This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Chantal

Name: Chantal Hill
Age: 30
Occupation: Administrator
Location: London, UK

Chantal

How do you define feminism?
For me, feminism means recognising and rejecting the power binaries set up between people of power and people without power – I don’t define my feminism any longer necessarily through gender terms, as I really believe there is great strength in intersectionality. I define my feminism as the belief that the patriarchal hegemony is innately damaging and destructive to everyone who participates in it whether by enforcement or enthusiastic support, and that the arguments which come out of feminist discourses can offer a more constructive alternative path, away from patriarchy and towards a ‘better’, more thinking/thoughtful, more participatory, less judgemental and proscriptive society as a whole.

When did you first identify as a feminist?
Ha! Sooooo clichéd – aged 18 reading Adrienne’s Rich’s Song for the first time in an undergrad English class, and thinking, basically, “FUCK YEAH!”. And then being utterly dismayed when not everyone in the class shared my views on it, which I thought were blindingly obvious, hehe.

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
Yes – I think I’ve sort of covered this in my first answer. For a start, for years I didn’t have a clue about my privilege(s), which I do now (or at least I think I’m learning), mainly from reading progressive feminist blogs such as Shakesville and from reading writings from people from totally different backgrounds to me – they have massively enlightened my own feminist perspectives. I have a much wider understanding of what feminism can mean in terms of how you can apply it to everyday life – the Bechdel Test, for example. I was heavily into linguistic feminisms when I was at Uni because it tied in so well to what I was studying, now I suppose my engagement is more through “real life” feminism, if that makes sense.

Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
God yes, all the time, and from both straight men and straight female friends principally. I have lost count of the number of boyfriends I’ve had who’ve basically laughed in my face when I’ve told them I’m a feminist, and said something along the lines of that I can’t possibly be a feminist because of any of the following: how ‘cool’ I am/how much I enjoy sex/that I’ve got a sense of humour/that I’m not gay/the usual bullshit. And when women are disappointed it is usually because they think I am letting the side down somehow – not being a ‘girlie’ girl (although outwardly I am quite ‘girlie’ in the sense that I wear make-up, skirts, heels etc), causing an argument in the pub when they would, I guess, rather swallow shit than ruin the entire afternoon (quote nicked from Melissa McEwan). I’m not judging anyone for that btw, I used to do it too. It’s hard to stand up for yourself when the prevailing mood is against you. I usually counteract by getting into a discussion, and if I can’t win them over or am feeling particularly inarticulate that day then I sometimes send them linkage from the feminist blogosphere. This doesn’t always work of course but at least I know I’ve tried to fight my corner. And at least I do fight that corner now, whether I ‘win’ the ‘argument’ or not. NB I would like to say of course that I have been happily surprised on some occasions when it turns out people share my views – and of course it’s especially wonderful when this comes from a straight, white, cis-gendered male friend! They get lollipops.

What do you see as the future of feminism?
I would hope to see more activism on the ground, not just on the internet (don’t get me wrong, I think the internet has been just so incredibly brilliant at disseminating feminist thought and creating networks of discourse and support across the whole world, I mean, that is pretty amazing, but at the same time it is just still all on the internet, a lot of it anonymously) but in the world – whatever you thought of the Slutwalks (I liked them FWIW), they meant that women were making themselves, and their bodies, and their voices visible on the streets of dozens of cities all around the world. I think we need more of that. And I would like to see our male allies be more vocal in their support – what is happening to reproductive rights in the United States is particularly frightening to me as it seems, from an outsider’s perspective (I’m Scottish), to be going backwards – it is in these cases that powerful men who agree with feminism’s basic tenets on women’s bodily rights (what, there are none? I bet there are some, I’m an optimist!) have to make their voices heard to – they have to add their voices to ours. I mean, how powerful would we be then?

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