My Feminist Failures: 28 failures (and 15 successful feminists)

'Failure' by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0

As a teacher I have tried to make students aware of the gender bias and lead students into being strong vibrant people, no matter their gender, despite existing gender bias. However, in the rest of my life, sometimes I feel like I have failed as a feminist. Even though I make tentative steps in small ways, I feel like a failure, which is hardly behaving like a feminist but such a female thing to do. I am trying to make changes with some of these failures. Others I have listed have good reasons behind them and/or I don't really see them as failures in the logical sense, yet still, at times, they make me feel like I have failed. So much of being a woman is tied up with guilt that we are never good enough. Well, here is my guilt laid bare.

  1. I fail as a feminist because I left the male dominated industry of finance to have children and then joined the female dominated industry of teaching.
  2. I fail as a feminist because I took four years off work when I had my two children
  3. I fail as a feminist because I didn’t fight when I was bullied in the workplace. It happens more in teaching than in finance.
  4. I fail as a feminist because I leave workplaces rather than fight for my rights under patriarchal management.
  5. I fail as a feminist because I have taken a year out of the workforce, relying on my husband’s income, to help our son through the HSC.
  6. I fail as a feminist because I make my 17 year old son breakfast and lunch every school day.
  7. I fail as a feminist because I can’t leave home without makeup. I hate my appearance without it.
  8. I fail as a feminist because I dye my hair.
  9. I fail as a feminist because I am sucked into buying expensive designer clothes and accessories.
  10. I fail as a feminist because I don’t like being assertive.
  11. I fail as a feminist because I don’t like dealing with conflict, even though I’m good at it.
  12. I fail as a feminist because I went to the Geena Davis talk as part of the All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House because I like Geena Davis, the feminist slant being just a bonus.
  13. I fail as a feminist because I mainly read books by white male authors.
  14. I fail as a feminist because in a review I wrote of Jasper Jones I forgot to look at it with a feminist lens, and there are issues with it (book and film) in this regard.
  15. I fail as a feminist because I expect my husband to take out the garbage.
  16. I fail as a feminist because I let it slide that our Telstra account is in my husband’s name so he has to deal with the issues, even though I feel I would deal with them much more effectively.
  17. I fail as a feminist because I take on most of the housecleaning responsibilities, justifying that it’s my desire to want the house clean and tidy, therefore I have to do it.
  18. I fail as a feminist because I didn’t work the system to be entitled to maternity leave.
  19. I fail as a feminist because I worry that all the rights women feel entitled to in the workplace, particularly regarding maternity leave, are actually detrimental to the cause since much of it puts a cost burden on organisations
  20. I fail as a feminist because I drive a hatchback, such a chick car. Google chick cars to find yet another horrifying realm of gender stereotyping.
  21. I fail as a feminist because I took my husband’s surname when we married.
  22. I fail as a feminist because I feel fat and ugly.
  23. I fail as a feminist because I felt I had no choice the night I lost my virginity. Speaking of which, I wholeheartedly agree with Zoe on My Year 12 Life who said the first time a woman has sex it shouldn’t be about losing something but gaining something, particularly if it is by choice.
  24. I fail as a feminist because I believe there is an extra bond, whether it is called nurturing or something else, between mothers and their children which means it’s usually better if mums are the ones who stay home with children.
  25. I fail as a feminist because I am an emotional person and thus cry easily at movies, TV and when ambulances have their sirens on.
  26. I fail as a feminist because I don’t often enough point out cases of mansplaining or manspreading.
  27. I fail as a feminist because I have tried to keep my writing and education blogs separate because I’m scared I’d lack credibility in education for my attempts at writing on non-education topics (as if there are any).
  28. I fail as a feminist because I haven’t ever joined a protest march.

As a developing writer I hope to limit the amount of gender bias I present in what I write and have hope that I can contribute to social discourse on gender issues in a positive way. I don’t plan to make a mark as a feminist writer but to be a writer who is also a feminist.

For International Women’s Day in 2015, I wrote a blog post called Voice. In my micro-world, my day-to-day life, it feels like nothing has changed in the last two years.  In the macro-world of government and media there have been changes. Some changes have been for the better and some for the worse.

I was glad to see Tony Abbott ousted as prime minister and hoped Malcolm Turnbull would be able to lead with a much more reasonable approach. I am immensely disappointed. After reading Annabel Crabb’s book, ‘Stop at Nothing: The Life and Adventures of Malcolm Turnbull’, I wonder how much he actually holds onto principles and how much principles are up for negotiation depending on what will achieve a ‘win’. He may have won the title of prime minister but he hasn’t won at being a prime minister. The condescending, obnoxious, bullying, belittling, pompous, misogynist voices within the coalition seem to be louder than ever.

And then we have Donald Trump.

However, perhaps partly due to the painful parliamentary patriarchy, I feel that there is a stronger discourse of feminism within the media, with some strong feminist voices finding a presence, a space. These voices have to fight like hell to counteract the vile and vitriol that is flung at them. I admire them immensely for their stance, their fortitude and determination. So to finish this post here’s a shout-out to the voices I have loved hearing and reading over recent times:
  • Rosie Waterland for fighting for herself and what she believes in. My review in GoodReads for her book ‘The Anti-Cool Girl’ says: I laughed. I cried. My heart ached throughout. Yet, an enjoyable read. The writing flows beautifully in all its frank glory. I couldn't put it down, finishing at 3am.
  • Yassmin Abdel-Magied for her passion and vibrancy - I first adored Yassmin as an ABC presenter on ‘Australia Wide’ and then was privileged to be in the live audience when she appeared on Q&A.
  • Tracey Spicer, Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales as proud feminists reporting on the masculine world of politics and fighting the mud flung at them just because they are women with voices.
  • Jane Caro for writing and speaking passionately about feminism and education.
  • Rosie Batty and many others for speaking up about Domestic Violence.
  • A friend from school days, Jenny Rolfe, who is one of the numerous people fighting for feminist causes at a grassroots level, including greater representation in Wagga Wagga City Council, and faces phenomenal backlash as a result.
  • The Renaissance Women Leaders' Network - Wenona (a private girls’ school in North Sydney led by the amazing Briony Scott) gives back to the community in many ways and this group helps to encourage female leaders in education which is sorely needed since despite more women being in teaching, men dominate the leadership roles in education.
  • Emily's List Australia - I first became aware of Emily’s List Australia when a good friend gave me a tea towel with Julia Gillard's misogyny speech written on it. They are championing and funding feminist causes such as research into the gender pay gap.
  • Geena Davis as the only non-Australian on this list because I attended her talk at the Sydney Opera House last Sunday. She was brilliant. I already knew about the work of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (@GDIGM) through media reports. The research reveals alarming statistics of women representation in film and TV, particularly in family films.

I wish I could be more like them.


David Turnbull said…
Hi Shani I deleted my tweet, to which you posed a question about my comment 'letting women' do the things you referred to, and failing, by which I meant perhaps men stand by idly without wondering if they should be doing some of those things. Perhaps we just take it for granted that women will do those things. Uless we question that, we're n ot going to see change. I dont know. You tell me?
Shani said…
I was genuinely asking for clarification with your tweet because with 140 characters it is difficult to detect tone and meaning sometimes. I had hoped your meaning was along these lines.
It would be nice if more men were aware of the position women are in and what we have to face and decide how to handle it. It would be extra nice if my post makes you think a little bit about the women in your life and any gender bias you have in your assumptions and thinking, recognise where they are at and make some positive changes. I think in general men (and women) are becoming more aware of the issues women face due to gender bias, despite the political realm, but I'm glad there are people like the women I listed to take women's issues and gender bias to the public space to make it more topical for a broad audience.
David Turnbull said…
Shani, tt would be nice to meet you and I'd love to let you know where I come from on these things. My email address is below. David
Anonymous said…
More needs to be said on this from a feminist lens ... but failure is not a term I am comfortable with. Failure as a feeling is debilitating and toxic. I have spent the last 16 years choosing a different lens to view my decisions and choices I regret. Jemma
Shani said…
I agree, Jemma. I was using ‘failure’ with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek.

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