I would call myself a pretty active feminist. I address issues I come into contact with, I encourage the movement towards equality and focus on the future. I am not, however, someone who will stand in picket lines with a sign yelling. I am more of an ‘infiltrate from the inside’ kind of person — I work towards getting into places of influence and introducing feminism there. Some people might say this makes me a crap feminist cause I’m not screaming down a megaphone on the weekend, but honestly, I don’t care. Movement and change don’t deteriorate in quality depending upon where they occur.
Due to this I recently went to a Literature talk where two publicly labelled feminist writers discussed their books, influences and goals. It was the usual type of crowd, 98% female and 2% male. Half of the 2% male stat was a friend I brought with me. Him and I share roughly the same feminist views but check each other in place concerning gender issues and our friendship works well.
As we watched these women talk about their books led by the speaker, one thing became incredibly apparent. These women were born into wealth. In other words, they are rich af. Both women spoke eloquently with absolutely no hint of accent to be heard — speaking in received pronunciation.
For anyone who lives outside the UK, received pronunciation is similar to the way the Queen talks. There’s no colloquial accent or slang terms in their speech. Speaking in such a way is usually a big sign of wealth or financial stability. This is prominent in the UK where we have an accent change every 15 miles (I’m not even joking).
Data proves that those who live in less wealthy areas, such as the north of the country or in area of lower-income, such as East London, often adopt an accent that is easy to identify or they use terms that are popular in their specific area. This way of speaking in an accent or with slang words creates a sense of community in lower-income areas. This trend is called a speech community.
The first writer, a very intelligent woman who I’m going to call Juliana for privacy sake was encouraged by the speaker to talk about her childhood influences, focusing on Juliana’s parent’s lives. Juliana fondly spoke of her parent’s loving relationship, meeting in a boarding school and keeping their love alive until they met each other again in their adulthood after her mother traveled to the UK to study at University. Already two massive signs of wealth: boarding school and travelling to the UK for university in the 70s/80s. Juliana also went to University and did a masters in London. Money money money. Having a sister who also went to university to study for her Masters I can tell you, it’s not cheap. My parents had to remortgage their house and my sister lived in an undesirable area of London, losing a lot of weight due to a shortage of cash. Also, it doesn’t help that Juliana’s last name literally translates to ‘Father is Wealth’.
Lots of different wealth triggers.
Though it was clear as to what Juliana’s background was, she was very well-spoken and I enjoyed learning from her. I believe she is a good role model but she’s not your average gal. So her words focusing on the female experience were a bit tainted.
The second blonde writer I’ll call Tiwa. Tiwa was clearly younger and less ‘talk’ ready. She liked pouncing on topics, dropping in keywords that you could pick up on any twitter post that labelled itself feminist and generally followed trends that put her at the forefront of in-your-face feminism. She was good for younger audiences. But for an older audience, there was a lot of talk with not much meaning. Again her background started filtering in as she discussed her bullied childhood at an all-girls school and her current living circumstances. There were too many random occurrences that wouldn’t happen to a generally less wealthy person, that Tiwa discussed. A lot of gray areas.
Generally, Tiwa felt less genuine. Though she frequently discussed not doing what men want, it often felt like she had catered herself into a caricature of what a loud female audience would want. Her experiences created the perception of spite fueled progression both towards men and women. This might not be how she intended on being perceived given her youth, but it’s how she came across to me. Now I don’t believe that she is necessarily bad for young girls but there are some controversial straplines.
Summing up Tiwa’s talk, I was pissed off by her clear aggression towards men. It was evident that her past traumatic experiences had seriously hurt her, but instead of translating that pain into progress, she had fueled her negative experiences with men into a business. Helping her along her anti-men mission was her money. Sure I’ve met some shit men who I’ve experienced trauma from in the same way as her, but I’ve also met some absolutely shit women too. Feminism isn’t about men versus women it’s about providing equal ground for both. If we put any of her slogans on t-shirts about men and changed it to women there would be an uproar. This is the type of feminism I dislike simply because I wouldn’t call it feminism but gendered aggression. And like me, many people view this type of feminism as counterproductive and harmful. But we all love a good slogan and it’s even better if that slogan has come from a pretty,wealthy, blonde lady in her early 20’s.
No one on that stage was an average girl. Not the speaker or the guests. They were all well-educated, wealthy women and though I strongly believe women should have a voice and fight for it — I would have found the whole talk less pretentious and dissociated from reality if the mouths that spoke didn’t also have a silver spoon attached to them.
I want women who have grown up in lower-income houses, who have battled against the wealth prestige and who have strong accents that show their birthplace. I want women who know what it’s like to start at the absolute bottom. Not this wealthy-washed version of feminism that is popular right now.