I stopped describing myself as a feminist a long time ago.
I was a teenager, I reckon, or at the very most early twenties. This was, what, 1994? I looked around at the world and I said to myself "Yep, I'm not gonna call myself a feminist anymore. What I'm going to do instead is treat people how they should be treated. Treat everyone equally. I'm going to live as though equality has been achieved, because hey, that's what gonna happen. It's inevitable. In fact, it's almost here. We have six years left until the twenty-first century, for God's sake. Equality is a stone's throw away."
And that's what I thought.
We had come so far as a culture, as a world, and I could only see this continuing. I could only see gender equality in our future. I could only see a world where racism and homophobia had staggered off into the corner to die a quick, indifferent death. I could only see a world increasingly populated by young people with young ideas, with young attitudes. No more bigotry. No more extremism. The future was open and free, and it was a beautiful place to live.
In many ways, I was hopelessly naive. In other ways, I wasn't. I was practical. I was logical. This was the future.
But then the future changed.
I don't understand the world anymore. I don't understand why it is the way it is. So many countries and continents seem intent on going backwards. Anti-gay laws abound in Africa. America's red states are spreading, blissfully ignoring the achievements of one of their most successful presidents. Extremism is rampant throughout the world. People are scared. Nationalism is rising. Conservatism is taking over. Our politicians are actively lying to us and our police forces, who are meant to protect us, the people, have become an army of corporate thugs.
And gender equality? What the hell has happened there?
It's as if the tide has gone back out, and it's washed away all the promise and potential that I thought we had achieved. I think we had achieved it, mostly, but the problem was that it hadn't been secured, it hadn't been nailed down, and it didn't take much for that tide to take it all away from us.
There are words I never wanted to use in this blog. Chief amongst them is rape. So I do apologise to my younger readers here, I sincerely do. But rape culture is spreading. A girl goes out to a nightclub and she is practically guaranteed to be leered at and groped. This behaviour is seen as normal. It's seen as unexceptional. This is something girls steel themselves for because they know it's coming and there's nothing they can do about it.
It's everywhere. It's accepted. A football player imprisoned for rape is allowed to train back at his old club upon his release. He's allowed once again to take his place alongside a team of men that tens of thousands of young lads look up to. What does this say to those young lads who have yet to form their own opinions on what is and what is not acceptable when it comes to girls?
A so-called comedian bases his entire persona around rape culture. A "pick-up guru" tours the world teaching men how to score with women by overpowering them. GamerGate happens. Twitter abuse happens. #NotEveryMan happens. Understanding is shunted off to one side. Sensitivity and empathy are ejected in favour of instant offence and vitriolic reaction. But if they'd listen, if these offended men would just listen, they could maybe understand why women feel threatened. And next time they go to step into an elevator that just has one lone woman inside it, maybe they'll think again, and wait for the next one. Because is a little inconvenience really worth the risk of making another human being worry when you're alone together? Is your pride worth that?
When I was younger, I assumed the world would continue to improve. I was wrong. I assumed I could act as if everything was okay, because everything would eventually be okay. I was wrong there, too.
So, I am once again describing myself as a feminist. It's only a big deal to me, but then it only has to be a big deal to me. It's a personal acknowledgement that if I want to change the world, I have to fight for it.