To me, feminism is about equality. It’s about a seat at the table, a voice, recognition. It’s about inclusion. It’s about transcending differences. To me, being a feminist means supporting each other – man or woman – not tearing them down. Being a feminist is about making room for everyone, not about being on top. Being a feminist shouldn’t be an embarrassment. It shouldn’t be an accusation. It shouldn’t only be for women. To me, the foundations of feminism are very real; women are treated as lesser to men in many ways all around the world, sometimes in places that feel so far removed from us, and sometimes right under our noses. To me, feminism is something we should all strive for – whether man or woman. How wouldn’t we all benefit from equality, opportunity and love? Let’s keep going until we don’t need to talk about it anymore. I know I will. #HappyInternationalWomensDay
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.
Over the past couple centuries, women have fought for a better future for current and new female generations. Nowadays, it can be easy to take the changes these phenomenal women made for granted, and actually find ourselves regressing from the paths they have opened up for us.
One of the most significant developments in women’s history was obtaining the right to vote. And this didn’t come instantly; in the UK, the women’s suffragette movement began in late 19th century, and it wasn’t until the First World War (1914-18) that they made legislative progress. Along the way, suffragettes created organisations, went on hunger strikes, pursued radical lobbying and suffered subsequent imprisonment. But women’s equality was not limited to this. Other advancements include campaigning for women to be able to go to university, able to obtain divorce and keep the children, and for equal employment opportunities and benefits. Equality to men in the latter is something that women are still fighting for and legal acts instigating it are only recent. In the UK, the number of women in chief-executive and managing director positions was only 14.5% in 2012, but saw a rise of 25% from 2011 (according to the Telegraph). In America, women hold only 4.2% of CEO positions in the Fortune 500. Whether properly proved or not, its frequently suggested that women and young females rival male intelligibility in all ages. We, as a collective body, have so much potential to achieve, for both ourselves and other women.
Yet it has somehow become intrinsic in our nature that we are jealous and competitive towards other women. This can be from attractiveness to attention to employment or schoolwork. Insecure females make themselves feel better by criticising other women. Females who want something another woman has ends up criticising them out of jealousy.
I’m not saying that all competition is bad; we should expect more from ourselves and challenge ourselves and not let people walk all over us. But at the same time we should embrace and praise other women’s achievements, even if we wish we could be in their position. Instead we should be happy for them and aspire to be like those women who have what we want. We shouldn’t develop a bad reputation for women with petty jealousy and criticism. By learning to praise other women, we can keep the journey for the power of women progressing that many women have previously paved for us, and continue to pave it for future generations.