Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Who is questioning whom?

Last week over a glass of wine I was subtly (or not so subtly) insulted by a friend.
Her question?
Do you ever worry that people will perceive you badly once they know you are a Feminist?
My response was “are you worried that I will perceive you differently having heard you saying that?”
She looked baffled, and quickly changed the topic.

I work in an industry where if we stop selling our products we no longer have jobs, and perception is everything.
We recently did a seminar on branding. Not just branding our industry, workplace and product but also ourselves.
It made me think about my own personal brand, how I dress, communicate and express myself with both my colleagues and staff that I am teaching.
Part of this is my identity and how much of that I give away.

Deliberately I don’t give much away at all. My friends at work know I am living with my male partner, that I am interested in musical theatre, that I love the beach, belong to a gym, write for a “women’s interest blog” and that I had a car accident in the past.
My colleagues I don’t socialise with know I have a partner, used to be a nurse in the OR and am based in *******. Further out from there and I hope all they know about me is my work ethic and education/professional history.

My beliefs have very little part in my workplace.
In the same way that when I was a nurse I had to give good, empathetic care to drink drivers and child molesters; in business I have to be pleasant to red neck assholes and over privileged men.
All of this is much easier if they don’t KNOW I think they are assholes.

Information is power, and the less people know, the more they will assume that you agree with them while you smile and nod, and the more they will tell you- therefore the more power you have.

So actually, yes, I do worry that people will judge me by the labels I give myself.
So I try not to use them.
For example I use partner, not boyfriend because it is none of their business what level my relationship is at, or who it is with.
I don’t discuss my politics and unless I am seriously pushed I don’t identify my beliefs.

I found it interesting that disclosing that she was concerned about the image of feminism revealed more about her than it did me.
I now assume she may not stand up for herself, that she may not put her career first, that she is perhaps not particularly interested in fostering mentoring in medicine and business for young women.

Not fair assumptions.
Certainly not positive.

It is interesting how much we give away just by questioning someone else’s identity.


  1. I don't run around saying "I'm a feminist" - but I don't hide it either. People tend to pick it up eventually. In saying that - my blog is where I rant about my opinions. I'm often told by people who read my blog that I'm aggressive or angry - but I'm not. When I have dinner parties I don't bring up abortion or how much I loathe religion and just rant for hours about it. But everyone knows I'm pro-choice and an Atheist - so if they want to talk to me about religion or feminism they can.

    I think people are afraid of feminism because they don't understand what feminism is. The reactions I've got when people have asked if I'm a feminist and I've said yes are kind of strange. I usually get the "well I think it's OK to stay at home with your kids!!!!!" which makes me reply: "yeah, and? Feminism gave you that choice".

    I think the way the media and anti-women folks have framed feminism is the reason why some people are freaked by it. Somehow, somewhere along the way, someone said feminism is about making women work when they don't want to. Or something. Fucked if I know.

    But I do wear the label Feminist with pride because I think it's important to challenge the ridiculous myths about feminism and feminists. And because feminism isn't something to be afraid of. And too many people take for granted the rights they have because of feminism.

  2. Amen!! I do, and I have later taken the chance to educate her that feminism isnt all earth mothers, burning bras and being perpetually pissed off (the three have little to do with each other infact!).
    Reminded her that it is like assuming that catholics ALL wear crosses and go to church on sunday and hate everyone.
    See the individual and let them show you what they believe rather than assuming and judging.
    Love you as always boganette!

  3. I don't advertise my feminism, but I don't deny it either. People usually work it out quite quickly in any case.

  4. I'm getting better at judging the people and environments where I can openly talk about politics. For example, a couple of men (yes, men!) at work are cool to have a blather about the more in depth feministy stuff, while I have to tread very carefully with others. It's close friends and family I have the most trouble with - having known me all their life, I think if they saw me in full political flight I'd scare them (and have done so) shitless.

    "Information is power, and the less people know, the more they will assume that you agree with them while you smile and nod, and the more they will tell you- therefore the more power you have."

    I don't think I've yet to be in a situation where I've had to exercise restraint like this, but I'm sure there will be a time...and I'll have to prepare for it. I'm not very good at putting a gatekeeper on my tongue ;)


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