The Shouty Woman

May 22, 2006

Leaving the ‘Matrix’

Filed under: Feminism — by Lucy @ 3:56 pm

Laura's recent post on the 'burden of truth' really struck a chord. While it's many times better than anything I'll ever write, it's inspired me to work through some of my own thoughts on the subject.

It's tough being a feminist, and it makes life more difficult. Once your eyes have opened the world seems a very different place, and the worst thing is that you can never close them again. You might want to sometimes; you might want desperately to block your eyes and ears and pretend everything's fine, but sooner you'll see something, or hear something, that'll bring you straight back to the reality of our situation.

  • You leave the office to get some lunch. A group of builders leer and catcall. You are left feeling angry and uncomfortable; your lunch break is spoiled.
  • At work you take up the case of a young Afghan woman who fled to the UK to escape a forced marriage to a man 40 years her senior. She knows no-one here and lives in loneliness and poverty; however even this is preferable to the alternative.
  • At home you turn on the TV. On the new series of Big Brother a contestant enters the house in a Playboy bunny outfit. She says her ambition is to marry a premiership footballer and pose for 'lads' mags'. Another contestant has spent £35,000 on plastic surgery.
  • Walking to the bus stop, you're accosted by a man you've never met before. "Hello gorgeous", he says, "give us a smile". You tell him to piss off but it doesn't stop the anger and resentment swirling inside your head.
  • You decide to wear a skirt to work. Not a short skirt, just a skirt. On the way from the tube station to the office a man yells a sexual suggestion from a passing car.
  • You want to buy a magazine. You're momentarily excited when you see there's a new one out, but no, it's the same bland mix of fashion and sex. Are we really this shallow?
  • In the newsagent your eye is caught by the free DVD on the front of one of the lads' mags. 'Real girls striptease!' The picture on the front is of a woman's headless naked torso. Reduced to the only parts that matter.
  • On the tube, an advert promotes a 'crisis pregnancy service'. Only the tiny logo in the bottom corner gives away the fact that it's run by a 'pro-life' charity. Any woman who calls the helpline will be told that abortion is murder. 

 All these examples are true. They didn't happen over the course of one day, but all of them are recent, and all of them illustrate why, once you've unplugged from the patriarchal 'matrix', it's impossible to go back. Every day we are reminded that women are objects to be leered at, property to be bought and sold, ornaments whose only use is decoration, vapid morons who only care about clothes and gossip, baby-making machines, disposable toys to be used and cast aside when a better model comes along. You can't walk down a street, turn on a computer or open a magazine without being reminded of your inferior status. Damn right it's a burden.

And yet, in a way, knowing the truth makes things easier too. You finally understand why men's magazines make you feel so miserable, and why you're not 'flattered' when a man you've never met feels able to pass judgement on you. It makes sense that you don't find porn 'empowering' and 'sexy' like you're supposed to. And best of all, you discover that there are other people out there who feel the same way.

I wouldn't go back. It's taken me a while to get to this point, but I'd rather know there's a problem, and therefore be better able to fight it, than pretend it doesn't exist. And at least I'm not alone.



  1. That is just how I feel myself. Specially the matrix bit. I wouldn’t turn back either and it’s great to know we’re not alone.

    Comment by Feminist First — May 22, 2006 @ 7:52 pm |Reply

  2. I get the feeling that there are more and more of us who are ‘unplugging from the patriarchal matrix’, speaking out and finding each other.

    If this keeps up we’ll be a force to be reckoned with before long.

    Comment by witchy-woo — May 22, 2006 @ 10:48 pm |Reply

  3. I believe I may be shallow and gossip-obsessed. This is worrying. Although also enjoyable at times.

    Comment by Lola — May 23, 2006 @ 2:44 pm |Reply

  4. Nothing wrong with a bit of shallow gossip! What I don’t like is that we’re not expected to have any other interests… šŸ˜‰

    Comment by Lucy — May 23, 2006 @ 3:10 pm |Reply

  5. I am currently also interested in Big Brother, food, diets, my upcoming holiday, acquiring a hat for my holiday, acquiring more clothes for my holiday, getting a tan for my holiday, remembering to get my eyebrows waxed soon, Eastenders, Lost, the West Wing, wine, what I’m going to wear at the weekend to a hen do and Boys.

    I’m afraid I may well be a write off!

    Comment by Lola — May 23, 2006 @ 3:16 pm |Reply

  6. Nothing wrong with any of that (well apart from Big Brother…)! Bear in mind that this blog is only an outlet for my feminist rantings – I am aware that it’s possible to be a feminist and be interested in clothes, boys etc. God knows I have enough shallow interests (current favourite being American Idol).

    Comment by Lucy — May 23, 2006 @ 3:29 pm |Reply

  7. Great stuff! Your list really rings a bell for me, and I’m sure it does for many many other women too.

    “And best of all, you discover that there are other people out there who feel the same way.”

    THis DEFINITELY the best thing I’ve got out of feminism so far. Sometimes I forget how alone, lost and foolish I felt before – just goes to show how much support I’ve found in the feminist community since then. And I’m going to organise a feminist party this summer if it’s the only thing I do!

    Comment by laura — May 23, 2006 @ 4:51 pm |Reply

  8. The worry is that I do care about all the feminism / socialism stuff too but I am genuinely developing concerns of late that trivia is taking over my life! I believe it is a response to too long in student politics though – was all very serious for a long time so am now being extra-lowbrow to compensate.

    That was my initial concern re blogging, actually – that I wouldn’t have anything interesting to say about anything. Managed 2 vaguely interesting political debates and have now reverted to ridiculousnes. I may get another spurt of inspiration soon though, you never know!

    I also would like it to be noted that I enjoy BB of itself, but I also have concerns about my ability to operate in an office environment without watching it, as lunchtimes would be quiet!!

    Ah well, I’m sure one day I will revert away from my second teenagehood (is teenagehood a word??!). I am currently living at an age of about 15 and a half I think. This fits in with my ‘nols stole my youth’ theory!!!

    x x x

    Comment by Lola — May 23, 2006 @ 5:42 pm |Reply

  9. Thanks Laura. A feminist party’s a fab idea – count me in!

    Lola – I think the best thing about blogging is that a blog can be whatever you want and no-one will judge you for it. I use mine to vent my rage, but equally there’s nothing wrong with writing about BB, Eurovision song contest/whatever comes into your head!

    I know what you mean about NOLS stealing your youth – I think Adam feels the same…x

    Comment by Lucy — May 23, 2006 @ 6:08 pm |Reply

  10. Yes, hence reverting to childhood I think!

    Comment by Lola — May 24, 2006 @ 8:07 am |Reply

  11. Hear free tunes at my [non-profit] site:

    Comment by pgermana — May 27, 2006 @ 5:27 am |Reply

  12. What amazes me is that no one has yet combined lads mags style porn with an overtly anti-feminist stance. If the objectification of women is combined with an explicit ideological position then there’d be no stopping it. The abandoment of the “it’s a bit of harmless fun” attitude will liberate a lot of guys from feeling dishonest about their desires.
    This could happen if feminists get more vocal.

    Comment by chris — May 27, 2006 @ 4:13 pm |Reply

  13. Interesting point – there are so many violently anti-feminist men out there, there’d probably be a market for it.

    Comment by Lucy — May 29, 2006 @ 6:44 pm |Reply

  14. We already have lads mags style porn with an overtly anti-feminist stance. It’s called Nuts, Zoo, FHM, Loaded, Front, Maxim and the list goes on. Is Chris saying ‘overtly’ as in the words ‘Front – the magazine for men that hate feminists’ on the front cover? This is not the way propaganda works. In any case, the magazines are already anti-feminist, which includes naming and ridiculing women and organisations that have acted in women’s best interests.

    Comment by Feminist First — June 3, 2006 @ 8:21 am |Reply

  15. I guess you’re right. I’ve never really looked inside any of those magazines so wasn’t sure how overt the anti-feminism was. Do they really ridicule women’s organisations etc? How very depressing.

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised though…

    Comment by Lucy — June 3, 2006 @ 9:51 am |Reply

  16. Hi
    Ih how true your list is..
    I “UNplugged” years ago and would find it impossible to close my ears and eyes again. It gets me down sometimes, been so primed and aware, to everything that goes on. I had an argument with a very good friend the other day. She said that she dosen’t want to see it all, and can’t i just”stuff it dowm” for a while. I explained to her that for me to pretend that i can’t see the “bigger picture” is like someone who has cracked geometery, pretending they can’t do it. She shut up.

    Comment by anna — June 7, 2006 @ 2:25 pm |Reply

  17. Hi Anna,

    Good for you winning that argument! Sometimes I wish I could ‘close my ears and eyes’ again, but as you say it’s incredibly difficult. At least since I’ve started blogging I know there are people out there who feel the same way as me.

    Comment by Lucy — June 7, 2006 @ 2:44 pm |Reply

  18. The feminists are vocal.

    Comment by Alex — July 2, 2006 @ 3:52 pm |Reply

  19. This is so true!The last few weeks/months I have been slowly building contacts, jobs, writing etc in the feminist sphere- a sort of culmination of a few years of academic rambling and not enough action. I feel like im about to embark on a life time of battling and it’s scary! I have decided that for one day a week I will NOT read the news and will shut down for the day and indulge in nothing more than eastenders and mind numbing temping. It may be cowardly but its the only thing I can do to stop feeling so angry and impotent sometimes. I find myself now talking about rape statistics and street harassment every time i go out and baraging my boyf with statistics and news stories every night so switching off ISN’T an option!!
    sorry for going on! Ive been thinking about this for a while and its kind of comforting knowing im not the only one.

    Comment by elliehutch — July 24, 2006 @ 3:41 pm |Reply

  20. Elliehutch – I’ve been ‘shutting down’ a lot lately, probably more than I should. Sometimes it gets too much though, and you just want to pretend it doesn’t exist. It is great knowing you’re not the only one who feels this way – that’s why the feminist blogosphere is so fantastic.

    LOVE the name of your blog btw… šŸ™‚

    Comment by Lucy — July 24, 2006 @ 5:42 pm |Reply

  21. in case, you call no body home!

    Comment by rachel — January 2, 2007 @ 8:42 pm |Reply

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