Monday, July 21, 2014

Feminism at the Lunch Table

I'm not going to get into a massive essay here, because I live it and speak it every moment of my life anyway, but I just want to share a little story.

The other day I was sitting in the canteen at work with three other women and one man.  During our lunch, the man began regaling us with the latest scandal of 'that girl' in Magaluf who 'sucked off' over 20 guys for a free drink - and about how he had watched the video, just to 'make sure' he knew what he was talking about.  Cue laughter, from my fellow female lunchmates too.  End of conversation?  Not while I'm at that, or any, table.  I proceeded to explain that I was very uncomfortable with the attitude of people towards that girl; that slut-shaming was a major issue in our society, and it disturbed me greatly that he was referring to the story only in terms of the what the girl had done, without any reference to the 20 or more guys who had lined up with their trousers around their ankles, waiting for 'some girl' to give them a blowjob while throngs of people cheer.  I've written about this before in reference to the whole 'Slane Girl' situation a few months ago, and what I said there still applies: "That girl should have truly known that she is worth more than a public blowjob in a muddy field, instead of somehow thinking it makes her sexually expressive and adult.  The boys involved should feel more worth in themselves than to allow that situation to arise, and certainly feel that she has more worth than that.  Those taking and sharing the photos should understand the consequences of their actions, that somebody’s whole life can be ruined for the sake of a ‘funny’ Facebook or Twitter upload."

Nobody in this Magaluf situation comes out unscathed, yet it's the girl who is the 'slut', and yet again she deserves everything she is getting.  So, I said all of this in one big outburst - in all honesty, my face going bright red in an effort to get it all out there at once.  One of my female co-workers lightheartedly said 'Wow, you really feel strongly about this!', but I wasn't sidetracked - I said again that, yes, I really do feel strongly about things like this, and that we owe it to our media-saturated world that we think about things a bit more before we talk about them as mere gossip.  I also mentioned that I had a teenage niece, and I didn't want to perpetuate a world where she is told that her sexuality is the only thing that she is worth on the one hand, while she is persecuted for every sexual 'transgression' on the other.  Two of my female table-mates suddenly began vehemently agreeing with me (and seemed to remember that they had daughters too), as did my other co-worker.  The man made some quip about knowing his audience, to which I replied that these things aren't jokes...and we have to take them seriously.

So, there we go.  A short story that put me in that place where I'm the one who can't take a joke - the famous 'humourless feminist' at the table - who didn't giggle along with what this man was telling us should be our opinion of the whole Magaluf situation.  Instead, I argued my point.  And, surprise surprise, the three other women agreed with me.  Once someone had said it as it should be, they agreed.  Which means that they didn't agree with him, they had giggled along with his jokes because they didn't want to be aggressive, or humourless, or antagonistic, or a 'bitch', or any number of the million tags associated with women who don't just 'go with the flow' and who won't just 'laugh it off'.  And that is why feminism is still needed - because there are still plenty of women out there who are feminists deep down, and who struggle with the public perception of feminism, and who worry that having a strong voice or an opinion on something makes them someone who others will avoid.

Being a Feminist colours everything I believe - and being a Marxist Feminist means that every world issue is filtered to me through that lens.  From Gaza to Magaluf, I see a fairer world when these tenets are taken into account - the capitalist system of power has led to an unfair society for women and for men, and yet we continue to divide and conquer each other on the basis of sexuality.

I still sit with all of these people, that particular man included, because I'm not preachy and I'm not rude.  I simply will not allow topics of conversation to pass without comment when I feel strongly about it.  These people are my friends and coworkers, and will continue to be my friends and coworkers.  And I will continue to not compromise my beliefs for the sake of giggling at the lunch table.