The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

The things it costs.

My own personal brand of feminism is born of a very great desire to be left alone to do my thing, to be allowed the same rights and responsibilities every adult deserves. It extends to giving those same rights and responsibilities to everyone else, and then staying out of their damn lives.

You don’t want me to marry another woman? Don’t come to my wedding. You don’t want me to have the right to birth control? How about you get your hands off my uterus? You don’t think I should spend all my hard-earned money on cupcakes and cigarettes and wine and shoes? Fuck off, it’s my bank balance, and I don’t answer to you.

I suppose what I am saying is that my feminism is guided by my own personal ethics. Those of compassion and friendship and honesty. I’ve let myself down a bit on some of those fronts lately, but that’s a different post for a very different website.

So let’s talk about that last one. Specifically, about honesty, and this post.

The thing with writing is that it lets you be much, much more honest than you might otherwise be. Putting it on paper (or screen) disconnects the thoughts from you that speaking them doesn’t. Or, I should say, does for me. I do my best thinking on paper (and in the shower). Sometimes, like now, I have no direction, no point, just aimless wandering through the channels in my head, trying to eek out some wisdom. I’m not as fluent when I speak, because I am self-editing. (Which will come as a shock to anyone who has ever spoken to me.) Sometimes, I’m just writing to make my brain move around, to work out how I feel about an issue. Sometimes, something annoys me so much that I just sit down and let the words come, and think about them later.

And come they did, when I wrote that post. Basically, I sat down at the keyboard, and that post came out, pretty much fully formed. I moved a sentence here or there, gave it a little more structure, fixed the spelling mistakes. But how that post went up is basically how it came out of my head, in less than 10 minutes. And then I sat and looked at it. For the better part of an hour. Because I was pretty sure I shouldn’t post it.

I was right, it turns out, but I’m also quite stupid. I shouldn’t have posted it. But my general rule with that stuff is that if I am scared to, I probably should. Because:

It’s worth it if others find it helpful or meaningful. Yes, there is an element of exhaustion, of self-sacrifice, in this kind of writing, because without the most stringent honesty it is absolutely meaningless.

If living as a feminist is the challenge, then I have failed in these past two weeks. Because I have nearly deleted that post dozens of times. And then realised that it has been seen by a couple of thousand people already, so there’s no point. When you live behind a carefully crafted artifice, it’s probably a good idea not to reveal your darkest thoughts in one fell swoop. In a forum that almost everyone you know will see. It’s probably not great to write about feigning confidence, and then attempt to do exactly that, while feeling that everyone sees through you.

I have, at times in these past two weeks, been angry – at the people who sent me hatemail, telling me that if I didn’t want to be fat, I should put down the chocolate, and do some exercise, you stupid cow. I was also amused by them, because, well, thanks for illustrating my point. Angry at myself for not realising how much posting it would hurt. Surprised at just how much traffic it got, (and continues to get) and from what corners. Surprised at how many people it touched or helped. I’ve wondered if I have actually undermined not just my own defences, but the movement itself – if by admitting my weakness, I’ve inadvertently made the point that all fat people, all women maybe, are weak.

Because, herein lies the problem. These confessional posts, wherein we reveal ourselves, seem so hard to write. And we’re lauded for being so strong, so brave. It doesn’t feel brave. It feels like an open wound. And the comments and tweets are a kind of salve, but sometimes, that gets too much. And the hatemail, and comments telling me my GP is unqualified to assess my health – salt.

Ultimately, I know that that post helped people, and I am glad of that. I’m happy that it struck a nerve, that people liked it. I’ll admit to the vanity of watching the tweets and the hits mount up. As people in my “real life” facebook feed linked to it. I expect, eventually, the aforementioned confidence will come back, and I won’t feel like I’m living in a world where everyone knows all the bad things about me, and they know them because I was stupid enough to tell them.  I just wished we lived in a world where I didn’t have to bare my soul to make a point. Where I was afforded compassion, and basic dignity, because I deserve it as a person, not because I begged for it. That talking about my experience as a woman was just a matter of fact, and not one of confession.

4 responses to “The things it costs.

  1. Deborah February 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Please please please don’t delete that earlier post, because it really is a brilliant post.

    Reading this post, and re-reading Emma’s earlier post that you linked to, and the Guardian piece, reminded me just how much feminism has become personal for me. I’ve noticed that there are plenty of women who come to feminism because of particular experiences, like the utter jolt of becoming a parent. Not that that’s the only way of becoming feminist. But somehow the lived experience makes a difference. The lived experience of becoming a mother changed my feminism, from being an intellectual thought out position, to being one that is so much informed by my experience. And that’s so much more challenging.

  2. ludditejourno February 21, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Tallulah I second Deborah’s comment, that post was extraordinary. And yes, brave, and yes, it clearly touched people. Confessional posts, in my experience, can be excruciating to re-read – did I really tell everyone that? And now everyone knows? But for me at least they have also got easier to write over time. It’s not even that I’m ashamed of things I’ve written about – ashamed of this history, or that grief, or this anger. But it’s that when I’ve been honest about particular experiences, sometimes they’ve made ongoing living with them different from that point onwards.
    I don’t know if that will happen for you with that post – at the moment it sounds like you’re full of pain about it, and I’m so sorry about that – but please do know that radical writing tells the truth. Which is hard for those of us telling. I often admire your writing, but this was something special. Thank you.

  3. sleepydumpling March 3, 2012 at 1:08 am

    I too hope you don’t delete that post. You were able to articulate something that so many people go through. I’ve written before about the importance of telling our stories as marginalised people, and I know that sometimes it is painful and even embarrassing – but it’s so important. Telling our stories not only documents our lives, but it helps other people tell theirs who might not otherwise have the strength to do so.

  4. Annanonymous March 13, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Maybe it wasn’t what you intended – and maybe it’s an odd reaction – but reading your post actually made me feel proud to be a feminist and a woman. I say let it stand.

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