TESTIMONY; confessions of a feminist freak

Shrill, man-hating, angry, banner-waving victims? That's me, says Monique Roffey

i am a freak. Why? Because I'm a feminist. Or rather being a feminist makes me feel like a freak. That's how unpopular feminism is. How unhip, how boring, how passe. Mention the ''F'' word at a dinner party and suddenly you know what it must feel like to have a turd on your head. Or leprosy. But the leper treatment I don't mind too much. It's the dimwitted, unsympathetic cliches that people (men in particular) come out with on the occasions when mentioning the ''F'' word does cause a stir - that really get up my nose.

Young, well-educated professionals (I'll be specific; documentary film makers, television directors, lawyers, high-flying business whizkids, all white and all male) have come back at me with the most appallingly simplistic and negative views on feminism. Men who should know better. Here are some typical examples: "Feminists all hate men," (yes, truly, I get that old stinker a lot). "Feminists are all victims." "The trouble with feminism is that it makes men feel guilty." "Isn't feminism a dead subject?" "What do women want now?"

These are some of the typical comebacks I get from educated men. Here is what I never get the chance to say back.

"Feminists all hate men." I can't speak for all feminists, but, yes, in my case the bonehead who said this is right. I hate men. There, I've said it. It's about time someone did. And before some stupid person jumps down my throat and calls me sexist, I'd also like to say that saying "I hate men" isn't the same as saying "I hate women." Hardly. I hate men for their explicit and deliberate actions. Because for centuries they systematically wrote us out of the picture. Everything. Politics, economics, education, oh, and that's just the factual, historically documented active sexism. Psycho-sexual sexism, the stuff that you can't see, but women can just feel, there's all that stuff as well. And then there's the huge amount of domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse and general menace. Mmmmmm. Yeah, well, I feel that's enough for me to quite happily say "I hate men" and not really care too much about men's feelings about the matter. When I say "I hate men", I have good reason. Men hated us first; although we were weaker, more stupid, less human, less intelligent, less "rational", less capable and acted on it. So I kinda hate men back.

Oh, and I also hope men reading this can read between the lines too. My man hatred is a group thing. I like Rod who's painting my house, and my flatmate and my male friends and I fancy men (though after writing this I'm sure never to get laid again). It's just that you've treated us all so badly in the past and many of you still do. The least you deserve is a bit of hatred.

"Feminists are all victims". Actually, feminism was invented because many women were and still are victims of a sexist society. Can we not forget this? It's a simple fact and truth. Thinking that feminists are all victims is a malicious rumour, a transparent ploy, scaremongering backlash tactics to put women off wanting to be feminists. Of course, no woman of today wants to go out and shout about being downtrodden and constantly thwarted, especially if (thanks to feminism) today's young women don't feel weak or at a disadvantage. But all this is a decoy and a smokescreen, and has little to do with existing problems like glass ceilings and poor childcare. It's great if women feel equal these days, but the sad fact is, in the big scheme of things, we're still not.

"Feminism makes men feel guilty" So? Who cares? Not we feminists. The least you can do is feel a little guilt. Be cool, be gracious and sympathetic, and try to change things along with feminists. The trouble with feminism is that we're in the right; there's no "debate" as to whether or not women have been discriminated against for centuries. We have legs to stand on, men don't. What really irks me, and what is sinister and hateful, is how somehow men have made women feel guilty for being feminists. And the guilt trip we have has been called the Backlash. Susan Faludi first identified it, and we are still living in the backlash tide. Faludi smelt a rat, did some intense and thorough research, found she was right, and then nailed her findings to a rock.

Sorry, men, but you, not feminism, are the bad guys.

"Isn't feminism a dead subject?" Who am I - a corpse? Try telling that to my fellow women's studies students who are very much young, fit, alive and well. What men mean by this is "Haven't you won/ got what you want?" Well yes and no, mainly no. Older feminists fought for what they thought was needed to redress the imbalance in society - equal pay, sex discrimination legislation etc. But a generation on, why don't I, born in the 1960s, a seedling of feminism, feel equal? Something still isn't quite right. I know this. Which is why feminism isn't a dead subject. Right now, feminism and bright, enthusiastic feminists couldn't be more needed to push for even greater change.

Finally, "What do women want now?" The only good question. Again, I can't speak for other feminists, but I know what I want and I think it's coming, except I'll either be very old or dead when the plates have shifted enough for my liking. But I'd like to see the day when my daughters say to me: "God, Mum, is it true that feminism was so unpopular? Were men really that bad when you brought the subject up?" And my sons? My sons will ask themselves how they are going to manage. How they are going to cope with having children ... and a career.

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