TW: mentions of harassment and assault.
By: Toslima Khatun
The amount of times I’ve heard that third wave feminism is absolute crap by a middle aged man who just likes to yell and swagger off is enough that, if they had paid me the London wage of the average man, I would have paid off all my student loans. I might even have enough to then live the millennial dream of having a small place in the city with big windows. Alas, I do not.
The most common argument is that the ‘middle class’ worries of women in the developed world is ridiculous compared to lesser developed countries who live in squalor. Which in comparison is true. The situation like the women involved though is much much different. That does not discount the position of women on this side of the world. The fact that CEOs and managers are still overwhelming male is problematic when it comes to reporting assault. When it comes to the wage gap. When it comes to maternity wages. Yes, women can be just as problematic, but whenever I have wanted to report inappropriate behaviour of male colleagues that I witnessed it was never a woman who second guessed me or tried to shout over me. I am not ‘middle class’.
I worked in a major museum (which I have since left) where a man that has been accused of harassment at least 5 times by different people with witnesses has been allowed to work full time with no repercussions at all. Every single one of the higher ups that can fire him are male. Only his direct supervisor is female. I only found out as I left because everyone was afraid to speak of it. Would this be the case if less women had to judge which man would listen and had people that even looked a little like them in more positions of power? The people affected were overwhelmingly from the working classes of London. But even if they had not been. Why does that even matter?
Last year I had to report a male colleague for harassment. It was racial in that he was commenting on the colour of my skin etc. and even then I was hesitant to make a fuss until other people started to notice. When I told my supervisors who were both male they were more than supportive and I am honestly still grateful for it. But I was lucky and also, I had known them both since my late teens as professional and as good people. But what if they had second guessed me? Or even worse, asked the question ‘are you sure?’ until I gave up and doubted myself. My experience was good. Great even, for how qucik they were in dealing with it. It never happened again.
Girls are outperforming their male counterparts on every level of the educational system. My work in higher education has only highlighted this to me. As well as the fact that a lot of girls see me, and despite the fact that they are not working with or beneath me and specifically approach me because they need someone who they can ask questions to who could at least come close to understanding them. Without exception almost every single conference has resulted in me meeting a girl who (usually) timidly asks me if I have time to talk because they do not have anyone who looks like me to ask questions to. This is regardless or race, class and place in the world I happened to be in.
Tokens are powerful symbols. That is also why women who are in lower paid jobs get just as irate when we find out about actresses who are paid half of what their male counterparts. The fact that this happens at the top means that it happens a lot more at the bottom, and being able to be angry about it is a way to be vocal about it. But here’s the thing. When a guy is yelling too loud or his too caught up with his own voice to actually listen, all of this is very hard to explain. Impossible and frightening even. And if you get angry you are ‘the hysterical female’ trope which is the worst when you know you are right. Almost as bad as the guy who thinks that debating feminist issues is an acceptable thing to do as if the existence of safe women should ever be up for argument. Or the guy who ironically says ‘not all men’ as if we have not had enough of that.
The point I’m making is be mad. Be loud. Be angry. Be you. Cheesy as it is. But also, when you cannot because the person is not listening. That is not your fault. That is all them and you cannot fight every fight. So that sick feeling, or the frustration you feel when a guy swaggers off after yelling you down like he has proven the point of the century was just him being intentionally uninformed. You were probably never going to get through to him. That does not mean everything is futile. It just means that you can move past it accepting that once you do get into a position of power you sure as hell do not allow him or his ilk near it.
Toslima is currently a 24 year old PhD student at SOAS and in the process of writing up her thesis. A published academic and also a casual contributor to magazines, she also enjoys travelling and as you will see from her Instagram good food and books.