At university, for a module about the avenues of criticising and analysing literature, we were asked to put up our hand if we were feminists. The auditorium was filled with over two hundred students, predominantly female. Hardly, anybody put up their hand. I was shocked by the outcome. To me, “Feminism” is the social, economic and political equality of the sexes. I’m a feminist. ‘Shouldn’t everybody be a feminist?’ I thought, ‘If not everyone, then at least every woman?’. Nowadays, I hear women publicly identifying themselves as not-feminist. It has got me thinking that do we shy away from the label ‘Feminist’ because we actually don’t believe in what it advocates or are we afraid of the label? And if we are afraid of the label, what has feminism become?
Feminism has grown to mean to many things. Most significantly, it has become associated with man-hating and only a movement for the benefit for women. Maybe in some ways, I was contributing to that by thinking that all women, at least, should be feminists. In truth, all men should be feminists too and feminism should bring equality to men where women thrive more. Now, I understand the conflicting messages about feminism. The ideas that men should still be chivalrous and that male violence against men is nothing compared to male violence against women are confusing to the idea of gender equality. What’s more, certain feminist movements bash other feminist movements for their actions or their beliefs. Some feminist movements take things so far that it feels suffocating.
But maybe the word ‘feminism’ isn’t even important. I don’t blame people for not wanting to identify themselves as feminists, I just find it sad; every person should want women to have control over their own bodies. Every person should want men to be able to be express themselves. Every person shouldn’t want it to be that men feel they can’t lose to a girl because being weak is associated with being female, and being strong is associated with being male. Every person should want men and women to be rewarded equally for the same work and to have the same opportunities. Every person should want women to feel safe walking down the street without being verbally sexualised and harassed. Every person should want issues of a similar nature to be dealt with in equal importance whether the issue affects women or men. Perhaps the latter is what we still need to work on to make everybody feel included in the idea of feminism; violence against women, for example, is a terrible issue that needs to be addressed and is high on the feminist agenda, but we also need to take violence against men into account.
Underneath everything, feminism, at least to me, is about equality between the sexes. It is a broad statement, but still a very important one. It isn’t one only designed to help women. Feminism needs to become more than just helping women, even if this makes up its core. We can’t give up on it.