Feminist. A small word with huge power. I am a feminist.
BUT MEN GET RAPED TOO, shouts the indignant underbelly of social media. You´re protected by laws now… WHY DO YOU HATE MEN?!
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, feminism is ‘the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.´ That sounds reasonable to me.
The negative connotations of the word ´feminist´ made me shy away from this vital movement as a teenager. I´d be ashamed to utter the word. Let´s get real. To say feminism is unreasonable or unnecessary is like saying that human rights are out of date.
I do not hate men. I do not hate my father, or my male friends, or any man based on the dangly bits between his legs. My father, who once said to me ‘Don’t be another one of those women.’ What do you mean daddy? ‘Don’t let the world of men chip away at your confidence like so many before you.’ At the time I felt confused, I lived with my mother, sister, and wonderful Dad who have taught me I can be anybody that I want. Why on earth would being a woman affect my perceived self-worth?
The feminist movement is not about battling man against woman. It is not a whiny antiquated cry for attention. The movement cross cuts with issues of race and of class. It is a belief that the gender you identify with should not cage you in to certain expectations or opportunities. No one is claiming that non-females hate or disrespect women, or that men can´t be a voice for change. Just look at the He for She movement for goodness sake!
So. Why do we need feminism? Because 70% of the world’s poor are women (United Nations). Because in the northern hemisphere women are more likely to graduate college, but likely to earn less than men (US News). Because male nurses and nannies are often made to feel emasculated, as if they don´t belong in a caring role.
Why are women earning 18% less than men for the same jobs? (Eurostat). Statistics show that women essentially stop getting paid on November 9th each year (for the same jobs as men) due to the gender pay gap (Guardian).
Why is a man who shows emotion considered ‘a pussy’? Why is a sexually active woman a slut and a sexually active man a legend? Sexism is everywhere, every day. If you really believe that the feminist movement is outdated then you are quite frankly part of the problem.
For the nay-sayers out there, let´s have some examples. When I was 16, I worked in a bar. Men with daughters my age would tell me that my hands should be gripping ‘something else’ when I pulled a pint. Or telling me they wanted ‘more head’ with their beer and then laughing flecks of spit on my cheek that made me feel sick. This is normal. This is unacceptable. My managers told me I had to harden up and take the money when I explained how it made me feel.
My friend Sara leant over the table to fix wires on her computer screen when working as an office clerk. She was reported by the man opposite her for sexual behavior. She said ‘if a man leans over his table to do something, no one would bat an eyelid.’ And when she expressed this to her management nothing happens ‘because he was a partner and I was a junior.’
Sexism has blatantly not disappeared in the modern world. It is everywhere, always. In music videos, in rap songs, at work and at home. The sexualisation of the female form can be found everywhere, even on a hot summer day, where exposing my breasts would be unacceptable and ´dirty´ but somehow it´s acceptable for the top selling newspaper in the UK (the Sun) to print front page photos of naked women with the caption ‘Hello Boys’ across her breasts .
Comedian and rapper Doc Brown has been working with young men, educating them about the sexism that still surrounds us. He described in one of his talks (watch here) that there is a well-known energy drink called ´pussy´… and yet you wouldn’t catch anyone gulping down a nice cold can of Cock.
We are in a bizarre and dangerous society where images in the media both sexualise the female body, and make that very sexualisation shameful in a real context. A society where walking near a group of men, I whisper frantically to myself ´please don´t say anything to me´ and reprimand myself for walking to the gym in tight exercise clothes, sighing with relief if nothing derogatory is thrown my way.
This sexualisation of the female form has not only led to an unfounded sense of shame regarding young women and their bodies, it has given rise to a blame culture in sexual assault. As if what she was wearing has any bearing on the fact that she was RAPED. Of course, all genders experience sexual assault which is always traumatic and wrong. What I´m saying is that with the rape of women comes the rhetoric (so familiar from the recent Brock Turner case) that ´she was drunk´, ´she was dressed like she wanted it,´ ´she was gagging for it´, whereas in the rape of heterosexual men there is generally an understanding that the perpetrator is always at fault.
So, tell me. Why does the word feminist scare us so much? Why does our society take a movement that equalises the sexes as inappropriate and extremist? Every single day we are surrounded by the objectification of women, and gender roles such as women in the home and men as the breadwinner that has the power to negatively influence the lives of every person. Why did David Cameron respond to being asked if he was a feminist with an embarrassing stumbling response you can watch here? What was he thinking? The answer should always be yes.