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Dear Growler,

I’m struggling with loving, or even liking, the men in my life at the moment. I feel like I’ve suddenly woken up. Whether it’s my husband leaving his dirty laundry right beside the laundry basket, or my slightly creepy boss at work, everything they do seems to stink of white, male privilege, and to be honest I’ve had it up to here. How do I stop from knocking them all over the head with a frying pan?


Awake and Angry New Feminist

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Dear Awake and Angry New Feminist,

My mother used to tell me from the time I can remember, “Always remember pet, there’s no man better than the worst woman.”

This embedded itself in me mind from early childhood. When I got married the first time, she told me “Make sure you have sex at least once a week, whether you want to or not, just lie back and think of Ireland, feed him well and tell him he’s great.”

Now, my mother never heard of the word “feminist”, sure she didn’t know she had ovaries until she got cancer in one. She wasn’t exactly well read or even informed but I believed everything she told me and I took her advice to heart.

I love men, I really do, but it’s hard for me to escape the fact that I think women are just, well, better. Lots of women in Ireland my age think the same. Now, I’m not saying that this is the best attitude or even a good one, but it served me and the millions of women of my generation well. You see sweetheart, we had no power, it was so far beyond us that we didn’t even really consider it, we just got on with it.

We were mostly just surviving, I was having a baby every nine months until I went to Mrs. Crowley who gave me some herbs. People said she was a witch and I never used her front door so I couldn’t be seen. I knew women and girls who were sent to the Magdalen laundries after visiting her and losing their babies. We learned how get along with life and each other and keep men out of our business as much as possible. We knew our place and those of us who stepped out of line by getting ourselves raped or pregnant out of marriage were sent away. It’s amazing what we women can hold, the pain, the loss, the shadows of lives not lived and still get on with it. I suppose it’s because we have wombs, we’re able to grow things and contain things.

Now you talk about white male privilege and I think, Jaysus we’ve come a long way. The fact that it’s been bandied about by everyone as a “thing” is a huge step forward.

That’s very hard for younger generations to understand and I’m glad you are feeling angry because your anger is justified. Your anger, though, is not just your own, I think this is why you want to knock men over the head with a frying pan.

You see if someone shouts “fire” in an enclosed space, everyone will rush to the exits at the same time, there will be people behind fighting to escape. The anger that you are feeling is yours but it is also your grandmother’s and your great grandmother’s, going back thousands of years. The boil has been lanced, the escape exits are open, and it’s messy, chaotic and raw. It would be easy to throw the baby out with the bath water. In this case, the baby has done a massive runny shit in the bath! We need to take the baby out, clean the bath and fill it up with clean water.

You see sweetheart, these “men” are our sons, our brothers, our fathers, our friends. They grew inside a woman’s body, they entered this world through the softest, most delicate part of our bodies, they were born naked, their balls swollen with female hormones, their first food comes from our breast, they are deeply, unquestionably connected to us.

I don’t have any clear answers for you pet, but I do know this: they need to be part of this conversation. My flaps do a little jig when I see all these women’s circles popping up all over the place and me FB feed is full of #metoo, #ibelieveher. It is important work that we come together. We need to start new conversations with the men in our lives, we need to start talking to our little boys, our fathers, even our grandfathers.

Now here’s a massive generalisation, a Growler take if you will, on how biology affects our relationship to the world: men’s tackle is on the outside, I think this is why they want the world to mirror them, they seek approval from the outside world, historically they hunt, they conquer. We have our bits on the inside, that’s why I think we are generally more self-contained, we grow things, we cultivate. Now cut me a bit of slack here, I’m just putting me opinion out there and it needs to be fleshed out.

There is a web of complex reasons why we’ve ended up in this situation as a species, there are tomes written, millions of hours spent discussing but I want you to know two things Awake and Angry New Feminist: firstly, the tide has changed in the west, we cannot un-hear, un-see, un-know what has been exposed in the past while as women. We will continue to awaken, one story at a time and our daughters will inherit a different legacy. One where they will have autonomy over their own body, one where their tears will not burn red hot into blood stained sheets, alone and frightened. They will inherit a space that has been reclaimed, a space that has been nourished with the salty tears of women who know how to heal together from their collective pain.

Secondly, men are our partners on this planet, we need to love the eejit out of them. We need to lead by example, united with soft hearts and strong backs. With the sword of truth in one hand and a mirror in the other. They need to hear our stories, we need to show them self-love. We women have each other, we always have and now more than ever. Men don’t have access to this support, they have been brutally excluded from any meaningful group interactions by modern life. They bond through competition and violence. It is time for us women to lead the way, fearless, like arrows, keeping our eye on the dream of a better world, showing our men the way until they are ready to take our hand as equals.

Don’t bonk your men over the head with a frying pan. Might I suggest you start using your voice more, take a chance on speaking your truth. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it’s ok if you sound like an angry feminist, the labels will be thrown at you. Know that you are not alone. Every time we interrupt bad behaviour, no matter how awkward it feels or sounds, it gives voice to the powerless. Collectively this has an impact. Humans are habit forming, we seek the most comfortable, easy path in everything we do. Right now we are not comfortable, we are going through a transition in our society. We need to hold fast during the pain of transformation, it will be worth it.

Growler is a 78-year-old vulva from inner city Dublin, Ireland. She is an accidental activist, an abuse survivor, feminist and writer.


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