7 Anti-Feminist 'Things' We're Leaving Behind This 2021 IWM

7 Anti-Feminist 'Things' We're Leaving Behind This 2021 IWM

Hello pussycats! It’s Karen Hobbs here, FLO’s newest blog babe, writing you a new letter every newsletter! If exclamation marks and chatty, informative, opinionated views, and MAYBE even a giggle or two are your thing, then I’m your 5ft10 girl. I want the vibe of the new FLO blogs to be like having a gin with your pal, but I realise that when people say, ‘oh I just want it to have a really relaxed fun vibe’, they’re normally the person you involuntarily groan at. Hopefully, you won’t think that about me, but if you do, I can’t see your faces, so groan away! And if you interpret that previous sentence as me encouraging you to go and have a wank, even better. 


In between attempting to complete the above intro paragraph, I have managed to take 29 photos of my cat, Arthur Miller, try and work out which of The Ordinary’s vitamin C products I should use, eat half a bag of salt and vinegar chipsticks with sour cream and chive dip (if you know you know) and apply a very unflattering shade of purple lipstick. I definitely have that ‘43 literal and metaphorical tabs open at all times’ thing going on.  


We’re in the midst of the annual ‘International Women’s Month’ frenzy, so I wanted to share with you the first FLO blog: The 7 Anti-Feminist ‘Things’ We’re Leaving Behind this 2021 International Women’s Month. I’m thinking of them as 7 very anti-feminist ‘trends’ or ‘sins’, and am DESPERATE for the term ‘FeminiSINs’ to catch on...

 Period Stigma

I don’t know about you, but I got quite the shock when I started my period and saw that the trousers (both silky and stretchy, thank you very much) I had worn to tap class (don’t ask) were covered in a rusty red mess rather than the little droplets of ocean blue I’d seen delicately pipetted onto a sanitary pad in any and all ‘period advertisements’. Ugh. I hate that I’ve just typed ‘sanitary pad’, which are of course found in the feminine hygiene aisle aren’t they? I remember seeing a brand using the phrase ‘just showered feeling’ in a promo - I don’t WANT that just showered feeling. For me, that just showered feeling means being weirdly sweaty from the hot water, scared I’m going to slip upon exiting the bath and hacked off I forgot to pluck that triple-pronged nipple hair. And don’t even get me started on SCENTED products. Are. You. Effing. Kidding. Me!?!? Your vagina won’t smell like roses unless you’re putting rose scented, harmful crap up there, which is a) wasting your hard-earned money but more importantly b) disrupting the vaginal pH balance, often causing an infection at the VERY LEAST.


From olde-worlde (never typed that before in my life by the way) theories denouncing periods as poisonous, to the modern-day-shoving-a-tampon-up-our-cardigan-sleeve-as-we-scurry-past-male-colleagues, periods have been and still are a source of shame and surrounded by stigma. If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re comfortable with period chat, but a huge chunk of society still has a lot of catching up to do. My social media bubble is pretty period positive, yet the most followers I’ve ever lost on Instagram was after a period-related post. Apparently 52 people didn’t want to see a brimming menstrual cup at 8am on a Saturday morning. Who knew.


Normalising menstruation and conversations around it really can’t come soon enough. The more comfortable we are talking about and understanding periods, the sooner we can seek help if we think that something isn’t right. 

 Body Shaming

Noun “the action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size.”


Raise your hand if you’ve ever been congratulated for losing weight? Complimented for looking thinner? Thought so. We absolutely live in a fat-phobic society, with a horrific habit of praising our friends when we notice they have dropped a few pounds, but remaining silent when they turn up to the pub a little fatter since our previous catch-up. Why do we do this? Because we’re taught that fat = bad, aren’t we? Something’s gone wrong in your life if you’ve put on weight and something’s going well if you’ve lost it. Unless we think someone has lost ‘too much’ weight, then of course we can be as nasty to them as we are to fat people.


Growing up, I was surrounded by glossy mags (I now call them ‘nasty rags’) dissecting every female celebrity whenever she stepped foot on the beach or dared to wear something that showed a flash of thigh. I was honestly disgusted with myself when my clothing went into double figures. A size 10. I was embarrassed to be a size 10. I would lie for years and say I was a size 8, and do you know what? I am a size 8. On my feet. Bodies can be thin and unhealthy or fat and healthy and vice versa. Some people are thin, some people are fat and some of us are in the middle. Do you know what it took for me to be ok with my bigger body? Getting cancer. I kid you not. It took almost losing my body to be able to celebrate and appreciate it. More on the cancer stuff another time. 
I started my 20s at 9.5st and finished them at 14st. Life happens and bodies change. Look after yours and unless asked, don’t offer opinions on someone else’s.  

Transphobia 

As a cisgender woman, I can by no means even remotely imagine the impact transphobia has on the trans community. But, what I (and all of us who are lucky enough to identify as the sex we were assigned at birth) can do is be an ally to the trans community. I want to clarify what I mean by ‘lucky enough’, as I would hate for anyone who isn’t cisgender to read this and think I mean ‘lucky’ in terms of ‘better’ - absolutely not.  I’ve also gotten into trouble on Twitter with hideous transphobes when I’ve said something similar. They retorted with comments along the lines of ‘I am a woman, I was born a woman and I’ve still had a really hard life.’ Yes. Fine. I’m not saying that your life hasn’t been a struggle, but someone who is trans, non-binary or intersex is going to face different and additional hurdles because of their gender identity and expression. 


This was so clearly proven last year, when the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released a survey showing that trans people are twice as likely to be victims of a crime than those who are cisgender. Not a few percent more. DOUBLE. Do the world a favour and be someone who makes the world safer, not scarier for our trans siblings.  


When it comes to periods, because, well, #hereweflo, let’s include everyone in the menstruation conversation. By including trans men, and people who are non-binary and intersex, we are not taking anything away from cis women. It’s about INcluding everyone and not excluding anyone. It’s not up to any of us to tell another human how to identify or who they are. If someone doesn’t fit your idea of what someone who has periods looks like, then that’s on you, not them. 
P.S. If I have made a mistake with any of my terminology or phrasing in this section, I sincerely apologise, and please do let me know so I can do better next time. 

Ableism

A snapshot of two different types of ableism:  
Ableism, like with any form of discrimination, has a spectrum of damaging actions and behaviours. And they don’t just relate to physical disabilities. I hold my hands up (I actually did just hold my hands up. Wtf Karen, no one can see you) and admit I have used phrases like ‘mum went mental at me’ or ‘he’s gone crazy’. Phrases like that are so ingrained in our everyday vocabulary, and just because they don’t necessarily feel offensive to say, it doesn’t mean that they’re acceptable. This language is belittling the experiences of those who are living with mental health problems. How many times have you heard someone say ‘oh I’m a bit OCD’, just because they hoover the stairs once a year? Slight exaggeration but you catch my drift. Let me tell you, one of my favourite people in the whole world has severe OCD and it isn’t a remotely light-hearted, laughable matter. It’s not always - or often - about keeping things really clean, it’s about intrusive thoughts, exhausting habits and rituals, and constantly bargaining with yourself.  

Gynaecological health is #kindamything, (which I’ll talk about more as time goes on and I continue to whip up beautiful blogs for you beautiful people), so I often will come at things from that gynae perspective/vagina angle, oh my god, VAGANGLE. What a gorgeous word. Keeping that for sure. When it comes to healthcare, I’m very much in the ‘prevention is better than cure’ camp, and am incredibly interested in the cervical screening programme, which as you know (or might not know) is designed to help prevent cervical cancer.  Right, now I’ll get to my point! In 2019, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust published a study that showed 63% of women with a physical disability were unable to attend their cervical screening appointment because of their disability. GP practices are required to accommodate their patients who have a disability, yet 37% of respondents said their surgery isn’t accessible. People who use a wheelchair will often need a hoist or adjustable examination bench, and that’s if they make it that far - surgery corridors are often so narrow that someone using a wheelchair will turn up for their cervical screening and then quite literally not be able to get to their appointment. This is a potentially life-saving test, yet by not proactively ensuring that everyone with a cervix can attend their cervical screening appointment, we are denying people the chance to take charge over their health. Making GP surgeries accessible needs to be obligatory, not optional. 

White Washing

This is the section that I’m the most nervous about writing and potentially getting ‘wrong’. I’m very aware of my own white privilege as a, well you guessed it, white woman. I am a white Karen, but I promise I’m nice. Oh dear. There goes the white person making it all about themselves again - I walked right into that one, didn’t I. 
Here are some examples of white-washing, but this is of course barely scratching the surface:
  • Brands/platforms that wax lyrical about being inclusive and for ‘everyone’, yet you can scroll and scroll and scroll through their Instagram and rarely see a face or body that isn’t white.
  • Using the term BAME. It can often be offensive as it lumps everyone who isn’t white into one box. To say BAME can often suggest the idea of ‘the other’ and drowns out the nuance of different ethnicities’ lived experiences.
  • Social media algorithms actively favouring white bodies and actively censoring similar content from Black influencers. Just look up #IWantToSeeNyome for the perfect example of this. 
  • ‘Flesh’ and ‘nude’ shades of underwear, plasters and make-up automatically meaning a peachy sort of colour. Everyday items with a hugely racial bias. 
  •  The Angry Black Woman stereotype. If a Black woman speaks out and stands up for herself, she is aggressive. If her white counterpart does the exact same, she is brave and strong. We see it time and time again. Serena, I adore you. 
  • The Meghan vs Kate racial bias. Same subject, e.g. baby bump, VERY different headline. Have a Google if you don’t know what I’m talking about. The argument that race isn’t ‘the issue’ would be hilarious if not so poisonous.   

Representation matters. It matters so, so much yet our society is rife with white-washing. I remember my friend Della, who is an actual ray of sunshine, saying that she didn’t see cancer as a ‘black person’s disease’, because cancer-related media and awareness campaigns were ‘all white’. So, when diagnosed with breast cancer, thought how could this be happening to a Nigerian woman? What if someone thought something might be wrong, but delayed seeking medical help because they didn’t think the potential illness could happen to them? It might sound dramatic, but I don’t care. White-washing and lack of representation is harmful and simply don’t reflect reality. 


Being ‘not racist’ isn’t enough. We need to be actively anti-racist, because white supremacy, however dangerous or diluted, causes nothing but damage. 
Also, do the work yourself. Unless a very close friend (and even then, don’t assume), or someone who proactively offers to help, do NOT ask your Black friends, colleagues or acquaintances to educate you about racism. It can be insulting, triggering and tiring so for goodness sake make the effort to read, research and learn for yourself. It’s the least we can do.  

 Ageism 

“Normalize finding love in your 40s, discovering and chasing new dreams in your 30s, finding yourself and your purpose in your 50s. Life doesn't end at 25, let's stop pretending that it does"


Who’s seen that quote doing the rounds? We spend such a huge chunk of our lives feeling the pressure of staying young that we often forget about the privilege of getting older. When I was 19, the thought of being in my 30s was sickening. Surely I HAD to have everything sorted by then, right? But then so much happened in my 20s that I’m sitting here about to turn 31, and am just grateful that I can type that sentence.

Our lives don’t become less vibrant as they go on, yet that’s how they are so often depicted. I really do reckon it’s because of the painfully archaic notion that a woman’s sole purpose is to be a mother. Therefore, as we get older and our fertility decreases, so does our worth. I’m writing this section whilst Kate Bush’s ‘This Woman’s Work’ plays through Alexa. Am I crying? Yes of course I bloody am. 


Fertility ≠ visibility.  

Slut Shaming 

If we have sex, we’re sluts. If we don’t have sex, we’re frigid. Our sexual activity is judged and dissected through a lens that simply doesn’t exist for men. When a woman is raped, I can’t count how many times I’ve seen the media focus on what she was wearing and whether or not she’d been drinking, rather than the man who committed the crime. Doesn’t that sound so utterly bizarre when you say it out loud? If someone’s house is burgled, the burglar is to blame. Yet it seems when a woman’s body is the thing being robbed, she’s the one in the wrong.


On the more ‘harmless’ (and by harmless I mean less illegal) end of the scale, there are things we do that we might not realise are still slut-shaming: 

  • Describing ourselves as ‘like a man’, just because we are feeling horny or have a high sex drive.
  • Being (even a bit) surprised when your female friend says she masturbates, but thinking guys talking or joking about wanking is totally normal.
  • Wondering ‘why’ someone is wearing clothes that show a lot of cleavage/thigh etc.
  • Thinking that if you (consensually) receive a naked/sexy photo of someone, that photo is then yours to show others.
Enjoying sex, whether solo or with a partner(s) is an incredible feeling, and not something we should ever feel the need to apologise for. Unless we actually ask for it, we are NEVER ‘asking for it’. Let’s leave it there for now.     

Lots of love,

Karen xxx

@karen_hobbs