Whose feminism is it?

I consider myself a feminist.

I have values and beliefs which I share with some of you who are reading this, I hope.

When I ‘discovered’ feminism, I was bowled over by the fact that so many women thought the way I did. Okay, we all differ in some ways, but we are all feminists nonetheless.

Earlier this year, I had the most wonderful day of my life. I marched with over 4,000 women in London, to protest against violence against women and children. The Million Women Rise march was attended by so many different kinds of woman, all uniting for the same reasons; because we believe we are oppressed. It was a fantastic day – the feeling of unity and euphoria is not one I have experienced before, but I hope to feel it again. I came away feeling positive for the future, and as women, we can make a change.

Then came the FEM08 conference, which I attended with my friends and feminist group. I was really excited about it. The workshops were fantastic, but I wish I could have attended all of them. (Not enough time in the day, if you ask me.) What I did feel disappointed by was the fact I felt like I stood out a bit. There weren’t many faces of colour; not many Black or Asian or Mixed race or anything women. When it came to filling in the monitoring form, there wasn’t even a box for me to tick! I felt like I hadn’t been considered, I hadn’t been counted, instead I’d been overlooked.

As one of those women, I feel like everybody but me went to uni. Does this make my points invalid? How can I relate?

Of course, I know this wasn’t the intention of the day, and my feelings are my own. But it left me wondering if feminism is reaching all women. Is feminism reaching women who are living in poverty? Women who have come over to this country on a marriage visa and can’t speak any English? Is feminism reaching young teenage mums? Is feminism reaching women who didn’t attend university? Is feminism reaching women who choose not to work, regardless of whether or not they have children? Is feminism reaching women who do not have access to the internet? Is feminism reaching mums? Is feminism reaching women of colour? Really?

Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit in, and I’m sure I can’t be the only one. I know we are all going to read things that we don’t agree with from time to time, but surely all women should be able to relate to feminism at one point? Sometimes I wonder if there’s room for someone like me in today’s feminism.

I grew up on a council estate. My mum didn’t work and was on benefits for years. I didn’t go to college or university. I’m not interested in politics (although I know I should be). I’m mixed race. I’ve just found out that I am pregnant and I am going to be a mum next May. This will be my first full-term pregnancy. All this makes me wonder if I am just becoming a number, counted but forgotten nonetheless. Especially now I’m going to be a mum, I was worried there would definitely be no room for me. But thanks to Ruth Moss and her brilliant article, I feel confident that my place will be kept in the feminist world.

I feel like everybody but me went to uni. Does this make my points invalid? How can I relate?

I have kept my distance from this site and feminist groups, as I had a lot of thinking to do. My idea of feminism versus feminism as it stands today.

I think if I can’t relate to today’s ‘brand’ of feminism, who else can’t? To me, feminism should reach all women, all different types of women. There should be a box for everybody to tick, no woman should feel excluded or left out. Feminism needs to understand religion and culture, and look at the additional barriers that these women face. Feminism needs to address the woman who didn’t go to university. As one of those women, I feel like everybody but me went to uni. Does this make my points invalid? How can I relate? What about those who claim benefits and choose not to work? What about teenage mums? What about elderly mums, and all those in between? What about Indian women? Or Pakistani women? Or women from Kenya, Uganda or Somalia? Because these are the women who live in my city, what about yours? How is feminism reaching them?

I am lucky enough to work for a feminist organisation, so that’s how I came to ‘discover’ feminism. What about the women who don’t work for a feminist organisation? Or don’t even know what feminism is? How are we reaching these women? What about the women? Because there is more than just one type.

Feminism of today needs to get with the times, and be something that all modern day women can relate to. Question is, where do we start?

Annika is really excited about becoming a mum, but is also trying not to think about the process of actually giving birth. She hopes she can continue with her paid and voluntary work after the baby has been born, and also hopes there will be a place for her in feminism