I’ve been sitting on this article for a while now, and have decided to write it in order to avoid marking and writing my teacher training essays.
Part 12: The Feminist Necklace
I’m not a fan of labels, but one label I do regularly stamp on myself is that of a feminist. While I deeply wish to own a Vulva Love Lovely necklace, being a teacher it would probably get me in a serious amount of trouble (and I toe the line between appropriate and inappropriate as it is!), so I went on the search for similarly feminist-inspired jewelry… Just without the presence of vaginas.
My search lead me through the wonderful world of Etsy where I was spoiled for choice. After opening a million tabs (bad habit), I finally found the perfect shop: Modern Girl Blitz, self described as ‘Lady Empowering + Quirky Art + Accessories by Midge Blitz’, where I proceeded to indulge in a pair of Venus symbol earrings and a feminist banner necklace. Whilst I am yet to find a suitable work outfit to combine with my bright pink Venus earrings, the FEMINIST necklace has become my favourite new accessory.
Not only does the necklace look super awesome, but it has encouraged all kinds of conversations with both my colleagues and students. Whilst my colleagues have heard me rabbiting on about feminism and equal rights and gender and equality (sorry guys), my students have only had snippets, which is generally when I call them out on misogynistic, homophobic and racist comments. This week, that changed.
The first thing I noticed was that students who identify as women generally complimented the necklace (which I thoroughly enjoyed, my vanity gets the better of me).
I like your necklace,
In reply to most of these comments, I asked the girls what feminism meant to them; it was great hearing about people’s journeys and knowledge of feminism in their life.
I was also really pleasantly surprised by questions I had from students, and their responses when I explained my reasoning…
What does your necklace mean?
I explained what it means to me – equality regardless of race, gender, disability or sexual orientation, with a strong emphasis around choices. Often this definition is met with surprise due to the portrayal of feminism in the media as a troop of man-hating harpies, hellbent on finding ways to procreate without men. Upon being told what feminism means and hearing about different feminist fights ranging from No More Page Three to FGM campaigns, these students actually appeared to think about feminism in a different light. It was a beautiful moment of realisation.
Of course there was the occasional, slightly more frustrating conversation:
So why aren’t you wearing a necklace that says ‘equality’ then?
At this point, I was chanting in my head “Educate, don’t berate.” I set out to explain where the word comes from, how it stemmed from a movement created by women, for women – the suffragettes. Their response was that I should buy a ‘suffragette’ necklace instead. At this point I dropped the conversation as the lesson was about to start (and I may have lost my temper), but I feel that this conversation simply highlights that the main problems which people have with feminism stem from the word as opposed to the movement. It is all about semantics. Feminist really has become ‘the f-word’.
And last, but definitely not least, there was one student who asked me the following:
Which kind of feminism do you most relate to? We studied it in anthropology, there were radicals, liberals, black and one beginning with the letter ‘i’ that I can’t remember…
This was probably my favourite discussion about my necklace. The question came from a man of a similar age to me, and his genuine interest absolutely made my day (cheers!). Firstly, I explained that the ‘i’ word he couldn’t remember was ‘intersectional’ and that would be my particular little pigeon hole – that to me feminism is not just about the inequality between men and women, but about all minorities and striving for equality for all people. He responded that he identifies as a liberal feminist. I nearly HI-5ed him, but thought that might decrease my ‘student cool points’ so decided against it.
And yeah, buy a Feminist necklace. They are cool.