The Vagaggle: Feminism, But Like IRL
You know what’s fun? Having a column that you can talk about all the things you feel passionate about. So today I want to talk about taking feminism from the protection of scrolling through your phone in your sheets to the big old nasty misogyny-filled streets.
When I first started exploring feminism, I was forever commenting on articles and posts on Instagram and Facebook, protected by my anonymity without any real life percussions. I was the type of person who would comment on a post demanding an explanation instead of just googling it, I would read a post aimed at women of colour and ask ‘what about me?’. Basically I was a ‘white feminist’ - only concerned with issues that directly affected me and no concern for intersectionality. But when it came to voicing my opinions in real life, I mysteriously lost my voice and became a complete coward.
It’s several years later and I've done a complete U-turn. Luckily I learnt the importance of Google and stopped demanding free educational services from women much more clued up than I. Now I’m much more likely to sit back, listen and learn when online and bring my feminism into my everyday life.
In my opinion, that’s the most important element of being a feminist — bringing your feminism from the internet and applying it to real life. Put your money where your mouth is.
For me the first step was to challenge the small issues I saw; misogyny, toxic masculinity, homophobia, ableism and racism taking root in the form of off-hand comments.
‘You’re a pussy’
We’ve all heard it, comments that imply that to be anything less than a strong white cis-het male is to be socially unacceptable. I simply starting questioning the person using the language why they chose the words they did. Do they literally mean that rail replacement is gay? Or do they actually mean that it’s bad, that it sucks, that it’s less than ideal? Most people don’t realise that the language they use can be hurtful or offensive because socially we've been told that it’s totally cool to use slurs in a ‘harmless’ way. Of course, usually it’s only ‘harmless’ if you’re white, straight and male. So next time, by calling someone out on their language it might just make them think about the terms which have been normalised That, or you could end up in a full-blown shouting match with an ignorant arsehole who thinks that freedom of speech means they don’t have to take responsibility for their words. If it’s the latter then get out of there, because you don’t need that type of negativity in your life.
The other thing I do, much to the annoyance of my family, is I now bring intersectional topics to the dinner table. I’m very lucky to have a family that knows how to have a good old debate, but it wasn't always that way. I used to blow my load early each time a touchy subject came up and eventually we would all end up seeing who could shout the loudest. If you feel ready to start really getting into the nitty-gritty, it’s important to have some basic skills down first. Make sure you can keep your calm, make sure you’ve got your arguments on point, and make sure you listen to what the opposition is saying. And it doesn’t have to be just at the dinner table, or even with family. I’ll strike up a debate when chilling on the sofa with my housemates, again much to their annoyance. Or when me and the other Vagaggles head to the pub, but definitely not to their annoyance. In a whatsapp group. On a train. Anywhere where I think I feel like my opinion is going to be listened to and respected, and I can return the courtesy. And yes, most of the time it is to people’s annoyance, but really they’re annoyed because you’ve made them think about topics that wouldn’t usually breach their social circumstances.
So bring up mental health, bring up race relations, bring up foreign policy, bring up feminism, bring up privilege. Challenge nuances and slurs. Invade people’s social media channels by posting about intersectional issues, but make sure you cross over and bring those conversations to everyday life. Make people uncomfortable, and make them think about their choice of words, their choice of political allegiance, their music taste, the companies they buy their clothes from. Bring issues from your phone screen into real life, so people understand that there are real life consequences for real life people, not just another story to swipe past. Because at the end of the day, if you're neutral in situations of injustice, you've chosen the side of the oppressor.