Are you an awesome woman? Do you know any awesome women?
That was the question posed by Ashley Fryer (@ashleyfryer), who kept meeting great, funny, interesting women on Twitter and decided to do what few have attempted - transfer these friendships from the online realm and reproduce them IRL*. It's a notoriously tricky manoeuvre, like moving a cake from tin to cooling rack without it collapsing, but it was worth it. And so, Awesome Women of Twitter (#AWOT) was born.
It spread, too. The awesome women invited other awesome women, and the call of awesomeness echoed across the virtual plains like a hunting bugle. Except nice, and nothing to do with killing animals. Soon there was a potential pubful of witty women all waiting to meet up, so Ashley booked a central London venue that would house them, and lubricate their social cogs with gin.
But it was with a huge collective spluttering of tea over keyboards a day later that we discovered the bar had since decided to cancel the booking. Cancel it, because they decided it would be 'inappropriate' to have a 'feminist or women's lib group' in a bar where other people would be enjoying Christmas parties.
Let's break that down. 'Inappropriate', like a nipple before the watershed. 'Other people enjoying Christmas parties', as in the footloose merrymaking of those unhampered by tedious gender equality. God forbid a group of angry feminist Grinches should stomp in and steal Christmas!
It's understandable, of course. Our bra bonfire would have been a fire hazard for a start, and there was always the chance we'd get tiddly and decide to burn a sacrificial male. Germaine Greer might have turned up and instigated a menstrual blood tasting. We could have daubed feminist propaganda all over the walls, and insisted they play Sister Suffragettes from Mary Poppins on a loop all night or we'd bash them with our feminist mallets. It might have been MAYHEM.
The fact that we never claimed to be a 'feminist or women's lib group', just a loungeful of ladies who wanted to give them money in exchange for cocktails, was apparently irrelevant. Would they have had the same reaction if we'd been a hen party? Or a group called Awesome Wives of Twickenham? Or, to play the unavoidable card, men?
After the initial rage and venting passed (hell hath no fury like 75 lady-bloggers scorned), we were left simply sad, and baffled. It's depressing to realise that to many people, feminism is still a sort of niche hobby, like collecting Warhammer figurines.
To me, saying 'I'm a feminist' is as basic as saying 'I breathe oxygen' or 'I enjoy the work of Dolly Parton'. Of COURSE I do, and OF COURSE I am. How could I not be? But others, it seems, still mistranslate the F-word as 'I hate men' or 'I'm going to ruin your Christmas party.' It's ignorance, and it's frustrating.
But it's ok, because we'll change it - one awesome woman (and hopefully a few awesome men), at a time.
*That's In Real Life, for the uninitiated.