I am a 42 year old woman. I don’t spend my days thinking that the patriarchy is out to get me. I studied feminism at university but I was born in 1976 and I am a bit divorced from the notion of a Slut Walk and still feeling trauma 25 years after a random stranger brushed against my boob on the tube. I accept disrobing for photographs and in public can be liberating and empowering, I don’t have a problem with that. I just don’t buy into all the ways people believe that a feminist should live today.
It is because of that, I laugh inwardly every day I get the train to work in London. There is no chauvinism more evident than on a London commuter train. I have had full blown arguments on the train because I put my bag on the floor in between my thighs, taking up no extra space, trying to make myself as small and innocuous as possible. I remember one man started an argument with me saying I had allowed him less room (for man spreading). I loudly asked him why he required access to my vagina. He had no response. I listened to Marilyn Manson loudly in my headphones all the way to London after that while he glowered at me across his iPad. Just because I could.
It happens every single day. It is acceptable for men to spread out in comfort and I have to endure their feet in between my legs, their thighs and arms pressed hard against my body, and I have to sit there scrunched up, trying to make myself as small and insignificant as possible. They will loudly call me out in public if I complain to make sure I remember my place and show everyone what a neurotic woman I am. It is never accidental, and they are fully aware of what they are doing. I make sure of that. It is an arrogant sense of entitlement borne out of an innate belief that they are better than me.
I feel the anger rising in my throat like bile and I know it isn’t the hastily gulped strong black coffee before 7 am on a Monday morning doing it to me.
It’s the knowledge that I am treated this way because I am female.
That is when I realise I may not partake in a Slut Walk and while I did #MeToo I have my own reservations about some of the people shouting the loudest within that movement, but that doesn’t matter. The reality is I am aware of the fact that we still live in a society that vocally accepts women as equal, while doing its best to silently undermine them. The women it accepts all look a certain way but if you are a certain age and have had no work done, you can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be heard.
I may be a bad feminist, but that does not mean that I am not watching.