Finding Feminism

January 27, 2017

After reading Iris intern Taylor Lamb’s piece “The F Word,”  U.K. resident Ash Moylan was moved from across the pond to submit her own story of feminist awakening. While we usually only publish the work of University of Virginia students, we thought now might be a great time to highlight a voice of global solidarity. So cheers to Ash Moylan, who has a degree in “Gender Politics,” works as a “lecture helper” in Carlisle, Cumbria, UK, drives a Fiat Panda (stick), and who is a self-described “ballsy blonde with sassy senses and a dangerous degree!”

Story By: Ash Moylan

“YOU CAN’T GO THROUGH THERE” – you haven’t got the necessary equipment,” a farmer told me when I tried to enter a tent marked “Washroom B”.

I was 8, camping with my school, and I’d assumed that the “B” distinguished it from “Washroom A”.

But no, “B” apparently stood for Boys, and I had to enter a different building entirely, and forsake the camping experience!

“The necessary equipment”? Did men really talk like that in the outside world?

I mean, I knew what he meant (this was 2002 and I had  a male cousin who peed wherever and whenever the urge took him), but I was understandably crushed.

Until I got home and told my 13 year-old female cousin, and asked her why men felt a need to run us down like that.

“Well, hello Ash,” she said, “welcome to this world!”

So I learned from her that men make the rules, and we’re supposed to follow them.

Together, a spiteful sexist and my clever cousin had awoken me. I’d spent 8 years not knowing who I was, but now I did. My mission in life was to outsmart all the adults who thought they were clever but weren’t (i.e. men) and to awaken all the adults who just let the men get on with it (i.e. women).

I’m not sure how much of a feminist I was between the ages of 8 and 11 (my auntie said I was a brat who didn’t know her place, which pretty much sums up what older people think of me today!).   But at 11 I went to secondary school and, at one point, somehow got myself elected as Class Queen! There was of course a Class King, whom everyone considered my boss – until they realised that Ashley Moylan didn’t believe in bosses!

I was 12 when the second – and overwhelming – thunderbolt of feminism hit me.  It even resulted in four of us inventing a song (“Here she comes – through the mist, with knee and fist, it’s a feminist”) and a symbol (a fist punching a boy in the face and a knee hitting him further south). Not that we were really into violence you understand, but we WERE 12 year-old girls.

Anyway, what prompted that was a male teacher telling the class that boys could try off-road hill racing in the holidays if they wished.

“Julie and me want to go racing,” I said.

“Julie AND I,” corrected the teacher, “but you can’t.”

“We can, we’re as strong as the boys, and we can handle the vehicles better than they can”.

“No, you can’t.”

It was that definitive “no, you can’t” which started the four of us off on a crusade, and we got 30 or so signatures from other girls who supported us  (and from a few boys, who thought we’d ‘reward’ them if they signed). This was now 2006 and we knew that we were every bit as powerful as the boys, but that it was illegal to discriminate anyway.

So that was it – my twin rude awakenings to feminism, and I’ve never looked back (well, except to check that everyone else was following my lead!).

Oh, by the way, we WENT hill racing, two of us beat the boys on the steepest hill, and we’ve been damn hot drivers ever since!

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