So… here it is! Column number one. Never thought I’d get here, certainly never thought I’d have my own column, but the Scene seemed keen, so who was I to argue? Welcome to I Use the F-Word, a fortnightly column about all things feminist and quite a lot of my opinion, but don’t let that put you off. Ladies – feminism isn’t just a movement, like hipsters, it’s a big deal. Get in on the action. Fellas – men who are feminists are hella hot, but we can tell if you’re faking it, so maybe make yourself a sandwich and settle down to give this a read.

Despite attending an all girls’ grammar school for six years, feminism wasn’t ever really a thing that was spoken about. It was like they wanted to keep us the subjugated masses lest they have a revolution on their hands.

I’ll admit I was a late bloomer to feminism. Despite attending an all girls’ grammar school for six years, feminism wasn’t ever really a thing that was spoken about. It was like they wanted to keep us the subjugated masses lest they have a revolution on their hands. (And boy were we subjugated – ridiculous dress codes and all. We weren’t even allowed to show our shoulders, lest anyone get the “wrong idea.”) It wasn’t until the end of Year 12 that I really got on board with the whole “equal rights for women!” thing, after meeting an alumni of my school who was a proper feminist – ranty, sweary, passionate, but funny, sassy and intelligent. She knew her stuff! She had proper opinions about things like abortion and contraception, and she didn’t use big confusing words – she was chatty and it felt like I was having a chat with her over coffee. Inspired, I read around. I learned the vocab. I was feelin’ it. Women are oppressed! Down with the glass ceiling! End FGM! Yeah, I got intense. I think my school got kind of nervous, especially the English department – after three consecutive pieces of coursework on feminism and equality for women, I think they were moderately concerned that I was going to burn my bra in front of the Head’s office and lead a revolution. (I do have previous on the revolution front – but that’s another story.) Quiet little Liz was quiet no more – she had ideas, big scary ideas backed up by millions of other women and empirical evidence.

I think their real fear was that it would spread. In all my time at secondary school, in all 1100 pupils, besides me I knew one other feminist. One. And she was much more militant than me – she broke the sixth form dress code and argued with the deputy head over her “right to tights.” She read de Beauvoir and Plath and scowled on use of the word “slut.” She preached on women’s rights from the backseat of the school bus, and argued with our more religious friends about the oppression religion placed on women. My school were concerned. They didn’t want “it” to spread. Feminism was up there with its other least favourite F-words (although teachers seemed to like Fridays as much as us, and my English Language teacher used the f-word with relish as part of our lessons) and so I was never encouraged.

When I said I wanted to write – well, that was out of the question. Nice grammar school girls didn’t do silly things like write! They did lovely professional things like become lawyers or doctors or insurance brokers! My statement of “I want to be a writer” was met with slightly amused stares, like I was about to shout “just kidding! Ha ha ha! You should have seen your faces!” or an expression which clearly conveyed “that’s very nice dear, but that’s a hobby. What do you actually want to do for money?” My becoming a feminist writer would have been their worst nightmare. Well, here I am! A nightmare in lipstick, brandishing a copy of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, ready to bash any protesting men over the head and burn my bra outside the embassy. (OK, I might be exaggerating. A nightmare in pyjamas, I’m more of a Caitlin Moran feminist, I’m not going to bash any men, unless they harass me, and no woman with an ounce of sense would burn her bra – those things are expensive.)

So when the Scene asked me to do an opinion piece off the back of my first article about coming out, I got a bit cheeky. “How about a column?” I asked. “My own column, about feminism and…. stuff.” If you don’t ask you don’t get, I thought. Is this cheeky? I’ve only written one article and now I want an actual slot writing and – “Yeah sure.” Oh bloody hell, I hadn’t considered that. Now I had to think of a name. An actual proper grown up name. Admittedly, it took me almost a week. My first choice was inspired by the deity that is Caitlin Moran – “How to Be a Woman.” But that was unoriginal and I couldn’t name my column after her book, because, well, she’s a genius and this is just me blathering. I put on my thinking cap. (OK, I went to sleep.) “Womenology” sounded like a Cosmo article on waxing and beauty, plus it didn’t exactly encourage male reads. “Femaleology” sounded too anatomical and didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Caitlin Moran proposed one simple test to tell if you’re a feminist. Question one: do you have a vagina? Question two: do you want to be in charge of it? If you answered yes to both questions, you are a feminist! My feminist friend-slash-mentor defined feminism as anyone who wants women to be in charge of their own vaginas, or simply appreciates that no one can infringe on our choices as women purely because they are male.

It might sound hypocritical but I didn’t want to use the word “feminism” in my column title. For one thing it puts men off, and to be honest, most men are in need of a little feminist education. Secondly, it puts most women off, because most women don’t know what feminism is about. It’s not about bra burning, or forcing women out of their homes and into work. It’s not about growing your leg and arm hair and becoming a political lesbian. Being a feminist is simply about choice. If you don’t want to wear a bra, you go ahead. If you’ve got enough dosh to afford to burn your bra… knock yourself out. Feminists aren’t saying you can’t be a stay at home mum, or a housewife – they’re saying it’s fine to do that as long as you want to, and you’re not simply doing it because your husband wants you to. We aren’t saying don’t shave/wax/epilate, but if you want to de-hair yourself, do it because you want to, not because you feel you have to. And if you’re a lesbian – wicked, you’ve already stuck two fingers up at the patriarchy, and you’ve done it because you like women, not because men are evil subjugators from Mars. (Well they might be from Mars. Research is inconclusive.)

Caitlin Moran proposed one simple test to tell if you’re a feminist. Question one: do you have a vagina? Question two: do you want to be in charge of it? If you answered yes to both questions, you are a feminist! My feminist friend-slash-mentor defined feminism as anyone who wants women to be in charge of their own vaginas, or simply appreciates that no one can infringe on our choices as women purely because they are male. Simply: if you think that women should have equal legal, social, political and health rights to men – you’re a feminist. Congratulations! While we don’t expect men to fully empathise with all our causes (abortion being a prime example) we appreciate their support with little things, like not being sexist, doing their share of the work, and campaigning with us.

So bearing all the prejudice against the word “feminist” in mind, what the heck was I meant to call my column? At first, I did what I thought was the logical thing – I Googled. After trawling through twelve pages of search results for “feminist column names” I quickly found that a lot of the results were extremely anti-feminist, and subsequently gave up. Second inspiration idea – music. I sat down and scrolled through my iTunes, but the only song that jumped out at me was Lily Allen’s Hard Out Here, and I figured that the Scene might have an issue with me calling my column “Grow a Pair of T*ts” (although it would attract a large male readership.)

It was only after several days of pondering that I remembered a campaign run (ironically) by Cosmo called “the F-word.” Stars including Nina Nesbitt and Professor Green donned t-shirts to support feminism (see fellas? Men can be feminists too, even big tattooed ones like Professor Green.) and one of the slogans was “I use the f-word, do you?” Bingo. There it was! My column name. Ready made, tongue in cheek, and I’ve got photos of several celebrities wearing t-shirts with it on, although that really just provides me with humour more than anything else.

If I’ve lured you here because you thought this was going to be an article about the f-word, I am very sorry to disappoint you. If I’ve lured you here on that prospect and you’re actually still reading this – hurrah! I hope you’re now at least a partial convert, and you’ll keep coming back for more. Similarly, if you’re here because you knew this was gonna be about feminism and you read it anyway – salutations. You’ve made it to the end of my first ranty, rambly column, may you keep coming back for the ones to come.

28 Comments »

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  • H.Ubris
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    Should of been called the

    “Do you use the n-word”

    Narcissist

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    Name
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    I’m terribly sorry, I wasn’t aware that offering my own opinion in my own opinion column made me a narcissist.

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    Daisy
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    H, with the greatest respect in the world, it’s ‘should HAVE’…

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    Name
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    And the article should also speak about an alumna, rather than using the plural. If you’re going to correct somebody’s grammar, perhaps the writer would be more grateful of your assistance? One would, after all, assume that she, as a new writer, would be looking for ways to improve her writing, rather than simply voicing her opinions.
    As a feminist who also went to an all girls grammar school, I found some of the comments made in this article to be quite offensive to teachers. From my experience, teachers don’t try to force their students to live their lives a certain way, and they certainly won’t be scared when a student becomes politically active. They will encourage it. The suggestion that the school was ‘nervous’ because one of their intelligent and very capable students realised she was as intelligent and capable as any man is unfair to the teachers, and this article will come across as narcissistic to many.
    However, the writer brings up an important point about peoples’ reluctance to use the term ‘feminist’, and I’m sure she has many more interesting and important things to say in future articles.
    Even the best writers have to deal with criticism, and I have no doubt this one will learn to do so. Until then, correcting people’s grammar in the comments section is not the way to go.

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  • Name
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    I think if you are fighting for gender equality you need to stop putting all the blame on men and think about how in certain instances they are treated unjustly because they are men. If you really want to gain a wider male readership I guess you need to address those issues.
    Blaming one sex for everything (which in some cases might be true) is the cause for the bad press feminism has. I know there are more inequalities faced by women compared to men, but still you need to address the other sex, otherwise it just feels like you are bashing men.

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    Liz Harrison-Kendrick
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    At what point in this column do I bash men?

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    Tim
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    Apparently in spite of the fact that I’m a man, I quite enjoy Liz’s articles. I’ve found her writing to be refreshingly well written for someone so inexperienced at writing for a public audience.

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    Henry
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    As a man I don’t really feel like I was bashed at any point by this column. In fact I rather enjoyed reading it and look forward to more

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  • Daisy
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    A really exciting, provocative debut from a very promising new writer and voice. Excited to see where her career will go!

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  • No
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    This seriously shouldn’t be categorised as “News”

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    Gwyn
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    I think you’ll see it’s under ‘opinion’.

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    No
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    It was originally dually listed under both. It got “corrected” after I pointed it out.

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  • Gwyn
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    This may become interesting but it reads more like a blog than a column? I want to read more, but I suggest tightening the screws a bit next time in terms of writing style just because sometimes it felt a bit (in your own words) rambly, without a fixed cause except yay feminism but in a very US vs THEM way?

    If you are trying to include everyone, then you need to take on a more inclusive tone. At the moment you have this to offer: “While we don’t expect men to fully empathise with all our causes (abortion being a prime example) we appreciate their support with little things, like not being sexist, doing their share of the work, and campaigning with us.”

    I think saying that men should be relegated to a ‘little things’ support group within the feminist movement is somewhat detrimental to everyone. I would argue that things like equal maternity leave for both men and women is a strongly feminist issue, but will directly affect men (in a positive way). Pushing men to the outskirts of your movement will only alienate them further, when part of the fundamental principles of said movement is equality? The patriarchy disvalues men and assigns them their own gender rolls, which people seem to forget can be just as damaging, and further polarise humans against those that do not conform.

    I think the other comments of narcism and man-blaming is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, don’t read too much into them.

    I think you need to do some more reading than the populist books like The Female Eunuch, which is quite old really, and begin to see how feminism can be about everyone together against a system of damaging beliefs and socialisations, rather than a war against ‘the patriarchy’.

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  • Semper Fidelis
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    Awesome to see the Wessexscene allocating two feminist columns! :D Great to see another feminist taking up the cause and writing. Hi! *waves*.
    The writing has a fun style and obviously you can’t cover every corner of feminism and address everyone when writing a chatty-style column … but even taking that into account, there a lot of problems with the article I feel I have to mention. (And let me distance myself from the anti-feminist comments sure to come. This is a comment from one feminist to another.)

    Quote “It wasn’t until the end of Year 12 that I really got on board with the whole “equal rights for women!” thing, after meeting an alumni of my school who was a proper feminist – ranty, sweary, passionate, but funny, sassy and intelligent.”
    No. No no no no no. Please never use the phrase “proper feminist”. I say as I tell you how to be a feminist. Hello hyprocrisy I know but there is no one way to be a feminist, so using the phrase “proper feminist” is so judgemental of people who don’t fit into whatever definition you’re using. And the definition you’re using! Not so great. Quote: “Ranty,sweary,passionate, but funny, sassy intelligent.” A really patriarchally informed view of what a feminist is. In the patriarchy, feminists rant, non-feminists speak. So your “proper feminist” is ranty, sweary passionate but its all okay everyone we put up with those traits cos she’s funny, sassy and intelligent! Sassy being a word so often only used to describe women.

    Quote “she was much more militant than me – she broke the sixth form dress code and argued with the deputy head over her “right to tights.” She read de Beauvoir and Plath and scowled on use of the word “slut.” She preached on women’s rights from the backseat of the school bus, and argued with our more religious friends about the oppression religion placed on women. My school were concerned.”
    I would say let’s not help the patriarchy in its view that a feminist that dares to speak up, to confront issues is “militant”. Too many people already believe that feminist are waging a war on men, that we are “feminazis”. While militant can mean using more confrontational (but not necessarily violent) methods for a political cause, I would say its main connotation is a violent one. And giving another feminist this negative connotation just because she chose to argue more with her authority figures than you, is not cool.
    Now on to your deification of Caitlin Moran. I have read “How to be a woman”. And it’s hilarious. I really liked it and identified with a lot of it. It was one of the first books I read discussing feminism and it brought a lot of issues to light for me. And it was great that Caitlin Moran was helping to bring feminism into the mainstream, even though it was a purely white feminism. But it was basically an autobiography so that’s understandable. But she is not a saint, or a god. She is not “the deity that is Caitlin Moran” as you put it. You managed to quote one of the worst things about her book, the definition of a feminist: “So here is the quick way of working out if you are a feminist: A: Do you have a vagina? And B: do you want to be in charge of it? If you said yes to both, then congratulations, you’re a feminist.”
    Totally wrong. You don’t have to have a vagina to be a feminist, men can be feminists. And even more importantly, you don’t have to have a vagina to be a woman!
    In her book she also uses the words “retard” and “tranny” freely. *shudders* And then there was the whole thing with her on twitter ignoring WoC experiences. See these sources to see what I mean… http://bitchmagazine.org/post/why-i-didnt-run-the-caitlin-moran-interview
    http://shadowscrescent.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/an-open-letter-to-caitlin-moran/
    http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/182477233

    Thankfully you go on to say “ Simply: if you think that women should have equal legal, social, political and health rights to men – you’re a feminist.” A much better definition. Why even include Caitlin Moran’s cissexist one?

    Quote: “While we don’t expect men to fully empathise with all our causes (abortion being a prime example) we appreciate their support with little things, like not being sexist, doing their share of the work, and campaigning with us”
    I have to say I found this one weird ass sentence. I for one FULLY expect men to empathise with ALL our causes, and I think its doing men a disservice to say they can’t. Empathy = the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Although men won’t ever experience life as a woman, through listening to our lived experiences they can totally understand it. I appreciate male feminist’s support in the big things and not just the “little things” as you say. And campaigning is a pretty big thing, I wouldn’t class it is a little thing.

    So overall, great to see another feminist column. But I hope in the future your feminism will become a bit more inclusive of everyone.

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    Liz Harrison-Kendrick
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    Don’t tell me “you can’t say someone is a ‘proper’ feminist” then tell me I’m not one and how to be one. You have no right to tell someone that they can’t look up to someone who they do because of some comments they have made, because that’s just rude. Also, stop being semantically pedantic about subconscious connotations I make in my writing style. Side note: don’t say patronisingly “my comment is from one feminist to another”, when what you mean is “I’m going to tell you why your sort of feminism is wrong and my sort of feminism is right”, because 1. That’s bollocks and generally quite rude, and 2. Feminists telling other feminists how to BE feminists DOES NOT HELP FEMINISM.

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    Semper Fidelis
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    You’re totally right in one sense, but I did point out that hypocrisy in my first comment. I never said you’re not a proper feminist. You say you’re a feminist, you’re a feminist, the end. There is no such thing as “proper” feminism. And that’s what I was trying to point out. I’m sorry if I upset you, I did not intend to. I was just trying to give some constructive criticism based on my experiences with being a feminist. And surely we can all learn from one another on how to have more inclusive intersectional feminism. I know my feminism has changed over the years as I learn more and see more issues from different points of view. There is no one way and my feminism is hardly “perfect”, so I am not saying my thoughts or views on feminism are the “right” ones. However what I am expressing is that having a more inclusive intersectional feminism can only be good.
    I liked your writing style, as I said. However what I pointed out were some patriarchal and sexist connotations that I felt. I personally like it when people point out to me where I have internalized sexism subconsciously. Because I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise and it makes me more aware. Since this is an article, words are important I think. So yes I took issue with some of your words. If you don’t agree with why I took issue, then that’s completely fine. But surely I am allowed to bring it up.
    You can absolutely look up to who you want. You can look up to Caitlin Moran. But you can’t just dismiss other things she has done just because of that. And by deifying her I think you are. I don’t know if you knew or realised some of the things I expressed about her in my comment, but whether you did or didn’t of course you’re still allowed to look up to her, to talk about her book to do whatever you want. But I felt it was important to bring up the cissexist definition of feminism and her use of slurs in her book.
    I agree feminists “telling” feminists how to be a feminist doesn’t help. But really all I meant was to enter into a discussion with you on points I disagreed with in your article. I did not mean to tell you do anything. So my apologies for that. I did mean to express my views and maybe bring up points you hadn’t considered.

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    Think before you write
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    You need to stop swearing when you write.

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  • Isabella Hunter-Fajardo
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    It was accidentally clicked under ‘news’ by me (wessex scene opinion editor), it was an accident, this is an opinion section piece

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    No
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    Thanks, glad to clear that up. :-)

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  • Heather
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    Humorous, honest, and enlightening! I look forward to reading more :)

    I too was at an all-girls school, and was pleased to find that basic feminism (on a “women are capable of doing anything they set their mind to” level; not so much with freedom of uniform or similar – but I did find that the local boys’ school was actually far more stringent on that front, which was interesting) was totally embedded in the school curriculum that it was just treated as common sense. It’s only in the last year that I’ve really begun to identify as a feminist. Hopefully, more schools will begin to teach this way!

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  • Tom
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    Great job! The article was funny, provocative and entertaining right through to the end. The style worked in it’s favour and the column title is brilliant.

    P.S.
    Don’t be put off by internet trolls, most of the time they are deliberately trying to provoke a reaction.

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  • Lily
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    I think its great that Wessex Scene is doing more and more pieces on feminism. I do agree with some of the other comments, the article does seem maybe a little rambly, but opinion pieces often are, and for a first piece its really good and makes some really good points. Take the constructive criticism and praise, ignore the idiotic comments!

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  • Think before you write
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    As someone who also came from an all girls grammar school, I don’t think that they were preventing feminism in the slightest. Teachers work hard to make sure that girls make the most of their education, ability and opportunity to get into high end jobs that are otherwise dominated by men, and not to be put off of achieving these goals. They regularly encouraged us to be aware of current events, social issues and political awareness.

    As for the uniform point, the whole point of regulation on uniforms is to prevent over sexualisation of young school girls and awkwardness for others who don’t want to see what’s under a belt length skirt. It’s nothing to do with feminism, but more about having a respectable, appropriate image for girls aged under 16 at school. And I’m fairly sure that if a lad turned up wearing track suits in boys’ grammar schools there would be an issue, not because of his show of individuality and personal freedom but because it goes against the dress code of the school.

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  • Name Dan.Te
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    Interesting first shots in a long battle.

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  • Name
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    I really enjoyed reading this. Some may argue that it’s not an appropriate tone for a column, but I enjoyed the more chatty feel about it – I guess everyone has their own opinion!
    Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading more of your articles!

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  • Citizen of the world
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    Top Tip, don’t reply to comments. It looks tacky and asks for trouble.

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  • H.Ubris
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    Hi I’m Liz

    Some of you may know me as the young woman who came out as a bisexual on the internet. I’m a middle class white girl from a lovely all girls (selective) grammar school.

    In case you haven’t realised, I’m actually very intelligent and oh-so liberal. I mean I was one of only TWO feminists in my entire School. It was quite tough being so enlightened in such an oppressive and intellectually inferior environment.

    I hope you all enjoy reading about MY experiences and MY views on feminism, of course as a middle class white girl from a selective grammar school in the UK I have absolute authority over all “things feminism” related.

    Also in case you were wondering men are under no circumstances allowed to be given more credence on their views over abortion, it is not their body after all. I have a womb and therefore no father will ever no the pain of making a decision to have an abortion or to bring a child into the world and the sacrifices that entails for the maternal parent.

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    Think before you write
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    This is hilarious. And completely true.

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