Here's to 2012: My Year As A Feminist

I’ve never really been one for New Year’s resolutions. All the promises I’ve made to myself have either been forgotten two or three days into January or are things that I’ve rationalized not doing. For example one year's resolution was to stop eating so much chocolate (I don’t know why I even thought about attempting that one - like it was even the slightest bit plausible). Another was to walk to/from the train station on the way to/from school or uni more instead of catching the bus (“but my bag’s always too heavy!”; “my lecture’s at 9 so I’d have to wake up really early!”). But there are one or two things that have been bothering me this year that I want to act on in 2012 – a resolution I can actually keep.

*Deep breath* I am a feminist.

That statement doesn’t look particularly special or interesting or out of the ordinary or anything. Really, on the internet, there are hundreds of thousands of women (and men) blogging, campaigning, and organising for the feminist cause. It’s also not like I just decided yesterday that I want to start being a feminist this year; rather, I think I always have been one, I just didn’t know what feminism was exactly until my mid-teens.

I first discovered various online feminist communities three or four years ago, and started to learn about this whole big thing which I’d never really had much exposure to in everyday life, apart from sometimes asking why I had to, or couldn’t do, something just because I’m a girl. Because this didn’t seem to be a particularly big deal in real life, it just always seemed easier to actively engage in feminist discussions online than in the real world.

I went to an all-girl selective high school (read: nerds), and our principal regularly liked to remind us of what she wanted us to be: ‘independently minded young women’. A good motto, a nice motto. I liked that motto. All the teachers did their best to ensure that we all knew that we could grow up to be whatever we wanted if we put our minds to it. My classmates wanted to be doctors, lawyers, directors, teachers, accountants, artists, politicians – if any career path was out of the question, it was due to smarts, not gender. So it was all nice and forward-thinking in that respect; no problems there. The issues highlighted on feminist websites about high schools not allowing female students to do this or that, or letting boys get away with such and such, almost seemed to belong to a different world.

So you can imagine my surprise when Julia Gillard became Prime Minister on that blustery June morning and these very classmates tore her down not on the basis of her politics or the way she rose to power, but because of her looks and gender. Some ‘women are too emotional to lead a country’ type stuff. It was confusing. And maddening. Apart from shooting glares that went unnoticed at the perpetrators of the comments and talking it over with my similarly outraged group at lunchtime, I did nothing, which I regret to this day. I don’t really know why I did nothing.

And that’s where my 2012 new year’s resolution comes from. Feminism is important to me – as much as Mad Men‘s ’60s setting looks classy, I wouldn’t want to be a young woman living in it – and I want to do something about those who stand in its way.

Similar incidents to the Gillard one happened this year in a variety of places (not only concerning Julia Gillard, though 2011 has been a banner year for her, hasn’t it?) – in the real world, film and television, in advertising, and online commentary. Instead of stewing silently, I want to do something about it. The closest I’ve come is scoffing and rolling my eyes when I’ve heard girls around me say, “I’m not a feminist, but...”. I think that in lieu of loudly proclaiming my ideals this year, I did it in a somewhat quieter manner through uni work – I focused all four of a subject’s assignments on Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs and Gloria Steinem’s Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, and produced a video news story for an assignment on the 2011 Sydney Reclaim the Night march (which you can watch here; go easy though, it’s my first attempt at a video story) – but I’m not sure that counts. I did join the women’s group at university this year, but never managed to go to a meeting, as they were held on my days off from uni, during which I was often interning or working (or just to chicken to put myself out there and go alone).

In 2012, I want to go to women’s marches and rallies as a vocal supporter of the movement, not as a journalism student chiefly there to observe. I want to go to the women’s group meetings and help organise. I want to call people out on their sexist bullshit to their faces, and ask my friends why they don’t want to call themselves feminists.

Here’s to new year’s resolutions to keep! And if you  have any suggestions for purposeful feminist actions I can take in 2012, let me know!

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Gina B
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