism, to me, had always been about teaching the boys at school that we had goals and ideas and thoughts as well. I usually thought my ideas were a lot better than theirs, but it was hard enough getting them to take them seriously. As I’ve gotten older, and the world has become a colder place for me, feminism has been about experiences like seeing Sophie’s tweet. I got to know another great blogger, I emailed Scarlett Curtis and got to interview her!
Seeing other women tweet about their experiences of being ignored by doctors made me feel better about the fact that my PMDD had gone undiagnosed for years. Finding women talking openly about PMDD was a lifeline for me, and that’s a part of my feminism. Women supporting each other and collaborating together is feminism to me right now. Knowing that we are a team means we can beat the Donald Trumps and Phillip Greens of this world. I also recognise that feminism is like water and it changes for everyone.
For feminists like Romola Garai and Carey Mulligan, feminism for them means having childcare on film sets and getting rid of the term ‘strong woman’. (This one was an eye-opener for me. It never occurred to me that, actually, all women are strong. Seriously, look through Netflix’s suggested list of ‘showsfeaturing a strong female lead’ and you’ll see almost every drama, sitcom and romcom ever to grace the platform. All. Women. Are. Strong).
In ten years or so, I might be focused less on the casual harassment and sexual assault that happens on the tube and more on childcare or parenting issues. Feminism is different for everyone, but ultimately it means, and will always mean, championing everyone and supporting everyone.
Written by Charlotte Atkinson