This is a difficult letter to write. It’s been great, it really has, but I think we need to spend some time away from each other.
Remember in the beginning, those heady days when we’d just discovered each other? We’d spend hours in the university library reading Simone de Beauvoir and Germaine Greer, as if we were the first in the world. It was very special. We battled together over FGM and domestic violence, and I thought we were a brilliant team.
But in the last few years, I don’t know, I think we’ve both changed a great deal. And we’ve grown apart.
I think it started back when I had a baby and you started telling me how to give birth and how I should feed and look after that baby. You began to sound confused. I *shouldn’t* have had a c-section and I *should* have bottle fed, because that was more feminist? It sounded a bit strange at the time that buying formula milk from a multinational company was more liberating to me than feeding the baby with my own milk. Anyway, I put that down to the upheaval that any major life change causes. We were still happy together.
Then you started pulling me in different directions again. I *should* go back to work, I shouldn’t. I should nurture ambitions to run a merchant bank, and to own a small cupcake and bunting shop as a “mumterpreneur”, all at once? I wasn’t sure what to do.
Things crystallised a little during the slut shaming furore of a couple of years ago. Women, annoyed at being called sluts because of how they dressed marched in protest at the suggestion that by their dress and behaviour they invited sexual assault. Fair enough. I think we agreed that anyone who claims such a thing has a very limited understanding of the nature of most sexual assaults.
Recently, though… I don’t know.
You tell me I’m strong and that I can fight for myself. But when someone threatens me with assault online your reaction is that the forum used should be banned, or heavily restricted. My instinct is that toxic comments will die out when women in public life reach a critical mass and it simply isn’t possible to tweet rape threats to them all without getting RSI, but you say I’m too delicate and your responses deter other women from putting their heads over the parapet.
You tell me that I constantly have the risk of sexual assault hanging over my head. You regularly assume that this has happened to me – that I’ve been groped or propositioned on the Tube and it’s part of a woman’s experience. Well, I haven’t. You alienated me then. You said it was so ubiquitous, I found myself wondering why not me? Am I too ugly even for an anonymous grope? Too unapproachable to pester on public transport?
You tell me I can dress as provocatively as I wish, and I’m cool with that. But at the same time, feminism, you tell me that if I dress provocatively, have photographs taken for money and get those published in a magazine, I am responsible for “pornification”? That this “pornification” has caused an increase in sexual assaults, is destroying the futures of young girls and boys and sending this country to hell in a handjob? So instead you’ve suggested extreme, swingeing censorship, the like of which we’ve only seen before in repellent dictatorships like Iran or China: it’s for my own good, you say. Men can’t control themselves. That made me wonder if you’d listened to yourself during the slut shaming.
You say I can have sex with whomever I wish. But I am not permitted willingly to have sex with people in return for money. God forbid I should film this sort of business and sell these movies on, independently, to interested third parties. In fact, it’s best that such behaviour is utterly, utterly forbidden under any circumstances because, again, some men are slime and can’t control themselves. In absolutely no way whatsoever would this ban lead to anyone being maltreated or exploited, you tell me. No, you say, it’ll prevent that from happening in the first place – but I know you are ignoring the evidence to the contrary.
So, feminism, you’ve done a lot for me, but we are going to go our separate ways for a bit. I know it’s going to be sad for a while, but you have some growing up and some thinking to do. You need to focus on what’s important. You need to stop ignoring the revolting treatment of women in countries like Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen. You need to understand that what makes women free is allowing us to have sex with whom we want, when we want – to dress how we want and have children when we want. That’s not a menu. You can’t pick and choose from it. We need all of it. You may not like some of it, but tough.
See you soon.