The weakest link
I’m not good at apologizing. My viewpoint is generally right, whether it’s my choice of paint colour (it’s lilac; like that of a teenager’s room circa 1991) in the lounge, or my feelings on Brexit or burkinis. On this analysis alone I am, in the (urban) dictionary definition of the word, an occasional ‘wazzock.’
I have an unwavering belief that I’m on the right track, punctuated by an occasional, embarrassing stumble in front of a packed bus stop.
I came a bit of a cropper yesterday.
I posted on Instagram that “I struggle with the word ‘feminist’”. My stance was mildly antagonistic: that the word itself distracts from what it is trying to achieve. The post was founded in a socially needy place and articulated in the manner of a sloth asked to pen a thesis on War and Peace under Master Chef time constraints (complete with Greg Wallace’s heavy breathing).
From Instagram, emails, What’s App and all other pixelated realms – I hoped for a carrier pigeon to offer some respite from the iPhone – there was a deluge of informed, immaculately articulated and insightful opinion.
(And this isn’t some arse-licking exercise; if anything it’s more a wound-licking exercise).
Even my Aunty Janet got stuck in – offering up her belief that ‘this is not some kind of Duke of Edinburgh Award, darling, where the gold medallion is in sight – we are far from even getting a map here.’
But what was my point? Well, it was off-point: a pedantic argument around semantics that detracts from talking about core issues like FGM, breast-feeding, trafficking, flexible working and shattering glass ceilings.
And my point now is that it was a mistake that merits an apology – one that I hope is accepted. And that a moment of flippant thinking and weakness can always be repurposed as strength.
Because ultimately that’s what feminism is to me – it’s strength, it’s powerful conversation. It’s keeping both going.
It’s scraping someone off the floor if they’re submerged in a post-natal fug.
It’s building others up with no personal agenda.
It’s bashing the shit out of gender equality issues until they wished they’d never crashed the party.
It’s being chucked the same wad of cash as a colleague who happens to have a willy.
It’s not having your job pulled from under your feet – often for worryingly vague reasons – when returning from maternity leave.
It’s lipstick, it’s hairy nips.
It’s OK Magazine, it’s Not OK Magazine.
It’s, in the words of Caitlin Moran: “Do you have a vagina? Do you want to be in charge? Then congratulations, you’re a feminist!”
It’s gender equality. It’s, without a doubt, feminism.
Out of the 213 messages I received yesterday, only one was hate-fuelled. Only one tore me apart as a person, as a women, as a mother – the latter at a tear-fuelled breaking point.
And through any sloppy commentary on my part, that’s always been my focus here: to show my daughter, Mae that you can scuffle like a Rottweiler without being a bitch.
Less chat more action: we’ll be filming a flashmob dance next Friday September 9 in Central London (exact time and location TBD). The video will be for our ‘Flex appeal’ campaign – fighting for flexible working for people who happen to be parents. The aim is to publish the video ahead of our meeting at the House of Commons on September 14 to push the subject further.
The lyrics you will need to sing run thus (to the tune of Salt ‘N’ Pepa’s 80s triumph ‘Let’s talk about sex’): “Let’s talk about flex baby, when you’re on the PAYE. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things of productivity. Let’s talk about flex, let’s talk about flex.” If you can remember the above, have some Lycra and can email me at email@example.com to register your interest, I’ll send you the full details personally. This may not be a movement, but at least it involves moving.
Photo: Emily Gray Photo
Artist: David Shillinglaw