Chanté Mcleod – “I don’t really care about what you are, I just care about whether you’re a good person.”

How do you self-define?

I define as a bisexual woman.

What does feminism mean to you?

I think feminism is about trying to achieve equality because the only way we’re different is our body parts and organs. It’s important not to focus on the most obvious things, like not just a focus on the western world. Intersectionality is key. Gender, class, race are all important. Women’s experiences all across the world are important.

What do the words “woman” and “man” mean to you?

It’s funny because I have an image in my head of what is a woman and man “are” but obviously that’s not the case. I think a man or woman is whatever someone chooses to be, it’s not fixed. They can identify however they want.

When did you become aware of your gender?

Probably when I started studying sociology. I always accepted I was a girl. I’m lucky to not experience any form of dysmorphia but I never thought about its relevance until I studied sociology and realised how gender produces inequality. After coming to Keele, I realised how many different forms of gender expression there are and it has opened my eyes.

Do you ever feel unsafe due to your gender?

Yes, I could go on for ages about this. One example that’s affecting me at the moment is after going out to the SU, I’m scared to walk home which is silly because its Keele and a safe place, but I’m still scared. Also all women have friends who’ve been sexually assaulted, if not themselves. It is real. People joke about rape and then say they don’t mean it, but women know it’s real and it’s scary. It’s not a joke.

Do you feel treated differently by men and women?

I’ve never thought about that before. One thing I would say as a bisexual, is that when I get with people I think girls are nicer.  Some guys can be quite pressuring and clearly after one thing. With girls it’s more about having a conversation and there aren’t any expectations about what will happen. I get on well with both men and women but I can’t think of more examples of how I’ve been treated differently.

What do you think are positive ways that the world views women?

I was initially going to say nurturing and caring but it’s bound up with expectations of what a woman is. More recently the world is caring more about women so feminism is the biggest it’s ever been now. Young girls are more confident and proud of calling themselves a feminist. It’s hard to think of good ways without there being expectations as well. One good thing is that now in school, girls are outperforming boys, which is fab as before women couldn’t even access education. There’s that emphasis in media about women being strong, but at the same time they’re expected to be strong. It’s hard because positives always come with expectations of you have to be x, y or z.

Did you encounter any obstacles on your path to womanhood?

I think I’m quite lucky as I haven’t experienced many obstacles. There’s things I’d rather not talk about that have happened, but I can’t think of things that have hindered my opportunities.

Photo Credit: Aysha Panter

What do you think about casual sex?

For years it’s been fine for men to have casual sex, it’s encouraged, they are called ‘legends’. Women are degraded for it. I remember seeing an article that said there are 27 words that describe women as being sexually active, when the only male equivalent is ‘man whore’ or ‘fuck-boy’, but still fuck-boy isn’t the same because it refers to a man who treats a woman badly. Not just someone who sleeps around. I applaud women who have the confidence to engage in casual sex if that’s what they want, as people can be horrible about it even though men do the same thing. Women get slut-shamed and I don’t even know why! If that’s what you want, then go for it. Be safe, make sure you both want it. Good for you. If you don’t want to, then that’s also good for you.

Are you pro-life or pro-choice, and why?

Pro-choice obviously. It’s linked to me not being religious; but how dare people tell others what to do with their body? How do you have the right to tell someone what to do? At the end of the day I don’t agree with abortion being used as contraception, it’s reckless. If I was to get pregnant then I know I couldn’t keep it because I cannot bring a child into the world, unless I know I could take care of them. People talk about adoption but you don’t know what’s going to happen to them after you give the child. I couldn’t live with myself not knowing what was happening, and adoption could psychologically hurt the child too.

What are your feelings about contraception?

At Keele they are doing a good job. Free condoms are great. I don’t know a lot about costs. I think the pill is interesting with all the news about male pills, and the mental side effects. People encourage you to go on the pill but sometimes that means people won’t use condoms and are more at risk of STIs. There’s not as much promotion of the different types of contraception.  When I did street team training I was in a talk about sex and I learned a lot about what is available, that I didn’t even know before.

What are your thoughts on marriage and monogamy?

The history of marriage is giving away a woman to a man, but today it’s not about that. I want to get married one day but I would scrap taking someone’s name. I’ll only take it if I like name – I don’t want to be Chanté Jones! My name is great and my mum will walk me down the aisle. Regarding monogamy, that’s what socially acceptable, if that’s suits you then fair enough. I’m not sure if monogamy is for me, but I might just be confused because I’m young. I don’t believe in ‘one true love’ though. I don’t think there’s only one person out there for you.

What are your thoughts on parenthood?

Parenthood in general is difficult. I can’t even try to understand how hard it is, which explains my stance on abortion. One thing parents need to consider before choosing to have a child it how to be accepting of their children. Whatever my child’s gender, sexuality, ability etc., I will love them no matter what. I think a lot of parents don’t consider this. If you’re bringing a child into the world and they happen to be gay or trans*, it is still your responsibility to love them. It disgusts me that some don’t love their children because you don’t like who they are attracted to. It’s such a small aspect of a person!

Do you think your sex education was sufficient?

My sex ed was so bad. I had some in year 6 which I can’t remember because I was so young. I’m lucky that my mum brought me a book and talked me through it. When I found out about periods I cried! To be fair, they are awful. I went to a Catholic all-girls school. The only sex education I had was in biology. We had a text book with two pages of sex ed. It’s awful, religion isn’t an excuse at all because it just encourages people to find out for themselves. It’s ignorant to think that if you don’t talk about sex then they won’t do it. The opposite happens, and it just means people make bad sexual choices. I would have liked to have had a better education, it means I would have done things differently and I wouldn’t have had to learn through first-hand experiences. I had no idea about anything when I was younger. The emotional side of sex wasn’t even thought about. There should be consent classes which some people find patronising, but you should put your feelings aside and realise being patronised is better than someone being assaulted.

Do you feel comfortable communicating your sexual needs to a partner?

I think if it was something serious, or someone I’m seeing regularly, then yes I would. I’m not about letting men think they’re superior at everything – even sex. I’m not about that life. If I wasn’t enjoying it I would tell them. But I dated someone in the past who I felt really comfortable with and we just had a conversation about it, it’s so normal.

Has your sexuality ever been used against you?

In my first year at uni, me and my female friends would get with someone and we’d get a lot of stick from our male friends. Some of it was banter, but most of the time they were clearly only doing it because we were women. It made me really angry and no one would take me seriously because it was a ‘joke’, but there’s a point where it’s not funny. Men aren’t made fun of for it. I’ve expressed how I don’t like it, so it has decreased, but it used to get to me a lot more. I’m more likely to stick up for myself now. As long as I’m happy with what I’m doing then that’s fine, other people don’t matter because it’s nothing to do with them. In regards to my sexuality, when I tell people I’m bisexual, men often ask me if I’d had sex with a woman because otherwise apparently I wouldn’t know. It’s ignorant to assume that everything about sexuality is about sex, and also, it’s none of your business!

Is there anyone you would undermine your principles for? 

I like to pick my battles. There’s not enough time to fight everything, there’s so much implicit racism and sexism that you just can’t pick it all up. It’s exhausting. It’s clear that some people aren’t worth your time and are stuck in their ways, they’re not going to listen to what you have to say. If there’s explicit racism and sexism, then hell yeah I call it out. My family know I study psychology and sociology and I’m a feminist so I will be on anything they say straight away. Quite recently I’ve realised how ingrained sexism, racism and homophobia is. You hear it from people you love, friends, family, and quite often I don’t want to cause an argument. I’ll just try and point out their ignorance. For example, my aunty said that Cheryl Cole got a new husband, and that she’s always dependent on a man and shouldn’t date so many people. She’s been married 20 years and is happily in love. She wasn’t thinking rationally, so I told her that just because she’s a celebrity doesn’t mean she can’t look for love or date. There’s so many more important things in life than someone’s sexuality, gender or race. It’s so insignificant and superficial. There’s more important problems in the world. But yes, I listen and note when people say things and if they go too far I explain. Sometimes I do get angry but I have to remember it’s not worth it.

Do you feel satisfied with how women are depicted in film, TV, advertising etc.?

No. I hate romance movies because they’re so stereotypical; male and a female, white, probably middle class. Maybe they fight through their differences. It’s just boring. The media is all about money. Society is now beginning to lift women up, so the media are beginning to do this now so they can exploit people. I don’t think they actually care; they’d rather look like they care to please the population.

Photo Credit: Aysha Panter

How do you feel about products marketed to women?

I think adverts are so funny, in the ridiculous sense. Perfume adverts for example. Why do they always end up having sex? Why is the woman advertising it for a man to take interest in her? A lot of it is a bit sad because it’s about exploiting women and men’s insecurities. “Buy this make up to look pretty, or this soap to smell nice!” It’s all about not accepting who you are, and I try not to buy into it. I very rarely wear makeup which originally was due to a skin condition, but now I’m not bothered.

How do you feel about feminine hygiene products portrayal in the media?

Hygiene products that advertise all different activities like skydiving or dating are annoying sometimes. Periods can also make women ill. Like I get really sick, and that’s not taken seriously in the adverts. It seems like I’m being told to just deal with monthly pain and sickness, and to not let it hold you back, which I understand. But it is okay for periods to hold you back. You can be unhappy on your period and if you’re not comfortable, it should be acceptable.

What are your biggest fears?

Not being successful, not money wise, but not being happy with myself and what I doing. I want to get to a place where I can be happy.

What are your greatest accomplishments?

Getting to university. It’s hard to talk about things that are good about yourself as were told it makes you big-headed, when it should just be normal. It’s sad that it’s socially acceptable to dislike yourself rather than love yourself. Before I realised Kanye West was a misogynist, I used to really like how he always spoke about loving himself. It was great.

What image do you think you project on a day to day basis?

I don’t really like people knowing much about me, I feel I kind of give off a mysterious vibe, but that sounds cringe.

What image would you like to project in an ideal world, absolving social expectations?

I’d like to come across as happy. Different parts of your social identity are important, and they should be as important as you want to make them. How I portray myself shouldn’t affect people’s view of me though, they shouldn’t make judgments. Me being happy should be the most important thing.

What are your most positive relationships?

I have a lot of good female friends that I can talk to about everything. I don’t know, I’d say the most important relationship I have is with my brother. I feel really protective over him, maybe that’s a maternal instinct, but I’d do anything for him.

What do you deeply love about yourself? 

My favourite thing about myself is my open mindedness. I don’t really care about what you are, I just care about whether you’re a good person; and I try to be one too.

Photo Credit: Aysha Panter

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