‘If it talks like a feminist and supports women like a feminist, then it’s a feminist’
Sudden Wild Enthusiasms: Beech & Black
The so-called Second Wave of Feminism came to an end in the early 80s, around the time I was 20. I entered the work-force with the message that the war was over, the victory was won and that, as a woman, the world was my oyster.
This of course, was a load of CODSWALLOP. Certainly a lot had been achieved by the work of those amazing pioneers, mostly in liberating women from the shackles of the home, but we were light years away from equality.
However, in a neat trick performed by the patriarchy to halt any further activism, the word “feminist” became sullied. Feminists were depicted as shrill, hairy, clog-wearing Millie Tants and the message I received loud and clear was, “Hey there, girlie! You want a boyfriend, don’t you? Yes! Well, don’t be a feminist! No man wants one of those hirsute, dungaree-wearing horrors.”
Terrified, I agreed. No to the feminists! But it was strange living in a world that was rage-makingly unequal yet feeling alienated from the one movement that could have helped me. It was frustrating, confusing and depressing.
The so-called Third Wave of Feminism kicked off in the mid-90s. I was on-board with their ideas but couldn’t get past the word “feminist”. My great fear was that “the feminists” would mock me for loving shoes and getting my legs waxed. I said mortifying things like, “I agree with everything they stand for but [nervous chuckle] I’d hardly call myself a feminist.” (The memory of which triggers a bout of full-body, shame-induced impetigo.)
But if it thinks like a feminist, talks like a feminist, supports other women like a feminist, then it’s a feminist. Now I know that feminists aren’t a breed apart from “ordinary” women: feminists are all of us with an ounce of sense. Every single one of us want access to the opportunities that men have. Every single one of us would like it that our body is our own property.
Beech & Black is run by a really sound Irish woman called Stacey (a “proud, intersectional feminist.”) She’s donated to all kinds of great causes like Abortion Support Network and The Samaritans. The site is a treasure trove of beautiful feminist products: t-shirts that say, “A mother’s place is in the resistance”; keyrings with inspirational messages like, “Nevertheless she persisted”; pretty pencils with feminist slogans. Even feminist chocolate! (It says “Girl Power” on the wrapping.)
But my very favourite is this necklace. In rose-gold it spells out just one word: Feminist. After fearing the word for a few decades, I’ve never been more proud to wear it.