This article was first published in 2016.
Hey, I’m not going to womansplain feminism to the readers of Esquire! That’s not happening on my watch! You’re sophisticated, 21st century men with a copy of the El Bulli cookbook, a timeless pair of investment brogues, and a couple of Joni Mitchell albums — for when you want to sit in your leather armchair and have a little, noble, necessary man-cry.
You don’t need me lecturing you — because you’re not hanging out the back of a bus shouting “CLUNGE!” at a bunch of terrified 15-year-old girls. You’ve got sisters, mothers, lovers — female friends and colleagues — and you’ve never once gone up to any of them shouting, “Blimey! You don’t get many of those to the pahnd!” while honking on their breasts, in the manner of Sid James.
You’re down with the sisterhood. You’ve got eyes. You know what’s going on out there. You’ve noted that while society’s happy for a famous man to age, and become distinguished, and generally wander around looking like a fucking wizard, the women generally still seem to be 20 years younger, and standing there on the cover of magazines, all like, “Oh! My clothes… they fell off!” EVEN IF IT’S DAME JUDI DENCH.
You know the pay disparity; still 20 percent less for women in this country, and not a single prosecution, even though it’s literally illegal. You know babies come out of vaginas and it fucking stings, and that the vaginas are having a hard time anyway, what with all the waxing they get. (That’s £20 a pop, my friend. Every single month.
Just to feel normal. It’s basically VAT on your minge. Imagine if you had to get your bum-hole stripped every 30 days — lest the mean girls at school corner you on the bus home and go, “I’ve heard you’re like Catweazle down there. Someone who fingered you said it was like diddling a Gonk. Ugh.”)
You’ve seen Amy Schumer’s brilliant, edgy sketches on contraception and rape, and laughed along with them. You’ve called Donald Trump “a twat” for his sexist comments about a female news anchor being on her period. You’ve watched the whole Caitlyn Jenner trans thing unfold and gone, “You know what — this all seems fair enough. I am down with the trans thing.”
So, no. I’m not going to womansplain feminism to you. It’s the 21st century and you are, most assuredly, not a dick. You like women being equal to men — which is all that feminism means. Not all the penises being burned in a Penis Bonfire. Just women being equal to men. You are like my friend John, when he talks about dating alpha-women: “Feel intimidated by them? Christ, no. Dating and marrying powerful women is like big game hunting. I fuck tigers and panthers. Not… chihuahuas.”
No. You get feminism. You don’t need Tits McGee here to take you through it one more time. So, what I am going to do, instead, is tell you 12 things about women that women are usually too embarrassed to tell you themselves. Because I am a chronic over-sharer, and incapable of keeping secrets. I’m like that other Deep Throat. The chatty Watergate one. That’s the Deep Throat I am.
1. No mumbling
Like you, we feel a bit embarrassed about saying the word “feminism”. It’s the same as when you say the word “environment”. They both have that slight implication of, “I’m now going to launch into a speech that’s basically about what a great person I am”.
Unfortunately, in both cases, the entire future of the world does rest on people being able to say those words properly, and not mumbling “feminism”, or “environment”.
You just have to shut yourself in a cupboard and say them over and over again — “FEMINISM! ENVIRONMENT! FEMINISM! ENVIRONMENT!” — until they feel as normal as saying “pina colada”, or “Michael Fassbender”. Which are both, when you think about it, much odder-sounding.
2. ‘The Man’
So, when women talk about “The Man”, we’re not talking about you. You’re just a man. You’re not The Man. Similarly, when we talk about the patriarchy, that’s not you, either. You’re not the patriarchy. You’re just… Patrick. When we’re doing those “MEN!” chats, we’re just identifying the general locus of the problem, ie, most of the power and influence being held by a small number of men.
Because remember that patriarchy’s bumming you as hard as it’s bumming us. We’re bulimic, objectified, and under-promoted. You, meanwhile, are unable to talk about your feelings lest you get punched in the nuts by “a lad” telling you not to be “a bender”. You are unlikely to get custody of your kids and are three times more likely to commit suicide. Feminism’s about sorting all this stuff out. Because it’s about equality. Not burning the penises. I can’t emphasize enough how much it’s not about burning penises. No burnt penises here.
We’re still pretty traumatized about our periods, even though we’re now 40. Being a woman doesn’t make “being a woman” any easier. All that womb-shit is nuts. It’s like having an exploding, insane blood-bag of pain up in your business end — nothing really prepares you for when it all kicks off. One day, you’re just a kid on your bike. The next, you’re suddenly having to wedge a tiny Barbie mattress in your knickers, crying while you watch Bergerac, and eating Nurofen Plus like they’re Tic Tacs.
Men, imagine if, sometime around your 12th birthday, some manner of viscous liquid — let’s say gravy — suddenly appeared in your pants, in the middle of a maths lesson. And then it turned up every month for the next 30 years. You’d be all like “NO!” and “WTF?!?!” and “SRSLY??? THIS????” That’s what we’re like, too. We’re not wise, or in touch with nature, or down with it. We’re just people with a whole load more laundry issues than you. Have you ever tried to scrub blood out of a Premier Inn sheet at 6 am, using just travel shampoo and your toothbrush? It’s one of the defining aspects of being a woman.
Likewise, imagine accidentally getting pregnant at 16, then having to run past a barrage of anti-abortion protestors outside your local clinic, all holding up pictures of dead fetuses. We’re not dealing with this in a special, noble lady-way.
We’re like, “THIS IS ALREADY A REALLY, REALLY SHIT DAY. I PRESUME YOUR CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF CHILDREN EXTENDS INTO A LIFE SPENT VOLUNTEERING IN CARE HOMES, FOSTERING AND DONATING YOUR WAGES TO THE NSPCC — AND DOESN’T SOLELY REST ON HARASSING AND ABUSING TEARFUL, POSSIBLY RAPED WOMEN WHO ARE TRYING TO GET A SAFE, LEGAL MEDICAL PROCEDURE SO THEY DON’T FUCK UP THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.”
Here’s another thing we’re too embarrassed to say: we’d love it if a big bunch of pro-choice men turned up at these clinics, and helped escort the scared women in. That would be some top bro solidarity.
In the last year or so, we saw this study, from America, and it broke our hearts a bit because it explains so much: in a mixed-gender group, when women talk 25 percent of the time or less, it’s seen as being “equally balanced”. And if women talk 25–50 percent of the time, they’re seen as “dominating the conversation”.
And we remembered all the times on social media, or in conversations, an angry man has said, “Women are WINNING now. Women are EVERYWHERE. It is MEN who are being silenced”, and it all made sense.
We’re scared. We don’t want to mention it, because it’s kind of a bummer, chat-wise, and we’d really like to talk about stuff that makes us happy, like look at our daughters — and we can’t help but think, “Which one of us? And when?”
We walk down the street at night with our keys clutched between our fingers, as a weapon. We move in packs — because it’s safer. We talk to each other for hours on the phone — to share knowledge. But we don’t want to go on about it to you, because that would be morbid.
We just feel anxious. We’re scared. Given the figures, we can’t sometimes help but feel we’re just… waiting for the bad thing to come. Because that would be a realistic thing to think, and we like to be prepared. Awfully, horribly, fearfully prepared.
We’re tired. So, so tired. From the moment we grew our tits, we’ve been cat-called in the street; commented on by relatives (“Ooooh, she’s big-boned”; “Well, you’ll be a heart-breaker”) as if we weren’t standing there in front of them, hearing all this.
We’ve seen our biggest female role-models and icons shamed in the press, over and over: computers hacked and nude pictures released; sex-tapes released. So we know even success, and money, will not protect us from the humiliation of simply being a woman.
We know we must have our babies when we’re young — the eggs are running out! — but we must also work for less money, as discussed above. So that makes us tired.
This is why, maybe, women can become suddenly furious — why online discussions about feminism suddenly ignite into a rage. Tired, scared people are apt to lash out. Anger is just fear, brought to the boil.
We masturbate as much as you do. One of the few times I have been personally offended was when Martin Amis commented on a column I wrote about female masturbation. “Christ,” Amis said, “that’s sort of lad’s mag talk — sort of more male than male.”
Obviously, I am noble enough to recognize that Amis is from an older generation — one whose women, by and large, did not feel comfortable discussing their sexuality in any great detail.
But it does seem amazing that a clever, well-traveled man, whose job it is to examine the human condition, and who had a pretty steamy relationship with Germaine Greer at one point, has never realized that women can be just as driven by their desire as men.
I’m gonna be honest with you — for the first five years of my adult life, most of my decisions were made by the contents of my pants. My vagina was — by way of Audrey II in Little Shop Of Horrors — constantly shouting “Feed me!”, and breaking into musical numbers when I was trying to listen to my brain instead.
If I had not discovered masturbation, I would have spent the majority of my time sitting on shed roofs, like a cat on heat, yowling at the moon. If a young woman isn’t to go mad, then masturbation is a needful hobby, as vital as going on long country walks, to get a bit of air in your lungs, and pursuing the revolution.
And what a hobby it is! It doesn’t cost anything, it doesn’t make you fat, you can knock it off in five minutes flat if you think about Han Solo, or some monkeys “doing it” on an Attenborough documentary, and it means you can face the world with a kind of stoned, post-coital cheerfulness that would otherwise require Valium or constant spa-breaks.
There’s a reason why God designed our bodies so that, when we lie down in bed, our hands naturally come to rest on our genitals. It’s the Lord’s way of saying, “Go on, have a fiddle. Find out how you work.
And then, when you go out into the world, you won’t be waiting for some bloke to come along and have sex on you. You’ll be in the sex, too. It’ll be like this… joint endeavor? A thing you can do together? That was kind of how I planned it all along, TBH. So, my Eleventh Commandment is ‘Thou Shalt Buff Your Fnuh.’ That’s official. Signed, God.”
You know when we stand in front of a full wardrobe and say, “I don’t have anything to wear!”? Obviously, we have things to wear. You can see all the shit from where you are standing, fully dressed, ready to leave the house. What we mean is, “I don’t have anything to wear for who I need to be today.”
What women wear is incredibly important and not just because we live in a society with a $1.5 trillion fashion-industry, and spend most of our spare time looking at cut-price Marc Jacobs handbags on theoutnet.com.
As we are half of the world that still doesn’t get to say as much as men (see stats earlier), how we look works by way of our opening paragraph in any social setting. Think of all the different kinds of looks women can have, depending on their clothes, hair, and make-up: “Slutty”. “Ball-busting”. “Mumsy”. “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”. “Gym-bunny”. “Mutton”. “Nerdy”. “Unfuckable”.
Now think of all the ways men can dress. It’s basically “some trousers”. Ninety percent of what men wear is “some trousers”. You’re just getting up in the morning, putting on your trousers, and getting on with stuff.
And we fret about all this — appearance, clothes — because it matters. If we’re still getting talked-over at meetings, is it because we’re not dressing powerfully enough? If we’re getting sexually harassed, is it because we’re wearing the wrong skirt?
In 2008, a rape case was overturned because the judge decided the alleged victim must have consented to sex because her jeans were “too tight” for the accused to remove on his own. This is what we’re thinking about when we stand in front of the wardrobe. Will this outfit define the rest of today? Will it, if I am very unlucky, affect my life? Is this going to be the subject of a court case? Could I run for my life in these shoes? Do I have anything for who I need to be today?
10. Male feminists
We’re embarrassed when other women say, “Men can’t be feminists!” We don’t want to get into an argument, but we just can’t see the logic in it. Feminism can only work if men are feminists, too — because the only indices by which feminism will succeed is based on how many people believe in it, support it, and want it to happen. By definition, it has to be a populist movement.
There’s no point in only 27 percent of people believing inequality because the maths, very obviously, show that you won’t be equal if 73 percent of people think you’re not. You can’t go and… hide the feminism in a special secret place, and only let certain people have access to it. Besides, as discussed above, men need feminism almost as badly as women do. So, lady-balls to “men can’t be feminists”. We disbelieve that. In our vaginas.
Our ultimate aim, when it comes to men, is to find an amusing mate we can have sex with, then sit on the sofa with, watching re-runs of Seinfeld and eating a baked potato. Discount all that Christian Grey/abs of steel/”bad boy” shit. Our priorities are 1) Kindness; 2) Jokes; 3) High tolerance of carbs.
It actually was us that threw those horrible old trainers of yours away. That story about how a time-portal opened up, and they were stolen away by your own teenaged self? That was a lie.
Caitlin Moran’s fee for this piece has been donated to Refuge, refuge.org.uk
Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran is out now, published by Ebury Press, £20
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