It’s been an interesting and long week in politics, and I almost can’t be arsed to write this article because I’m sick of talking about it, of hearing Donald Trump’s name one more time, of hearing anything political at all because it’s all gone to shit. But I’ll write it anyway, hold tight.
Last week, on 21st January, I attended the Women’s March in London. Photographs from the event were shared on newspapers globally, the signs people created were hilarious, moving, scary and highly emotional. Every day since there has been a backlash of criticism from both men and women; unexpected repercussions, anger, hateful and bitter responses to peaceful protests by over 3.2 million women worldwide, a phenomenal feat in itself.
Of course, this week also marked Donald Trump’s first week in office as the 45th US president, and every day he has done something more hideous than the day before it. For republican voters, at least, he appears to be keeping his word about his main controversial policies throughout his US presidency campaign. The first construction building of a wall between the Mexican border and the US will begin in a few months. The US government has stopped funding for organisation’s that offer abortions, making it more difficult for women to access them, particularly in third world countries. And, of course, Trump is expected to activate a temporary blocking of tourists, refugees and asylum seekers to enter to the US from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, which is ironically the middle Eastern countries that the US has recently bombed. Causing havoc, starting fires and shutting the door behind them.
What have we gathered from this?
Donald Trump is exactly who he said he was. One week of Trump as president down, 207 to go.
The dangers of white feminism
Already one month into the new year, my beliefs have been continually questioned and scoffed at by both men and by women for a number of different reasons. I am a white feminist, and that itself is a problematic statement. I have never suffered greatly. I am privileged with being born with white skin in the UK, I am privileged that I have received a good education and that I attended a good university. I am preivileged that I have access to free healthcare (for now, the protection of our NHS is for another debate, and I’m not the right person to write it!). I am privileged that, as a woman, I am able to represent my country at the Olympic Games (if I had the abilities to do so), I am privileged to never have been mentally or physically abused or raped, and I am privileged to have a platform where my voice can be listened to, if I scream loud enough. I could go on.
I am privileged, in more ways than I am not. I am privileged more than black women, brown women, Muslim women and women from other religious minorities. I am privileged more than disabled women, women with mental health issues, trans women, gay and queer women and other members in the LGBTQ+ community. These people are my sisters, and yet I am more privileged than them. And that can be a hard fact to accept – but we must accept it. We must accept that way more white women in America than any other female minority group voted for President Trump. I must accept that, even now, white women are celebrated for noting basic observations that black and brown women have already made about events such as the women’s march. We milk the benefits of being white, physically and metaphorically. I once read by a black woman that the first thing we can do to rectify this as a white feminist is to accept that this is true. White privilege is real, and we need to consciously remember it.
Feminism isn’t anything if it is not a discussion, from one community to another. It is a process of understanding. It is a journey of listening and reflecting. It is not about a group of white women woohoo’ing their pussy in “anti-trump” spite and trying to pull him out of office, damaging democracy irreparably, as I heard many people argue that’s what the women’s marches were. And in some cases they weren’t wrong.
But, me? I marched with a unity of diverse women AND men standing up for other women whose voices cannot be heard, when their rights as well as my own are being belittled and demeaned. If you haven’t read the spine tingling article by Dina Leygerman titled “You are not equal. I’m Sorry” written in response to an American woman stating she did not feel like a second-class citizen in America by being a woman, I suggest you read it now here, because this is the sort of thing I am getting at.
Most of all, though, this week has shown me that we still have such a long way to go – even as accepting and open millennials. And I’m going to give you an example which happened to me this week.
Firstly, I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and on a number of occasions I have been verbally abused because of that identity. At times I have been made to feel that I cannot be myself in public because of that identity, that I cannot sit in the church I grew up going to without blood on my hands – something that I am still overcoming now. And I was recently in a discussion with my lovely close friends (both of whom are women with boyfriends) where I was told that they did not consider kissing a woman as cheating, even though they were in a relationship.
Now, I am aware that every relationship is different – everyone has their own boundaries of what “cheating” is, which you and your partner should discuss and come to an agreement on. You may be in an open relationship, or you may have agreed that kissing someone whilst drunk doesn’t count as cheating. In these cases, there is nothing wrong because that is the nature of your relationship. That is your decision, and I respect it.
However, what severely offended and hurt me was that their version of “cheating” changed depending on the gender of the person they kissed. “It didn’t matter if I kissed a woman, it doesn’t mean anything”, they said, with absolute certainty that they were right. They exchanged looks like they got each other, and I was the one that didn’t understand them. They repeated it, even though I argued that the physical action of kissing was still the same whether you kissed a man or whether you kissed a woman. Because this act of kissing should be treated in the exact same severity as definitely cheating, or absolutely not cheating, as determined by what you and your partner have defined as “cheating”.
You with me?
Women kissing women should not be given special treatment. This should not be okay in your boyfriend’s eyes when he thinks kissing another man is not. He should not be so furious that you kissed another man that he doesn’t talk to you for a week, and yet when you kiss another woman he doesn’t give a shit. He texts you ‘all good babe x’ and the case is closed. He will probably let you do it again or, even worse, he might ask if the woman you kissed wouldn’t mind joining in next time.
And these double standards are damaging.
The reason your boyfriend doesn’t give a toss is because he literally is giving a toss over your girl-on-girl action. He is reducing the intimate and loving act of a woman kissing another woman as to being nothing but hot. It’s sexy. It’s so fucking nice to watch, and you can keep doing it again, and again, and again because it’s giving him an erection and you want to satisfy him – so whatever, it’s cool.
Well, it’s not cool. This ‘girl-on-girl’ action, drunk or sober, is someone else’s reality. Mine.
I can’t blame my two female friends. This is the heteronormative society we have grown up in. Being straight is normal in the mindset we subconsciously exist in. It’s an automatic roll of the eyes, “ugh, obviously”. It’s where you’re presumed straight until you finally work up the courage to come out the closet and in the celebrity world that announcement becomes breaking news – above the NHS crisis on patients dying through lack of care and lack of funds, or even above the rise of homelessness in our streets. It’s where the LGBTQ+ community around the world are still fighting for the right to marry, adopt children, share the same taxes, or even narrowly escape the death penalty because of who they are. It’s where identifying as anything other than straight is either okay because it gives some stranger sexual pleasure or it’s insulted because it’s just plain wrong. Not the gospel, not right. In the LGBTQ+ community we are either sensual or disgusting, and there is no in-between.
I am so sick of this attitude and having to explain myself, of being boxed in a different category of “other” in society. Of having to validate my two and half year relationship with my girlfriend, which has been demeaned and oppressed because of what society thinks is hot. Of our love somehow being construed differently because of who we are, not as strong – not quite as right – just a phase – or maybe just damn greedy – issues that we would not face if we were in a heterosexual relationship. I am so sick of it.
If you kiss a man and you have a boyfriend, that should be considered in the same weight as if you kissed a woman. Period. They should have the same affect. One should not be okay, when the other is not, one should not be Porn Hub material and the other a break-up ultimatum. Treat all relationships the fucking same, raise girls and boys the same, and check your straight, white fucking privilege. Please.
These are issues that I marched to protect on 21st January, and I will continue to march for, passionately and unapologetically myself.
For the record, my two friends are kind. They are good people, they are funny and I love them. This is merely an article to address an issue which I feel is continually ignored in the hope that we can change it. Above all, I strongly believe that progress in our society is only made through discomfort – our realisation that we, you, I or everyone fucked up. Ali Tharrington’s wise words “discomfort means you’re human and you’re on the move” summarises this perfectly. Therefore, I will not stay silent about this everyday discrimination any longer.
Please spread the word by sharing this article.
Ta, Sophie x