I wasn’t going to blog this week. I was going to concentrate on edits, edits, and only edits. That was my plan and I was sticking to it.
But then I got a bit angry. Again.
This anger wasn’t a quick-burning forest fire like the last time I went ranty.
This anger was more like a slow, simmering, sparking fire in my belly. One that’s been there for a very long time, but one I’ve never really been able to give a name to. I still don’t know what to call it.
It’s not “feminism”. I’ve always been a bit scared of that word. For me it has connotations of man-hating and ideas like “we should have a female prime minister just because she’s female, even if she’s crap”. I don’t hate men. I think people should be judged on their merits. Women are not better than men. We’re equal. And I know. I know that feminists fought long and hard for that equality and I am grateful. I’m just not a “feminist” myself. I think there are crap men and crap women. All men are not bastards. All women are not saints.
Women are our own best friends and our own worst enemies and I have been lucky in that, in my life, my gender has never prevented me from doing anything, because I never believed it was a barrier. I know that’s not the case for all cultures and all religions in this world, or even in certain circles in Australia. I think women’s rights should be fought for and mistreatment of women by men is evil and should be punished heavily. But that’s not what this blog is about.
The fire in my belly isn’t feminism. It doesn’t have anything to do with glass ceilings or whether women are demeaning themselves if they wear lipstick.
It has everything to do with double standards.
Two recent external events or factors influenced this article. One was this, the Penny Wong catcall furore. The other was this, Beauty Queens, the marvellously funny, insightful and incisive new book by the supremely talented and awesome Libba Bray. The first factor – the Penny Wong catcall made me angry because, as women, we should be allowed to be angry without being likened to any sort of animal, or being asked if it’s “that time of the month” or being called “hysterical”. More on that in a moment.
One scene in Libba Bray’s book really hit home with me (and no, it wasn’t one of the ones about the crackpot dictator talking in Elvis-isms to his chief advisor, the taxidermied lemur – and yes, you must read this book). It was the scene where the young beauty queens who were stranded on the desert island made a pact not to apologise.
As women, we apologise too much. In everyday life, if someone bumps into us, we apologise. If we take the last on-special apple (even if we got there first), we apologise. If we are sitting in the last free seat in a cafe, we apologise. We even apologise if wait staff forget to bring us our coffee! We apologise for reminding them! On a broader scale, if we win a job over someone else, we apologise. We apologise if we win an award, because we deeply believe we don’t deserve it; that other people deserve it more. I’ve apologised in writing groups for having produced more than other members, or for being published. “I was just lucky”, I’ll say. “I was in the right place at the right time”. All said with an apologetic look on my face.
We apologise, it seems, just for existing; for taking up space in the world.
And, if we go into the world with confidence, not apologising for our existence, we are labelled “up-ourselves”, “arrogant”, “b***hes” or, if we dare to dress in clothes other than head-to-to Demis Roussos kaftans, we’re “slags” or “get-arounds” or even the word that I hate most of any word in the English language. You know the one: it starts with “s” and rhymes with “mutts”. And don’t even get people started if, gods forbid, we take an active, healthy interest in the opposite sex. And it’s not just men who say these things. Women are their own worst critics.
Why do women feel like we have to be meek and invisible? Why do we feel like we have to say sorry for just being alive?
And why, why, why are we not allowed to get flubbing mad?
Women get called “hysterical”, “mental”, “crazy” just for expressing an opinion; told to “calm down” when we’re frustrated. Called a “b***h” for getting angry. Conversely, for men, getting angry is essential to achieving any sort of power in this world. And they don’t say sorry for it.
I’m not a “feminist”. I don’t believe it’s the fault of men that women behave like this. I don’t know what the answer is. All I know is, from now on, I’m going to try to stop saying sorry so often. And I’m definitely not going to apologise for getting angry.
Because anger changes things. Anger makes difference, if it’s challenged properly. Saying “sorry” doesn’t.
And now, back to edits. Because I am lucky to have this writing life I have. But I also work hard for it.