As some of you may know, I'm currently making a zine as part of my MA. While putting together my sketch book of ideas for my zine I turned to a favourite of mine - Polyester Zine, for some inspiration. In the issue I was examining there were some problem pages at the back in which you could "ask Celia" anything you wanted about life, love, sex, your body, whatever. This really touched me and it got me thinking about some things - I decided to write them down.
This snippet from the problem pages of Polyester zine have inspired me from a content point of view, and a life lesson point of view. Celia Edell and Ione Gamble are recreating an element of the pre-teen magazines that we knew and loved so well, except now these problems seem more real and we’re still no closer to figuring them out. There is something incredibly comforting about reading these worries and knowing that you are not alone, that somewhere out there there’s a girl who feels or thinks or loves just like you do. The reason it is so much more comforting to read at 22 rather than 12 is that for a split second you stop worrying that everyone else knows what they’re doing, and you realise that no one really has it together. This unifying of female thought is a vital component of my zine and the driving force behind my “girl power” theme. I want to reach out to, inspire, unify and help young women the way ‘Mizz’ and ‘Bliss’ did for me when I was a struggling teen. I’m now a struggling young woman and growing up in a world saturated in negative female media is so detrimental to our development. We’re told that women are there to compete with, that we are enemies and we must battle one another for the affection of men. We’re told our bodies aren’t our own and that we mustn’t expose ourselves for fear of being deemed “slutty” or worse, asking for it. Then we’re told that they are ours to do with whatever we please, and this is exciting and new and women start to reclaim their bodies and sexuality and they upload pictures online and they appear in photo shoots and we feel like feminist queens who are so free and happy with ourselves – and then someone says that this isn’t feminist, that we aren’t doing feminism right.
Why is it that when women are happy in themselves, someone has to speak out against them and criticise them? Something that I’ve noticed more and more online is that it is not always men criticising women, but other women. I do not understand this train of thought? We complain about the patriarchy stopping us from achieving our goals, but it is often other women who prevent us from doing so. I am aware that some women do not have the privilege nor the means to celebrate their bodies, and these women are the driving force for my own personal feminism. I am not a feminist for white middle class women – I am a feminist for those who do not have a voice the way I do. However, with this in mind, we cannot criticise the women who do have the privilage of owning and putting their bodies online – be these bodies white, black, hairy, waxed it does not matter. There are bigger and more important issues to address than to nit-pick over how a woman chooses to present herself online.
I am a proud feminist and will never not be, but I fear that some feminists often feel isolated from the movement by other, more radical feminists. This is not to say that radical feminism is wrong, but rather I often see women pick apart other women’s feminism – stating that that their ideas and opinions aren’t “right”. For me, I am so open to suggestion and learning new things. I am the first to admit that I don’t know everything about feminism. I am myself incredibly privileged and I am aware of this, but I am only human and I make mistakes like everyone else. We will not always be culturally appropriate and this is not on purpose, but we can learn and grow from helping one another understand. We will not always be PC and we may slip up when discussing WOC and Trans issues when using the correct terminology. This does not make us bad feminists, it makes us human beings. If you yourself have a problem with how someone talks about feminism, inform them in a helpful and progressive way, don’t slate them and make them feel like they don’t belong. This is not only detrimental to this person, but the whole movement. It’s time for women everywhere to start to be a little bit kinder, a little bit more understanding and a lot more FEMINIST. Feminism is about equality and the support of your fellow woman, do everything you can to lift one another up and inspire each other. If we can succeed at this, and eliminate girl hate, it is only then that our movement will exceed all expectations and the fight for true equality can begin.