Why You Can Be A Feminist And Still Go Clubbing
We need to stop making women feel like bad feminists for enjoying a night out.
So you identify as a feminist?
That’s funny, because you’ve been known to get glammed up, let your hair down, and squeeze into a pair of ridiculously high heels more than once. Don’t you end up getting well and truly ‘smashed’ every Saturday night?
Does that seem like a very ‘feminist’ thing to do? The answer is yes. Of course it is.
This may come as a bit of a shock to some people, but just because you are a feminist doesn’t mean you are banned from clubbing. (Despite what some people seem to think).
What does a stereotypical feminist even look like? Or act like?
I don’t suppose a lot of people hear the word ‘feminist’ and instantly picture someone in a sparkly pink skirt, massive hoop earrings and a Jägerbomb in their hand. But calling yourself a feminist isn’t a fashion statement. It’s not about saying you binge watched ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ or posting a picture on Instagram wearing a right-on T-shirt with the hashtag #thisiswhatafeministlookslike. (Although that’s a perfectly good way to spend your time.) It’s about equality.
It seems there is no in-between. If you say you’re a feminist you’re considered to be either a hard-line man hater, or cute little freedom fighter. You’re feared or patronised or cartoonified either way. In actuality, the majority of people don’t fall into such neat categories.
Clubbing doesn’t mean you have to uphold sexism in clubbing culture
It’s no secret that the whole ‘clubbing culture’ can put women at risk of being taken advantage of. A study from last year found that almost three quarters of young people have witnessed some kind of harassment in a bar, pub or club. It also said that 79% of women have experienced inappropriate behaviour from men.
One student I spoke to, 18-year-old Evie, told me, “I never truly feel comfortable when in a club atmosphere. I blame the media partly for this, because there are so many news articles that talk about the dangers of women going clubbing”.
I think most women can say they’ve experienced some guy dance up against you, try to buy you a drink or even go home with you when it wasn’t wanted. And that’s not OK. Girls shouldn’t feel like you have to put up with it just because it’s ‘clubbing culture’, and ‘that’s just what happens when you go out’.
This is something that sounded quite familiar to Evie: “there was this one time, this dude tried to dance into me and wouldn’t leave me alone, even though I was obviously with my friends and not interested”.
Another student, 19-year-old Rhiannon from Devon, agreed with this as well, saying she believes that “clubbing and ‘lad culture’ can lead to women being taken advantage of. A toxic misogynistic mind-set plus drunkenness leads to women being disrespected”.
Just because you step foot inside a nightclub – feminist or not – it doesn’t mean you agree with clubbing or ‘lad’ culture. It doesn’t mean you’re being a bad feminist or giving into society’s stereotypes. It’s also worth pointing out that not all men on a night out are going to harass you. To be held back from doing what you might love because of fear is precisely why we need feminism, and why clubbing culture needs feminists too.
As Rhiannon put it: “feminism is about equality for everyone. Why wouldn’t it be acceptable for people to enjoy a night out?”
Ways to minimise sexism while clubbing
Some nightclubs even do women only nights, or have designated women only areas, if you’d prefer more of a girly night out.
Pubs and bars across the UK are also following the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign. This is where women use ‘Angela’ as a code word to suggest that they may be in an uncomfortable or even dangerous situation. As a result, bar staff then know to help by either moving the person to a private place or calling a taxi.
It’s also a good idea to go out in a big group and stay together – we all know how impossible it is to find your friends again once you go off to the toilet on your own.
Going out doesn’t mean you have to get all dressed up, either – unless the mood takes you. On student nights, most people dress fairly casually anyway. But shaming a girl for wearing ‘too much’ makeup, ‘not enough’ clothes and killer stilettoes in the name of feminism isn’t what being a feminist is all about.
Maybe she feels good dressed like that? Maybe it gives her confidence. Maybe she doesn’t even care about going home with anyone tonight. (And even if she does, good for her. Sex positivity, people.) Just because a girl is dressed up doesn’t mean she’s doing it for a man. Women can and do dress for themselves.
Let’s just remind ourselves of the whole point of feminism: gender equality
And the whole point of gender equality is to empower women – and men – to be able to do whatever the hell they want (within reason of course). It’s about human rights, regardless of gender, race or creed. It gives you the choice to be who you want to be.
I’ve heard girls who label themselves as a ‘feminist’ say it’s unacceptable to go out, curl your hair and down a couple of vodka shots because it’s following society’s stereotypes. And feminists are supposed to defy stereotypes, right?
Well not necessarily. What if you like to wear pink and dance with some guy to Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’ at 2am, but you also care about the gender pay gap, fair maternity pay and rights for women? I think it’s about time women didn’t have to appear less feminine to be considered strong or tough. Show us a woman who wears pink and kicks ass for a change.
Stop shaming women for enjoying themselves on a night out
Women should be free to make their own choices, right? There’s a difference between drunkenly falling down some stairs, and being abandoned in a gutter. A man gets drunk on a few pints down the pub with his mates and it’s ‘boys will be boys’. A woman has a few tequila slammers too many and suddenly it’s all ‘she brought it on herself’ or ‘she was asking for trouble’. But what’s the difference?
The point is, it doesn’t matter whether clubbing and dressing up is your thing. Whether you’re a tomboy or a princess is irrelevant as long as you uphold the main ideas of feminism. Even if you’re the most stereotypical girl ever, who sticks on lipstick, false eyelashes and a whole bottle of hairspray every Friday night, of course you can be a feminist as well.
You have the power to be whoever you want, and you don’t have to justify it to anyone.
Addendum: If you’re reading this, you definitely want to read ‘Bad Feminist‘ by Roxane Gay.