As many of you will probably know, I have identified as a feminist (the liberal kind who believes in gender equality and NOT superiority) for quite some time now, maybe a couple of years. I’ve decided to get more actively involved and try to make a physical difference by working in the field of what remains a highly feminist issue – rape support.
Why Am I A Feminist?
Simply put, I believe that factors such as gender (but also race, sexuality, and so on) should not stop you from being the person you want to be. I accept certain limits for everyone, but these shouldn’t be based on the fact you identify as female. I want an end to gender based violence, the assumption that body autonomy belongs to anyone other than an individual, unfair treatment based on gender, and other non shocking, non scary things like that. I don’t hate men, and I am not in denial that biologically, men and women have differences. I’m not trying to change anything other than barriers which stop people having personal choices.
Wait… So You *Don’t* Hate Men?!
Sadly, the media loves to portray the ‘feminists’ who shout the loudest, the ‘radfems’ who make everyone believe we despise all men and want to flip the tables and have them suffer instead. I think their heart may be in the right place, but I would argue that I find them counterproductive because people (small-mindedly, or perhaps just ignorantly) want to put you in a box with them, too. They do not speak for me – in fact, in taking women’s voices away they’re hypocrites, no? So I’ll speak for myself.
I love being a woman. I’m not the ‘stereotype’ of a feminist, and that’s okay. I somehow feel the need to explain – though I shouldn’t have to and I realize nobody is asking – that I love spending time with men, even getting attention from men, depending on how this is given. I love ‘pretty’ clothes, and whilst I don’t wear makeup often, when I do, I love it. I was on the cheerleading team at Uni, and everything I own, at one stage or another (including my hair!) has been pink. Equally, a feminist (or basically any woman), doesn’t have to enjoy those things to be equally valid as a woman if that’s how she identifies. Feminists can be lesbian, straight, bisexual, transgender or anything on the spectrum, and can also be men, too. There’s a lot to be said for this whole #HeForShe campaign right now.
I know the word ‘feminist’ does imply a bias towards women, rather than straight out equality, and I’m not the keenest on labels, either. However, I’m not in denial and sadly it’s women whose rights need to be brought in line on the whole, and this continues to be a real problem in the 21st century – so I continue to use the word to raise awareness. My definition of what that word means to ME makes it clear enough, but I’m sorry if you still don’t understand.
*We* Don’t Need Feminism Though, You Have Equal Rights Here!
I do think it’s necessary to change society’s perspectives (on a range of things), and to promote a world where freedom of choice (providing nobody is hurt) is the desirable standard. FOR EVERYONE, not just women. I feel it starts here though.
I guess I just got sick of the amount of times people would say “we don’t need feminism” here in the UK, and that my efforts would be better concentrated in Pakistan or in other countries we see as less developed. Whilst these countries do have their own issues in abundance (and yes, the women suffer on a greater scale numbers wise and also politically), I would like to challenge the assertion that “we don’t need feminism” in countries where my friends and I live, such as the UK, America, Australia, Canada, Ireland and so on. I think it’s definitely hypocritical and perhaps even patronizing to ONLY get up in uproar about the way the women in faraway lands are treated – when women EVERYWHERE still face certain injustices, such as (but not limited to) rape and sexual abuse. Of course, we have made huge progressive steps here, but more needs doing. US vs THEM helps nobody. This is everyone’s issue, and none of it should be diminished.
Now, I know what a lot of people think when you refer to women in the context of rape. They get their backs up and think you’re discounting the very real experiences of men who suffer these terrible crimes. Not at all! In fact, the kind of feminism that I subscribe to is the kind which argues that if we get rid of ‘gender roles’ and submissive positions in society, men will be able to come forward and get the help THEY need in these cases, without the stigma. You’ll notice that a lot of insults towards men are often highly ‘feminized’, creating a fear that the worst thing you could possibly be is a woman, or to be likened to one due to archaic (sometimes homophobic) views, and that’s wrong.
Now, statistically, rape is a crime that happens to women more often, and it’s used as a tool of control, and not for sex. The reasons for this are often because of attitudes embedded into culture, and this is why efforts to help are often concentrated, or at least start, by talking about women. Make no mistake though – it shouldn’t happen to anyone, no matter the gender they identify. Rape is horrific, rape is disgusting and it’s ALWAYS the fault of the perpetrator, not the victim, or ultimately, the survivor, as they should be known.
BUT WOMEN LIE ALL THE TIME ABOUT IT!!!!! IT HAPPENED TO MY FRIEND BOB SO THAT’S DEFO TRUE!
I’m also sick and tired of the conversation about false accusations of rape, over and above the real stories which are often ignored, time and time again. Yes, some people lie about rape. They’re probably mentally ill, although I’m not excusing them for these actions. It destroys lives and it’s truly awful. These people only serve to undermine the real truth which IS OUT THERE WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT, that people do get raped.
But guess what? The incidence of false rape reporting is about 2% – same as loads of other crimes. When we look at conviction rates of the majority of real cases (if they’re reported at all, that is…), they’re pretty much equally minuscule. It’s a minority. Whereas, I bet loads of you have a friend, sister or other acquaintance who’s has something happen on some level, perhaps something she didn’t even tell anyone about! Can we focus on this issue too for a second, please? As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to believe someone unless there’s a really good reason not to.
Summary Of Why I Think Rape Is Bad, In Case I Have To Spell It Out…
I just want everyone to be empowered, within themselves, not from asserting control over another human, is that too much to ask?
What Are You Going To Do About It?
I have sort of felt like I’ve been ‘talking the talk’ and not ‘walking the walk’ for so long now, and it didn’t sit right with me. So, I made the decision to start training to become a Rape Support Worker. I wanted to do this when I lived in Leeds, but it’s a huge commitment, and I had so much on work wise, that it just wasn’t to be. When I moved to Peterborough, I actually called their centre immediately and asked when their next induction was. Almost six months later, I finally began, after an intense screening process and several interviews. I haven’t talked about it much until now, or plastered it all over Facebook, because I wanted to get a feel for the class, and also, most importantly, to do it for the right reasons.
I’m about 20 hours in, and I’ll tell you with no illusions – it’s strenuous, it’s difficult and it’s tiring. There’s even homework, and I swear I didn’t even attend class this much when I was at Uni (everyone who knows me can corroborate this as fact!). Well… you didn’t think it was going to be a picnic, did you? I have around 100 hours to do altogether, and I do anywhere between eight and eleven hours per week, evenings and weekends. On top of my full time job, my freelancing, my music stuff and my travel. I’m missing a session to go to America again, but basically, other than that, there are NO excuses, and this will take me right up until Christmas.
I’m not complaining though – if I don’t, who will? That sounds really arrogant, but I bet every woman in my class has a reason they’re tempted to talk themselves out of it, but there are even MORE women (and men) who need someone to talk to at one of the worst times in their lives. This really matters, and I’m not going to be selfish about it.
What’s It Like?
Rape Crisis Support Centres were set up as a direct result of the feminist movement some decades ago, to provide a safe space for women. Now, even just the very FACT that these were protested against, tells you something. Sadly, due to funding, they’re very overstretched, and so not everyone can always be helped. However, it’s an important service which clearly requires its staff to be well informed and sensitive, hence a grueling training process!
I’m actually really enjoying the course. I know that sounds weird, and potentially even macabre, but I’m learning so much and opening my mind even further than it already is. I’m ashamed about some of the misconceptions people have around this issue – and even more ashamed that before I knew any better, I may have perpetuated the myths! There’s loads of cool modules about feminism, as well as statistics, and crucially, ways to help survivors come to terms with what they’ve faced. On a grand scale, I think education is vital, not just for society, but also for survivors (who sadly make up a huge chunk of the aforementioned society…!). Knowing it’s not your fault and that you’re not to blame can sometimes be all it takes.
Better still, if we can teach people that women aren’t to be victimised and that they’re not ‘property’ and prevent these heinous acts, then I won’t need to be a Rape Support Worker after all. Alas, Rome wasn’t built in a day though, and I’m going to continue to do this for as long as I can. I won’t be able to discuss too much from here on out (confidentiality, of course), but I’ll likely share anything I feel is interesting enough to read up on which won’t jeopardize or compromise anything or anyone.
Why Should I Do It, Too?
Turns out I’m getting an accredited qualification from Rape Crisis England and Wales, which means I can continue in this field anywhere in the country, volunteering or otherwise. I’ll be working for Peterborough Rape Crisis Care Group, and this qualification is a new pilot scheme. The Peterborough chapter used to have their own training and assessment, but now you get a real, shiny Higher Education certification of some sort.
The work isn’t paid, this is all volunteering – and I actually had to pay to take the class – but I think if you have the inclination to do this, I strongly recommend you do. Before you protest: I don’t really have the time either, but it’s worth it in the end I’m sure. Women in my class are from several walks of life, and you don’t even have to be labelled a feminist (but it’s been fun seeing people get really surprised to find they have been all along, just without the name!). Some are mothers, some aren’t; some work full time, some don’t; some have experiences they wish to share that are relevant, and equally others don’t… but they all have the same aims.
There’s the added bonus of feeling like you’re actually making a difference, which is nice!
If you have been raped or abused, woman, man or child, it isn’t your fault. I don’t care if you were drunk, or if you were married to the person, or if you’re someone who’s slept with loads of people, or you’re a sex worker. You don’t have to be afraid anymore – help is out there and it doesn’t judge or blame. It might have been a stranger – but more often it’s someone you know. There are loads of things which come under the umbrella, but if something was inappropriate, or even made you uncomfortable, it’s your right for it to never happen again. Your experience is personal to you, and incidences of rape or sexual violence (not always literal violence) affect people in different ways. Only you know how it has (or hasn’t) changed your life, but you can always talk to someone regardless x