Grand gestures, Taylor Swift, and feminism: making sense of my contradictions

It wasn’t until yesterday that, thanks to the Feminist Taylor Swift Twitter accountI considered my personality could actually be full of contradictions. The outrage! The horror! In all seriousness, the gender equality conversation has been at the forefront of Australian public discussion in the past week, primarily because of Howard Sattler and his demonstrated inability to use that organ* he claims he has. But it was this article, sprinkled with the outrage that a professional footballer with not one or two but FOUR fucking counts of rape against his name would be encouraged to play this weekend by his captain, that has pushed me over the proverbial cliff and prompted this slightly highly ranty piece. What is my point? I guess we’ll find out.

More often than not, I’m too scared to speak about gender equality publicly. Sure I can rave on while my friends smile politely, but I often don’t feel that I’m well-informed enough about the topic to have a credible view. I read discussions online and think ‘hey, that’s how I feel!’ but falter when the time comes to put myself out there. The biggest source of this fear, I think, is that I’m afraid I will look like a contradictory hypocrite. Hardcore feminist wisdom suggests that I should Stick It To The Man and not wear make-up, or listen to bubblegum pop songs about falling in love, or watch movies where beautiful people get together and live happily ever after. I should be fighting for my gender and not supporting the things that are allegedly holding us back. When I open myself up for analysis, my flaws are exposed. Today I have had enough.

I like Taylor Swift songs because they make me happy. I sing them when I’m driving and when I’m in my bedroom and I don’t care who hears me. I don’t take the lyrics ‘you pull my chair out and help me in / you don’t know how nice that is’ as suggesting that women are fragile and delicate and need help sitting. It’s an old-fashioned gesture, like holding a door open, that is timeless and quaint and, to me, demonstrates compassion and tenderness and a touch of respect. I like romantic comedies because I am a goddamn romantic person. I don’t need a man to give me meaning in life, but as an intrinsically soppy and sweet person, I like relationships. I would like to add that I am working in the industry of my dreams and have a circle of loving and supportive friends–a romantic relationship doesn’t control my life, nor does my life crumble without one. I crave grand gestures, not because my sense of self-worth requires the validation of others to function, but because I’m a sap who simply adores grand gestures as a confident and touching expression of emotion. If there is music playing in the background of a grand gesture, that’s even better. I want to be swept off my feet, not because I need a man to make me happy, but because I’m a kind, loving, and good person, and I absolutely deserve it. I don’t want your apathy or indifference. That tells me you don’t respect me enough to make an effort. I am worth the effort.

I eat well, dress well, and go to the gym 5 days a week–not because society tells me that I need to look desirable and skinny, but because I value my body and want to treat it with the respect that it deserves. I keep fit, not to maintain a socially acceptable clothing size, but because all EIGHT of my grandparents and great-grandparents have died of heart disease, from the age of 52 to 88. If I don’t behave intelligently, I may only have 30 years left to live. I intend to live far longer than that. My father, at the age of 60, had a heart attack and needed a quadruple bypass to survive. My mother and her siblings have blood pressure issues and are medicated to keep this under control. I have more information than I know what to do with about being healthy and I would be an utter fool not to take care of myself. I don’t want to die. I don’t give a shit if I am a size 8 or a size 18–if my organs are functioning correctly and I am healthy, I will be happy.

My body tells my story–and it doesn’t define me. I. Define. It. I have the Acne Chapter that both reveals my past inability to control my oily skin and my current inability control my sweet-tooth. I have the Scar Chapter that reveals my occasional inability to function properly around sharp objects (not because I’m a clumsy little girl *giggle* but because my eyesight is below-average and my hand-eye coordination isn’t awesome) and my particular proclivity for growing skin cancers. I have a Freckly Nose that is impossible to cover up in summer, my feet Stink, and I will never have a Box Gap. If men don’t find me desirable or attractive, it’s their loss. If you try to tell me that going to the gym is ruining feminism because I am shaping myself in society’s image, it will require all of my strength not to punch you in the face. I am not ruining feminism. But you might be.

In a small piece I wrote for my friend’s blog, I suggested that there should be nothing remarkable about a woman running a company, or a state, or a country. If a woman was the best candidate for the role, we should celebrate the success of her triumph and avoid passing comment on how fantastic it is that a woman was chosen as ‘the best’. A woman being appointed to a position of power will always be big news, but gender cannot remain a factor if we want to leave inequality behind. If we place importance on gender, we are encouraging the opinion that woman are less valuable than their male counterparts and are also less likely to secure powerful positions.  I am aware of the worth and value of women to a society, and I’m quite certain that most women who are allegedly ruining feminism are also aware, but I’m not convinced others are. We have grown up free of the gender shackles that previous generations of women have worn. We have been bombarded with girl power and self-belief and a healthy ‘girls can do anything’ attitude. Some will do anything, some won’t. Shit Happens. But don’t you dare collectively generalise millions of young women as ruining feminism. We may dress differently and talk differently to you, but we still have the same goals.

I wanted to end this with my thoughts on Stephen Milne and his rape charges, but it seems that the Saint Kilda Football Club and the AFL have done the Right Thing and have stood him down indefinitely. I’m an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ kinda gal, but a person under suspicion should not be allowed to represent a national sport on a national scale. All that says to the girl involved is that the organisation doesn’t give a shit about her accusations. But. Common sense and decency have prevailed.



*brain. Duh.

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