For the past year I’ve been running my college’s feminist society (or femsoc for those of you with an abbreviation fetish) and today was the final session before we go on study leave and all the little year one feminist babs take over.
Despite what every American show suggests, running a society isn’t easy. It takes loads of research, planning, photocopying, shouting at people because they’re not assisting with the research, planning or photocopying, group chat drama and vocal strain because I didn’t realise how chatty everyone would be in between tasks. I’ve basically been popping strepsils like they’re going out of fashion. But out of all this work I’ve learnt so much about feminism and, as it’s been a while since I burnt my bra, I thought I would share.
What Running a Feminist Society Taught Me About Feminism
The Movement Is Still Super White: I realised how much of a white feminist I’d become when, brainstorming for session ideas, the top of the list were body positivity, representation of women in sport and ‘does merchandise devalue feminism?’ Important issues, yes. Deserving to be top of the list? No. These were subsequently interspersed with sessions like women in war and politics, but even then we could’ve done more to promote intersectionality. As a privileged white woman, speaking about cultural appropriation was hard; working out whether the Declaration of Human Rights had a western bias was simply impossible. When a society is run by white women our default topics are white ones, so you have to do a lot of research to stay inclusive. Feminism should encourage not speaking for other women but addressing their issues as if they were our own.
Men Want To Join The Conversation: So many guys turned up. Every week. Committed af to gender equality (although one boy admitted he just turned up for the free food so maybe he doesn’t count). It’s not about letting men dominate the conversation- just like they dominate everything else lol- but including them is vital if the movement is ever going to make progress. Plus, we’ve been drilling the idea that ‘feminism benefits everyone’ into people for decades so the fact guys were turning up means they’ve finally got the memo. And also free Oreos. But mainly the memo.
There Are Basically No Answers: Should we have gender quotas in parliament? Is sexualisation problematic? How do we know when equality’s been achieved? I don’t blady know. One of the simultaneously best and worst things about feminism is that there are just so. many. arguments, it becomes impossible to conclude at the end of a session. Hearing everyone debate them is like tuning into a Cath Kidston shop in Buckinghamshire does Jeremy Kyle on mid-morning BBC1. Through this however, I’ve realised that the ideas that arise from the discussion are just as important as the overall solutions (if they even exist).
Feminists Don’t Criticise Their Own Views Enough: Playing devil’s advocate is the best way to learn to defend your beliefs but often when I’d adopt this position people would merely reply with ‘who even thinks that?’ or, when I tried to argue from the position of Donald Trump, they’d just laugh. But activities like that are really important to learn how to respond to criticism. We can’t have the meninists thinking we don’t know what we’re talking about now, can we?
Getting Feminists To Be Honest Is Hard: I get it. When you’re in a room full of Emma Watson wannabes or mini Kardashians in the making, it can be hard to criticise them, but I wanted people to speak up and be controversial. Not all of feminism smells like a glittery Lush bath bomb. If everyone just smiles and agrees then it creates the illusion that everyone thinks the same, which isn’t true. Tell me why you think makeup is a choice! Tell me why you support the Jenners! Don’t just nod like a lil Churchill Insurance doggo.