An 'ugly selfie' campaign by the 'Ugly Girls Club'
I've lost count of times men (and some women) have conflated my feminist views with my appearance. Naturally, my interest in the liberation of women has nothing to do with the securing of dignity, equal respect and equal opportunities and everything to do with the fact Old Mate propping up the bar on Parma Night doesn't want to have a ride on me. I've even been told that the reason I care so much about rape culture is because no one would ever want to rape me. And while I can't remember the first time I was ever called ugly, I remember the last because it happened only a few days ago.
In a comment left on my Instagram account, an anonymous user's long screed against 'strong feministic [sic] views' included the following: "I gotta ask, when was the last time you had your clit tickled, or when you had a mammoth cock pierce up through your virgin smelly anal passage, or when a guy doggy styled you so hard you finished up in tears? Exactly, none, nada! Clementine, no one wants to f--k you, you hideous ugly bad breath stupid ginger."
The comment finished with, "I just f--ked your mum", an admission I found slightly confusing because she's been dead for almost 8 years. But I suppose men who fearfully troll women on the internet don't have the luxury of choice when it comes to bedmates, so I can only feel sorry for him. And his dry-cleaner.
The 'Ugly Girls Club', images via Facebook.
All jokes aside, the words didn't bother me in the slightest. In fact, I've been called 'ugly' and unf--kable so many times as ripostes to my feminism that the sentiment means nothing to me anymore. So it's a joy to witness other feminists embrace that tag, as students from the Royal Holloway Feminist Club have reportedly done in the past week.
After overhearing a guy call them 'the ugly girls club' while they were running a stall on sexual consent at the student union, they decided to embrace the label. They changed their name on Facebook to The Ugly Girls Club (and watched as their membership swelled by more than 2000 since Saturday) and began uploading 'ugly selfies' to their Instagram account with the hashtag #uglygirlsclub. In a statement to Buzzfeed, club president Natasha Barrett said, "Initially we found it quite funny and were sending very tongue-in-cheek selfies with the hashtag amongst ourselves, but then a few current and graduate members of the society joined in." They've since had solidarity posts from female and male students at other colleges, including supportive men from Cambridge and Oxford.
Sure, the activity might not be changing the world but as far as fun ripostes to ludicrous misogynist critiques go, it's a lot of fun. It's almost astonishing that the same gender which relies on the 'UR UGLY' form of intellectual debate has managed to maintain control over society's most privileged institutions. For those who don't know, the term 'boner killer' was popularised after former US President George Bush Sr. used the opportunity of a National Automobile Dealers Association conference to talk and laugh with attendees about how pro-choice feminist activists were too ugly to get pregnant in the first place. Oh George! You're such a crack up!
But the kind of feminism I practice seeks to liberate women from the constraints of a patriarchy which relies on our physical and symbolic oppression to maintain male power and privilege. The use of our aesthetic appearance as a means of perpetuating that control is one of the silliest and most asinine successes of male rule - yet until recently, it's always proven so effective, with countless women self censoring out of fear of the verbal abuse that might reign down upon them if they dare to challenge the status quo or the behaviour of particular men.
When I speak to groups of women, I'm frequently asked how I 'deal' with the endless trolling and insults that seem to be part and parcel of being a Professional Feminist. I've taken to answering that question with this:
Before you realise how meaningless it is, it can be hurtful to hear negative comments about the way you look. Beauty is one of the few forms of currency women are allowed, and centuries of uncritical engagement have tethered us to it in a way that's difficult to disentangle ourselves from. But I reasoned a long time ago that the use of aesthetic slurs to try and keep me silent was one of the reasons why it was so important for me to be a feminist - because I realised that the ongoing, immeasurable and slow burning pain of staying quiet in the face of my own degradation and oppression was hurting me far more than anything men could possibly say about my looks.
There's a reason why the backlash against feminism has always relied on the stereotype of the 'ugly, man-hating, hairy legged lesbian', and it's because of the inherent lack of esteem that anti-feminists hold women in. The very act of refusing to prop up male privilege and entitlement renders a woman obsolete in the eyes of those people who enthusiastically embrace and benefit from such disparity; to them, the only purpose women serve is as glorified fuck machines and vehicles to elevate their status among other men.
It's little wonder that men who view women like this would imagine that denying us the compliment of their dicks is the best way to disempower and humiliate us - but it sure is funny that they think we would care. Dudes, take it from this Ugly Girl: this is one time where none of us are at all interested in being anywhere near your male tears.