Megan Litson – “It’s not about hating men, it’s about hating the patriarchy which disadvantages us all”

How do you self-define?

I guess I would define myself as a heterosexual female. I’m lucky I’ve got the gender I was assigned at birth.

What does feminism mean to you? 

I suppose it’s quite simple and some ways and more complex in others. I take it at face value, men and women should be treated equally. It’s not about hating men, it’s about hating the patriarchy which disadvantages us all. I think Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman is such a good book to read and really points out a lot of the stuff I’ve been thinking my whole life.

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

It’s quite complicated because I guess you could break that down into gender and sex. Sex is different sexual organs, while gender is how you identify and express yourself. I’ve got friends who are gay, bi and gender fluid, so it’s quite difficult to pin down a definite meaning. As a heterosexual female it’s pretty easy but for others it’s not quite the same story.

When did you become aware of your gender?

Um, I don’t know. That’s quite a hard question actually. I guess as I was growing up I’ve never been a traditional girly girl, so my mum put me in dresses for May Day and I just remember hating that. I remember when I was twelve people were talking about babies, and I just remember thinking, “I don’t want this”, which made me aware that I was a little bit different because most women do want children, or at least society tells women they want children.

Do you ever feel unsafe due to your gender?

Yes. I think I feel very conscious of it when I’m walking home. Take an instance, I was coming back from my staff party in December last year, so December 2015 in Exeter, which is where my boyfriend and I live, and the city council decided that we don’t need street lights anymore on non-main roads. So I was walking up the main road and I was going to turn up this alleyway which leads to my house and it was dark, so I decided, “I’m not going to take that”, and my phone had died so I couldn’t use that as a make-shift torch. So I went the long way home but even that was dark and I just remember feeling really horrible because someone could be ten feet away from me and I’m never going to know they’re there, and they’d hear me coming because I was wearing heels. If you’re a man, you could feel unsafe in that situation but someone could be there to mug me, or rape me, or beat me but if you’re a man that list is reduced. Men are also physically stronger. So yeah, I’m always there ready with my keys, my fists or a kick to the groin.

Do you feel treated differently by men and women? 

It really depends where I am. I’d say that in university in general, it’s a more open and tolerant society. Sadly however, you can’t stay in university forever. Out in the real world I did feel like i was treated differently. I felt that some of my bosses who were male were patronizing, and sometimes older females can be patronizing because they have more life experience. On the flip side of that, they can also be really wonderful and supportive. There are people out there who don’t really care what your gender is as long as you can get the job done. I think my best experience working was at a company called LSL, because everyone was really supportive.

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

There are a lot of positive things, but it really depends on what you want out of life. Like people say “the miracle of childbirth”. Well oh that’s great, but I don’t really want kids. I think we are getting to a stage, strangely, where older men are more supportive of feminism and women. But sometimes when I look at Facebook comments or comments on the internet in general it’s just awful because there are so many people out there who write rude things about women and see them almost as second-class citizens. I can’t really think of many positives to be honest.

Did you encounter any obstacles on your path to womanhood? 

Uh, my period, it’s horrible. It’s always at a bad time, isn’t it? And you can’t openly talk about it either. I mean, you can put your hand up in class at school and say “I need the bathroom”, but if you’ve got a male teacher and male colleagues around I just don’t think society has come to a point where women are comfortable telling someone that you need to change your pad. That’s definitely an obstacle because you feel so scared and embarrassed about it. It’s just so hard being a teenager, I wouldn’t want to do it again.

 What do you think about casual sex?

Go for it. I don’t have a problem with casual sex. If you want to be with someone for just a night and there’s reciprocated interest then why not. It’s different if there’s power relations and someone’s using someone else though.

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

I’m very pro-choice. I think it’s a woman’s decision to make as to whether she wants to bring another human being into the world, which is nine months of carrying something inside your womb, and then giving birth, recovering, dealing with complications, and then looking at whether you can afford to raise them. But the most important question a woman can ask is, “do I want this?” and if she doesn’t then it shouldn’t happen. Someone incredibly close to me had an abortion this year and I feel that it was completely right for her. She’s only 20, and was 19 at the time and she’s got her whole life ahead of her. There’s no turning around if you have a kid young, and it can impede on where you want to go in life. I know that she wanted to do a lot and get a career underway and I don’t really see why that isn’t considered a valid reason. Men get to do that. Men get to have careers so why don’t women? I don’t think that ageing, white middle class men should ever get to have a fucking say on that.

What are your feelings on contraception? 

Again, go for it. I use the pill. It’s effective and free from the NHS. Apparently it increases likelihood of depression, cancer and all kinds of stuff but my periods are three days long and I can skip them if I want. Plus I can have sex without a condom. But if you’re sleeping around, I’d say use a condom, you don’t want any of that shit.

What are your thoughts on marriage and monogamy? 

Before I start, I’d just like to say I didn’t have a bad childhood, it was really lovely; but my mum and dad, who I’ll name Graham, got divorced when I was around two, and then recently my step dad who raised me from a young age left my mother about two or three years ago now, so I’m not filled with warm fuzzy feelings about marriage. I’ve considered getting married to my current boyfriend but I think that if you’ve been with someone a long time and you know you love them and they know you love them, then I honestly just see marriage as a certificate and a tax break, because if you’re in a committed relationship already getting married doesn’t bring you to relationship nirvana. You still have to work for it, and I think that when people get married they almost become lax and complacent within it because it’s so difficult to escape from. If you get divorced a lawyer has to get involved and a lot of money is at stake. I’m not saying that marriage can’t work or that I would never get married but I do have reservations about it. I actually had my step dad tell me the other day that I should propose to my boyfriend because he’ll start to question where our relationship is going. But that’s not our relationship at all and frankly I’d rather own a house and a car with him before I get married to him.

What are your thoughts on motherhood? 

I’d be happy for anyone who wants kids and gets pregnant, it’s really exciting for them. But for me personally I don’t want children, and I sometimes find it quite insulting when people ask “when are you having children?” It’s an if, not a when. It’s not a guarantee that I’m going to have kids. Not just for the people who don’t want them, but also for the people who can’t have them, I think it’s always worth bearing in mind the “if”. I even had a colleague say to me the other day, “oh but you can’t avoid it forever”. But if it’s something to be avoided then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

Were you always aware of what your body could do, and do you think your sex education was sufficient?

I think as you become older and grow into yourself you become aware of what you can do. As for sex education, it was alright. We laughed a lot because they brought in a guy to talk about it and every time he said “penis” he spat everywhere. We also had this female sex education teacher who told us horrendous personal stories about masturbation that really put us off. I guess you sort of learn by doing, but I do think people should be educated young and made aware just so it’s not a big mystical thing when  you actually do it. This whole virgin flower shit is just that, shit. It is just me as well, but men don’t have the same emphasis put on their virginity. I think sometimes it causes unnecessary pressure for girls when it comes to having sex for the first time.

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

Yeah, if I want something I’ll tell him, but I’m pretty vanilla in bed. I haven’t quite made it into S&M or anything like that, but we always ask if either of us want something different or to try something new. We’ve been together six years so it’s important we keep communicating and making sure both parties are happy.

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Has your sexuality ever been used against you?

Actually, yeah, in feminism it has. A lot of people think it’s man-hating so they don’t understand why I’m with a man in the first place. Or sometimes if I’m talking to someone who’s LGBT they’ll use my cis privileges against me. I want to help people so it can be a little hurtful to have my own sexuality thrown back at me. I haven’t picked to be heterosexual just as they haven’t picked to be LGBT, but I know I’m lucky to have a sexuality that falls within the majority.

Is there anyone you would undermine your principles for? 

Not really, no. I think I’ve become a lot more aware of feminism in the last two or three years, and I’m twenty-four now, so only since I’m twenty-one. I’m a late bloomer in this department but I firmly believe in it now and fully communicate this to people in my family who I know don’t agree.

In which situations do you feel safe to speak your mind or stand up for yourself? 

Situations like this where I’m being openly interviewed, and I guess seminar debates but it can be intimidating to voice your thoughts and opinions about being a feminist. I used to work in a law firm for nine months and it’s quite backward in some ways. All the women were secretaries. I once got laughed at when I described a man working there as a secretary, because apparently his actually role was “assistant”. It doesn’t really make a difference, he’s a secretary at the end of the day. Also, if you speak your mind about a feminist issue you get laughed at because apparently women can’t take banter. It’s quite upsetting and frustrating that some people can’t be a little bit more open.

Do you feel satisfied with the way women are depicted in film, TV and advertising? 

Kinda, a little more than I did. We now have sexy men as well as sexy women. But like take the new Jurassic Park film for example. She’s this really strong women and she runs this whole theme park by herself, she treks through the jungle and takes down velociraptors and then at the end of the film she sees this man and goes to hug him, and it’s sort of implied that she wants to settle down now because she sees her sister and family happy. She’s done all this really cool stuff and then it’s meant to be like an enlightenment at the end of the film. It’s like, why?

How do you feel about products marketed to women?

Oh it’s proper patronizing isn’t it? Like “have a happy period”. Fuck off. No period I’ve had has been happy. Perfume adverts are ridiculous too, they imply you’ll have a Ferrari and loads of sex and stuff. And then like chocolate; there’s the assumption that women eat more chocolate then men. But no, if you’ve met my boyfriend he eats more chocolate than me. What I’m saying is that there’s a lot of stereotyping that goes on in marketing.

What are your biggest fears?

Failing my masters, and not getting all the work I need to apply for my PhD and never getting into academia; or losing my partner – I miss him, and my Nan. I really miss my Nan. In terms of feminism, we seem to be going backwards, because I see a lot of hatred from younger men of my generation. Then when you question them, they just say it’s banter, but it wasn’t though, was it? It’s not really funny in the first place. A lot of hate in general has come out of the EU referendum too; homophobic, racial or religious hate. It’s like we’ve gone back to the 1970’s which is certainly not my idea of fun, and we have to push everyone forward again. I suppose going backwards is my biggest fear.

What are your greatest accomplishments?

Oh God. Um, well I am quite proud I did go to New Zealand and I’m pretty proud that I didn’t throw up on that boat when we did whale-watching. I got tattoo and I didn’t cry despite my low pain threshold. I guess I’m just proud I keep furthering myself because I was always a really shy kid and very introverted so I’m just trying to push myself out of my shell.

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

Talkative, annoying, short, chubby woman. I can be articulate at times so I hope that comes across too. I get irritated a lot so my friend calls me ‘Angry Meg’.

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

An intelligent, powerful woman who’s confident.

What are your most positive relationships? 

My mum, my sister, my nan and my aunt. There’s my boyfriend as well, and Ruby my friend. They’re probably my strongest relationships.

What do you deeply about yourself? 

I think it’s probably my ability to eat a dominoes medium pizza in one sitting, I’ll be honest. And I can put my mind to things and do a lot if I work hard. Like with my partner, it’s a pretty amazing feeling because often I know we can sort something out if we really fucking try.

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