The Problems of Writing About Feminism

The Problems of Writing About Feminism

I’ve been trying to write this article for years but have consistently given up – pretty ironic given the title. For a long time, I’ve had visions of writing wonderful, witty posts around this contentious topic, taking inspiration from the Morans and Dunhams of the world. Unfortunately, it is considerably more challenging than these lovely ladies make it seem. Although that’s why they are highly successful and celebrated writers (amongst other talents) and I’m, well, not.

Writing about Feminism

Where to start with such a mammoth topic? There are infinite issues I have wanted to explore and discuss but have persistently struggled to write them down succinctly. Therefore I decided that a good place to start was to write about the problems of writing about feminism, with the aim of exploring the issues I am facing with my writing, resolving them, thus enabling me to write about feminism in the way I’d always envisaged. But alas, I faced the same problems of writing about feminism in the very article on the problems of writing about feminism.

Are you with me? If so, well done. No really, because I think I’ve confused myself.

So here I am, giving the article a last ditch attempt. My persistent struggle with the topic is somewhat embarrassing given that I am an English Literature and Film & Theatre graduate. I spent my University years exploring the topic of gender issues in literature, film and theatre yet never struggled too much with my essays. I suspect the problem is that I am now removing the topic from its veneer of literature/film/theatre and placing it in ‘real life’.

Universality

The first issue is one of universality. I don’t just want my writing to be read by the self-proclaimed female feminists like me (although of course I want them to read it too). I also want those who may not think they are feminists to read my writing and that includes men. Yet if you take this article as an example, I’d hasten to guess that I probably lost that demographic in the title. Perhaps I could disguise my writing in a shell of not-so-in-your-face feminism but then people may feel tricked or misled and that certainly won’t help my cause.

I feel now is a good place to clarify what I mean by a feminist. A feminist is someone who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. Simple as that. It’s really just unfortunate that the word to represent gender equality has the word ‘fem’ in it. Also unfortunate that a small group of so-called feminists who push more extreme views have muddied the word a little. It’s just equality. It means I want to be paid the same for doing the same job as my male colleague, it means I want to feel safe when I walk home at night and it means I don’t want to be denied the same opportunities as others just because I’m female.

Confusing the Meaning

This blurring of the meaning is, I think, pivotal to the problems I face with writing about feminism. How can I hope to write a clear, articulate and balanced article when the very topic I’m writing about is shrouded in confusion and ignorance? I am persistently shocked and constantly frustrated by the misunderstanding of feminism but I don’t know how to change this. Those who do not understand the word are wired to switch off when it is mentioned. As a result, they never listen to the truth and their opinions will remain as they have always been.

The preconceptions that are widely held about feminists can be truly horrifying, offensive and downright concerning. We all know the stereotypes and I would love more than anything to tear these down. One little person with one little blog is not going to change the world. But if I can reach just a few people with an honest and refreshing approach to feminism then it would be a job well done.

Balance and Engagement

A final problem worth mentioning is the difficulty in producing articulate, reasoned and balanced writing when emotion and anger so frequently underpin the prose. Nobody will be convinced by an unstructured rant. Similarly, being too serious can deter readers from fully engaging. Nowadays, attention spans are measured in milliseconds and the prospect of a heavy article is not usually a welcome one. Keeping my writing free of anger and full of wit is challenging but necessary to engage and convince. Now I know what Virginia Woolf meant when she said that anger scars writing. It really does but it takes skill to avoid it.

So there it is. That wasn’t so bad! Perhaps I have been overthinking my approach and really what I need to do is just crack on. Writing is inherently ambiguous and firing up a little controversy is not a bad thing. Trying too hard to please everyone will result in half-hearted writing that will never reach its full potential, ultimately getting lost amongst the onslaught of louder voices that permeate the Internet. I’ll continue to share my thoughts and I ask that you continue to engage with them. Let’s start lots of conversations around a super important topic. Thanks for listening and well done for staying until the end, you’re a hero.

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