Friday, 24 April 2015

Feminism Through Your Eyes #7

Hey people! This is the seventh and latest post of the project Feminism Through Your Eyes. You can find more information here and you can reach me via this mail adress:

"I think I was about twelve when my mum first criticised me for what I was wearing. We were in the car to go somewhere and, because it was a habit I had recently picked up, decided I was going to stick my iPod down my bra bc the skirt I had on didn’t have pockets. I was wearing a singlet because it was summer, and my mum looked at me, looked at my ipod, looked at my shirt, and told me “you should really change.” I looked at her, looked at my clothes, and asked her why and she replied “because we’re going out, and I don’t think its appropriate for you to have your boobs out that way in public - especially because we’re meeting family friends, who happen to have sons.” Like I said, I was twelve. I was a b-cup. These family friends who had sons were people I had known for years. Sure, the boys were like 1-2 years older, but they were the boys who had been pushing me off the pontoon for years during our annual camping trip, or taking my food off my plate, or locking me outside the house when it started to rain because they were jerks. I didn’t get it, but, because mum was stressed enough already, I sighed, got out of the car, and went to put on a t-shirt and some shorts.
I had a friend called Lewis, who I had known for years, and he moved away. For christmas, we went to visit, and for the first week of the holiday I just went to stay with him and his family by myself. Lewis and I hung out, but when it came to about nine o’clock (‘bed time’ for thirteen year olds who had been out in the sun all day) I was told I had to leave his room. We’d had sleepovers before and had been hanging out all day, so when I asked why I couldn’t just crash in his room, his parents looked at me and said “I’m sure your father wouldn’t like you two sharing a room, and we aren’t that comfortable either.” Lewis rolled his eyes and said why, and they said “you’re both older now, it’s inappropriate.” I said goodnight and left his room, and while I wanted to respect my best friends and my parents, I couldn’t help wonder what would be ‘inappropriate’ about two best friends sharing a room to sleep in, with one if us in his bed and the other in a sleeping bag on the floor.
In year nine I got my first boyfriend, and like any good host when someone came over, I offered him something to eat. I’d been making myself a toasted sandwich before he came over, so it made no difference to me to not make him one when I asked if he wanted one and he said yes. That next Monday, I went to school and was bombarded with all of his friends “will you make me a sandwich too” “Bethany the kitchen bitch!” “well trained, I see.” I was upset. I was distraught. I didn’t speak to my boyfriend all day and made sure to never eat when he was over again. I didn’t see the big deal about making someone a goddamn cheese and tomato toastie.
In year ten, I started learning about misogyny. In health we went through a ‘next level’ sex education process, which also included the education of periods. The girls and boys were separated for us to each learn about endometriosis, and while us girls left feeling terrified about the dangers of us having our periods next month, the boys left with vicious words such as “You must be on your week because you’re looking rather bloated lately, Bethany.” Then I really started to get shitty, because that was also the year I started to pass out and vomit due to period pain. When I told this to my PE teachers one lesson, I was told to get a drink and come back with a better attitude or risk getting an imposition for incomplete classwork. The boys were allowed to sit out however if they didn’t have the right uniform, most of them getting off because ‘I used my uniform last night at rugby training, miss’. I started to see, then, that some high school sport was more important than my health and wellbeing.
In year eleven I got into a fight with a boy when I posted something on Facebook about boys complaining about getting kicked in the balls over child birth. The Facebook ‘discussion’ (which was really just sexist fuelled bullshit written by gross teenage boys) left me crying, with one particular boy making comments like “if you don’t want the pain, don’t get pregnant; if you don’t want to get raped, don’t drink a lot or dress like a slut; you don’t even know danger at all, i was attacked in the streets once, have you ever been?” I don’t think I ever feel as unsafe as I do, walking past that boy every day at school knowing that some girl could be in danger because of his self entitlement and his views towards rape. I actually think I cried when I found out that one of my best friends was dating him. What was even more concerning was the lack of outrage I got from other girls - all saying “he’s just a boy, ignore him beth” or “none of you even know what you’re talking about, do not drag me into this”
What sucks most though? That my family roll their eyes at me if I get offended at a sexist joke made by someone. That if I stand up and tell them to leave me alone because they criticise me for what I choose to wear, I get told to sit down again, and to respect them. That if I insult a boy at school because he made a rape joke, I am the bad guy. That girls I know would rather be in the good books with everyone (mainly the boys) than to speak out against the disgusting treatment they get. that I get called a bitch and a hard ass and ‘sassy’ because I talked about equality for my english assessment last year. That my very best friends undermine me everyday because I am a feminist, I say I am a feminist, and my best guy friends call me a ‘man hating bitch’ because I smacked one of them around the head when he tried to grope me at a party once, and that I have to defend my feminism to everyone, when in fact now i see that yes, you can call me a bitch and a prude and a lesbian and all that other rubella shit, as long as you know that i will never be on your level of ignorance and blindness again. That my friend last year in english scoffed at me for writing a poem on the ‘friend-zone’ for my assessment, then came crawling back to me when i won the english award and also had the poem published in the school year book. That people dont recognise feminism as equality, and try to play it off as misandry. That when I stick up for someone I wont recognise myself with, I am a ‘defender for all’ and ‘going to be a f*cking social justice lawyer’, said by my own parents as if it killed them to speak those words. That this year on athletics day at my school the girls weren’t allowed to wear singlets or bike shorts because it made some teachers ‘uncomfortable’ but the boys were allowed to walk around topless. That the boys at my school somewhat of a winter uniform but if the girls are caught wearing the wrong stockings, we’re sent to the office for an imposition. That the woman engineer at my dads workplace was denied entry onto the rig she helped design and build because she was a woman, and was only let on after my dad had to go to the CEO and fight for her, because she wasn’t permitted. That when I m walking down the street - may it be to/from school, to maccas, to meet a friend, for some exercise - there is a 100% chance im going to get beeped at at least once - sometimes (most times) more. That im expected to accept that ‘this is how the world is’ and ‘its always going to be this way’. That i cant text a boy without my grandparents expecting me to be with him. That my best guy friends still cant stay the night unless they’re in a separate room. That if i support a gay couple im ‘empowering’ but if i support a lesbian one, i must be a lesbian myself. That the word feminist is spoken with malice, and bitterness, and with some sort of disregarded tone, no matter how many times it is said.
I am a feminist. While the struggles I may face may be small and ‘simple’, there are people who suffer worse. I am a feminist, and I don’t care how many people that will offend, I am not changing. Because feminism, I believe, is about the empowerment of women, of the other minority groups, the riddance of the rape jokes and the kitchen bitch t-shirts, and it’s something that needs addressing, and will continue to be addressed, until it is damn well supported enough to not be played off as some dinner time joke."

Beth-16-New Zealand- 

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