Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Thursday 1 October 2015

If you're looking for a Feminist Rant... This one's a Doozy!

In case you've forgotten what I look like.
photo by James Barnett with thanks

OK, so the new blog hasn’t happened yet, and I’m still here.

It will happen, but, as usual life has taken over.

Firstly, let’s talk about my long absence.

My father died in December. I didn’t want to take that out into the wider world. I still don’t. I know that lots of people find great solace in sharing their big life events, but, for me, the personal on this scale is very personal. There were really only a handful of people that I wanted to be with or talk to when it came to grieving for my father. I am still spending time with and talking to them. It gives me the solace that I still need.

Because I didn’t want to talk about this, I hope you can understand that it became difficult to talk about all the trivial and sometimes not so trivial nonsense that this blog has become full of. Now, I find that almost a year has passed and I’ve got a good deal of catching up to do.

So, here goes!

If you’re looking for a Feminist Rant… This one’s a Doozy!

I have been thinking a very great deal about feminism of late. I always think a good deal about gender politics, about being a woman, and about having women in my life, not least the dorts. 

It can be a complicated business being a woman, being a woman in a man’s world, and being a woman in a male-centric industry.

Many of the women I know and am close to are also feminists. We talk a lot about our positions in the World. We talk long and loudly.

I begin to wonder whether we are talking too much or about the wrong things. There isn’t the language. It has been annexed by men.

The husband and I were having a conversation the other evening, and it struck me that, while he is the husband, and while he does his best to be sympathetic, there is absolutely no way for him to understand what it is to be a woman. 

We were discussing women in the armed forces. We were discussing the comparative strength of women soldiers in the field, having to carry packs. A strong male soldier might weigh 100kg and a small female solder might weigh 50kg, and they would both carry the same 50kg pack. The biggest woman and smallest man might weigh the same, say 75kg, but the fat and muscle ratios would suggest that at the same weight the man would have the strength advantage.

That’s all well and good, and might be an argument for limiting women’s roles in active service. So, we took the debate back a stage, and talked about what it would be like if that pack and its contents were designed to accommodate the smallest, weakest person who elected to serve on the front line. How would uniforms, weapons, rations, and kit in general be designed to be lightweight, small-sized or collapsible? How could kit be eliminated altogether? What materials could be designed to be lighter or more flexible? What different sorts of weapons could be developed rather than the projectile weapons we’re used to?

Then I realised the problems I had with even this viewpoint.

Everything… But EVERYTHING is predicated on power, and therein lies the problem. 

Women don’t stand a chance.

Men will always be able to talk more loudly than we can, and when that doesn’t work, they will always be able to threaten us with violence, or act violently against us.

They have the power. They will always have the power.

Women can talk until they are blue in the face, and we have and we do, but all we can hope for is condescension, patronage, some kind of noblesse oblige… Because, when they don't want to listen any more, because we are right and they know it, but they don't like it, men can shout us down and they can beat us down. Society has been doing it for a long time, and it doesn’t look as if it’s going to stop doing it any time soon.

The husband and I tried to take our debate about women in the armed forces back another step, and we asked the question, ‘What would war be like if the World was run from a more feminine viewpoint?’

Would there be war at all? I don’t know, but I suspect there would be a great deal more talking, a great deal more negotiation, a great deal more loving and caring and conflict resolution.

Who are the peacekeepers in our homes? In our communities? In our workplaces?

This is extreme, and I realise that it is, and I am generalising wildly, and I realise that, but sometimes it helps to take an almighty jump to make a point, and sometimes it takes an almighty leap of faith to make a real difference, to change what needs to be changed.

Women, feminists have wanted to change the status quo for a very long time, but it is men who really need to see the benefits of the change we are looking for, and it is men who need to want it for themselves and for society. 

However badly women want change, they are still operating within a system built on masculine norms and a hierarchy of power and strength based around the premise of ‘the survival of the fittest’. 

If men could let go of their death-grip on control and power and violence, and allow women to play to their strengths, to join in the fun, to take a role, there would be scope for real change, and we would all be so much better off. 

We (and while I’m only speaking for myself, I hope that other women will agree with me)… We don’t want to be you. We don’t want to be the same as you. Women don’t want to be equal to men in any way that men should find threatening. We simply want equivalency. We want the scales to draw level. We want to bring our own skills to the table, make our own choices and contribute to the decisions made in our communities at every level. We don’t want to take power, we want to bring balance; we want to bring our own power; it might not be the same as yours, but that’s the point; it has its own value and its own place, and it complements your power, making for a more complete, more elegant whole.

We are your daughters. We are your wives. We are your mothers. We know you. We know who you are and why you are the way you are, and we know what you do and your motivations for the ways you act.

Having physical power, controlling with violence, allows men to forget that, allows men to marginalise and manipulate women, and it does them no credit. 

Having all the power allows men to disregard any need for understanding. If women didn’t understand men and work within the system, can you begin to imagine just how dangerous society would become for them? Do you see how dangerous society has become for those women brave enough to question the roles that society has imposed on them? Every time a feminist stands up for herself and for women in the press or on the web, she is vilified, judged, harassed, threatened and called out as a bitch, a feminazi and worse by a baying host of misogynists. And what do good men do? For the most part they do nothing. I believe this to be true, because I believe that the majority of men are genuinely good, and I believe that they have the power, since they are in the majority, to rein in those on the fringes of the fraternity who perpetrate these offences against women. They could pile in to take these misogynists firmly to one side and persuade them that they are wrong. They have the power, but they choose not to use it.

Women (and, again, I speak only for myself)… Women don’t want to best men. We don’t want to do battle with you. God knows we don’t want to put you in the position you’ve had us in for so damned long; we wouldn’t wish that on our worst enemy. And, despite what you might think, we do not see you as the enemy. We want to stand beside you and support you, but we want your support in return.

What are you afraid of collectively? And what are you afraid of individually?

The bottom line is, that if you embrace the change and you don’t like the outcomes, you know you have all the power… In the end, if you embrace the change and it backfires, and we really do become the power-grabbing harpies that you suspect we might be (and isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black) you will still have the loudest voices, and you will still have the biggest muscles, and, when push comes to shove… Well… that’s the point, isn’t it, you will still be able to push and you will still be able to shove. You will still be able to shout us down and you will still be able to beat us down.

Trust me when I tell you, if you do ever decide that you want to meet us half-way and embrace the change that we’ve been talking about for so long, I don’t think it will ever come to that.


  1. I think this is very view point and one that does not seem to be aired in the common media. While I shall never truly understand a women's side of the argument ( I am tumblr's hated foe) I found this post to be compelling and definitely food for thought

  2. Intermesting, thought creating. Thanks Nik, here's my two cents if you're curious...

  3. I can't believe that I missed this until today. Wonderfully articulate but then I wouldn't ever expect anything less from you.

  4. I firmly believe that we need to raise our sons to view their physical strength as a gift that should be treated with respect - to raise them as protectors rather than aggressors. I'm finding it very difficult to wade through all the macho bullshit and the attitudes the boys are encountering in school and elsewhere. We try our best but it's an uphill struggle for sure. We'll get there though...

  5. Western feminism summer up: mass silence over abuse of Yazidi women, Rotherham abuse, Cologne... no tweets no blogs no student union uafswp marches, nothing - scientist guy wears un pc shirt = twitterstorm.

    No offence but if modern feminists think they're making any bit of difference to the world (for good at least) they're sadly mistaken.