Friday, 2 September 2011

Standing on a chair, shouting

You know what's awesome? Feminism, that's what.

I've self-identified as a feminist since I was about two, according to my parents. I didn't know the word, but I was perfectly convinced that boys and girls were equal and that was the end of it. It's been the same ever since, really. I have always found myself getting wound up at injustice in the world, and inequality.

That might not be immediately obvious from this blog. Although I'm aiming to make something of a political point in regards of the somewhat mundane reality of being a graduate (you will probably work! it will be mostly uninspiring!) my personal politics haven't really come through too much.

However, here is a relevant point I realised in the office today – I have become significantly more interested in feminism since I graduated, rather than becoming heavily politicised in university itself.

This is, I suspect, not the usual position, and I'm hardly claiming that St Andrews is a den of feminist outrage. It's a famously apathetic university in terms of politics; a recent protest involved someone throwing a key lime pie at a Conservative politician. It's hardly the singing of the Red Flag. However, I work in a male dominated workplace in a male dominated industry and if one more person tells me to make the tea, calls me 'sweetheart' or asks me to go and get a man to check my figures I will explode. In fact, I have exploded. Several times.

However, although I knew the implicit wrongness in everything I've just described there, I couldn't articulate it. As such, I've been quietly self-educating myself on theories of feminism, and working out what I agree with, and what I don't. I went to the library and scared the living daylights of the librarian there. And most recently I read Caitlin Moran's book How To Be A Woman where she advises readers to stand on a chair and declare “I AM A FEMINIST!”

I am not standing on a chair. I am standing on the internet and declaring it instead. That's nearly as good, right?

I'm still trying to educate myself on this, so I don't think now is the time for the super-intelligent analysis. I'm also painfully aware that as a middle-class white graduate type, I'm still doing fairly well in terms of privilege. However, the idea that the graduate world is full of bright and lovely people who are 100% up to equality is completely and utterly wrong, because the world is full of people with meaning and unmeaning biases and we all have to fight against them on a daily basis. It's important to highlight that sometimes.

So the next time someone tells me to 'make a cup of tea, love, I'm parched' in a workplace context, I will put down what is no doubt the quite important work I'm actually doing and make a cup of tea compliantly, but I will think of some feminist outrage and I may even mention it here. All names changed, of course.


  1. I am in a female-dominated workplace. It's in the education sector, so maybe that's a bias there. I was sewing buttons on today (about twenty, onto about twelve different garments). I was at an exhibition in Glasgow the other day, on women's suffrage, and it made me realise that I knew the basics, but not any of the details -and I wanted to know more. I did not know that Lumsden wing was named for Louisa Lumsden, or that she was the person who established St Leonards School. I feel slightly stupid for being in St Andrews for four years and not realising any of this!

    Your writing is really good btw - I've enjoyed all your posts so far.

  2. I didn't know any of that either! It's really only been recently that I've made the effort to educate myself on these issues, which is a bit embarrassing as I thought I was fairly up on these matters.

    I'm glad you're enjoying the posts! I'm really pleased that people are reading them :-)

  3. You're going to work in the 1950s? Glad to hear the Doctor finally responded to your fan mail.

    I bet that guy will get deep vein thrombosis from sitting in his chair one day and will rue the times he didn't get up to make the tea himself.

  4. How weird, I did the exact same thing... Always identified as feminist but didn't have a lot of backup till I started reading up over the past couple of years! Are you aware that since we left the saint there is now a feminist society? Seems like it was a long time coming for such an institution.

    I loved Caitlin Moran's book very much too and I would recommend Bossypants by Tina Fey if you've not come across it. As you might expect it's mainly to do with being a middle class white liberal woman trying to make it as a comedy writer in a male-dominated workplace but it's not angry or preachy, it's just very funny and sarcastic.