Is becoming a woman a “messy process”?

Sophie Walker took part in a web-chat on Mumsnet this week.

I am a member of WEP, and have been since the very first day membership was available.  I acknowledged that it can be problematic – a very “top down” approach to feminism, but I really felt that it was something I wanted to be part of, and that no one organisation could be perfect or tick all the boxes I needed, but that this approach was a vital one

However, the statements made in this webchat in particular are causing me real problems.  Sophie Walker said:

“I am old fashioned enough to believe that one is not born a woman but rather becomes one. The process of becoming a woman is a messy one, filled with contradictions and influenced by many different factors”.

And this brings me up short, as it almost feels like victim blaming.  I didn’t choose to be a woman, I am one.  And the point about the discrimination I face as a result is that it’s not based on my choices.  It doesn’t matter that I’m child-free by choice, I am still seen as a “maternity risk” by some potential employers.  Discrimination doesn’t start when we declare ourselves to be women; we know that girls also experience discrimination, just take a look at Pink Stinks or the testimonies on Everyday Sexism.  We can’t choose whether or not this is the case – the patriarchy is something imposed upon us.

I am really struggling to see what Sophie Walker meant by this statement.  What is the point of a Women’s Equality Party that believes women only face discrimination when they choose?  What is the point of a Women’s Equality Party that doesn’t really believe that women exist?

I am deeply troubled by these statements.  I haven’t made a decision about my membership yet, but I don’t feel that I can avoid that decision much longer.