Last year, a lot of things happened. First, our lives were changed by the Coronavirus and then I moved back to the UK with my daughter in the middle of the pandemic.
When I lost my job due to the pandemic, I focused on my writing full-time. I knew I never wanted to do anything else in my life.
But after the move it seemed more important to lay the foundation for our new lives in the UK, so I went back into a full-time role in recruitment. Starting a new role always means putting a lot of energy and time into it. I thought I was stable and grounded enough to shift my priorities for the short-term. After the contract I’d easily be able to re-shift and refocus.
Last week some ‘big’ news broke. Philip had passed away. I watched the internet and news react. Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, dies aged 99. A Life of Service. …today we join Her Majesty in mourning the loss of an extraordinary man. Britain’s longest serving royal consort. We’re all weeping with you, Ma’am. Prince Philip, the man who walked two paces behind the Queen. World leaders pay tribute. Gun salutes.
The coverage confused me. Monarchies everywhere should be abolished. They are based on inequality and racism. Yet, Philip was remembered and mourned for being such a staunchly supporter of the Crown and the Queen. After all, he benefited from being a royal all his life. He lived in immense privilege. Being of servicepaid his luxurious lifestyle. What were we thanking him for?
He brought the monarchy to the 20th century. During the Second World War he actively served. It really seemed like everything he was being remembered for by the public was how he upheld patriarchy and other systems of oppression. And yet, surprised by the emotional public response, I felt like it wasn’t the time to speak about what his service had meant to me and to a lot of other people.
Feminist support and conscience
And then I read this tweet:
Mona Eltahawy had spoken what I felt but couldn’t put into words. I was so grateful. “I have been corrupted by patriarchy and its tentacles,” I thought in her metaphors. The establishment was racist, sexist and classist. When the internet or media upheld one popular opinion, we have to question it. My gut felt sick of the coverage and attention, and how Philip’s ‘achievements’ were celebrated. What he was remembered for went against everything I believed in. Still, I allowed the popular opinion to creep in and silence me.
I realised what Mona’s activism meant to me, retweeted her and added:
Mona is my feminist conscience. She puts my head straight when patriarchy confuses me!
The effects of adjusting to a system that works against you
And then I realised that if I didn’t work on my feminism actively because I worked full-time (or some other excuse for that matter), patriarchy would swallow me and my thoughts.
I had to continuously work on unlearning what society had taught me on gender roles. That way I was able to reverse the effects and trust myself as a woman more with every feeling of inadequacy I got rid of. Internalised misogyny leads to self-censorship. As soon as I stopped actively discarding my bias the progress was reversed quietly. Doubt crept in. I started questioning myself and listen to what the establishment had to say about my abilities. My confidence levels were draining so I was looking for validation within recruitment. And I really have no deeper attachment to that job.
Adjusting to the system that we live in made me an enabler. I had stopped preaching feminism, and my inaction started benefitting misogyny. I should have known better, but it’s an experience I’m glad I went through. I have felt how a contract with the system corrupts you because that’s what a corrupt system does. It’s a sweet deal. You think you’re profiting but what you’re giving in exchange for money is something money cannot buy.
Being a feminist is hard work
What Mona does every single day is hard work. I fully support her, and I’ve experienced now how her unapologetic approach can be desperately needed. I longed to hear her fearless, loud voice. Unfortunately, it’s a rarity. It resurrected my fight. It’s prepared me for what other women might need.
I’m here for you when you waver. I want you to tell your story and pass on your experience. This is why I’ll keep sharing mine. If I can empower you this way or anyone else who is silenced by patriarchy, I must keep at it.
I am privileged because I have some choice. I can have a comfortable life in the current system because I overcame some of the oppression and I was born privileged. I have an extra duty to keep fighting. No one can be left behind. As long as there’s patriarchy, it’ll keep all other systems of oppression alive. We all participate in patriarchy. And when we do it has an effect on everyone.
The privileged have to be part of the fight
Being a feminist isn’t easy but it’s a necessity. If the privileged don’t engage in the fight, then the fight is lost. Erasing oppression means identifying and dismantling privilege. We need to ask ourselves how we benefit from this system. Justice and equality will only follow once we happily hand back the advantages the system has given us and not others. If we keep insisting that those privileges are our rights, then we’re sustaining the system.
For a lot of people abolishing patriarchy comes at a personal loss. And we have to be honest about it. The question is whether we’re ready to give up on our advantages so others’ disadvantages can be erased. My decisions matter and they have consequences on our society as a whole.
After all, this was the reason why I started this blog. I knew that what I did influenced the world my daughter would live in. So, I’m back.