Feminism. By original definition: a word that means ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
Feminism. A definition given by society: a word that means ‘a group of man hating dykes.’
Feminism. A word that has become somewhat of a dirty term amongst certain circles within society. But why should a term that calls for gender equality be looked upon as such a dirty word?
Before 1866, a woman was only deemed responsible enough to stay at home looking after the children, the house and preparing dinner for her husband after a long, hard day at work.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Patriarchal views left no room for women in the ‘real world.’ A woman wasn’t seen as capable of doing what a man could. A woman wasn’t seen as smart as a man was. A woman wasn’t seen to be as opinionated as a man was. A woman certainly wasn’t seen as worth to vote like a man was.
In 1866, the first organised campaigns for women’s suffrage began to appear, with both the Suffragists and Suffragettes campaigning for the woman’s right to vote, and from 1888, women could vote in many local council elections.
This year, in 2017, we have seen the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. A man with open misogynistic views has been allowed to assume the position of responsibility in the ‘Leader of the Free World.’ Seemingly taking decade-sized steps back, Trump, alongside a room full of men, signed an executive order to reinstitute a policy barring any recipient of US assistance from performing or promoting abortions abroad in January. Now, in March, Trump has struck again with his movements against women, not surprisingly surrounded by only male companions, to decide the fate of women’s health and maternity coverage. This resulted in insurance companies no longer being required to offer maternity care in all health plans, and the proposal to cut breast cancer screening, and contraceptive coverage.
So why are we taking so many steps back in terms of gender equality?
Many people think that because women no longer face much of the oppression they did at points in history, they fail to acknowledge the fact that actually, this is only the case in most developed countries. Women in undeveloped countries still face historic, patriarchal oppression every day.
We should aim to help all women, not just the women in our country to have equal rights. Just because it isn’t happening to you, or people around you, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening at all. Failing to acknowledge that misogyny and gender discrimination happens in other parts of the world is like failing to acknowledge that cancer is an illness just because you don’t have it. I see no difference.
We have to acknowledge that the patriarchy exists, and it’s not one person, or one gender’s fault that it does. Feminism is not blaming men for the existence of it; it’s simply calling upon men to acknowledge that the patriarchy is dysfunctional in terms of equal rights, and to actively seek to change that.
We also need to acknowledge that the patriarchy not only attacks women, but it also attacks men, and I really do believe that this is why so many men are against, offended by or scared of feminism. Men have to keep to this ‘manly, strong, emotionless’ image, and have to conform to a very narrow and belittling definition of what it means to be a man. If they don’t, they will be ridiculed by their peers for being a ‘sissy’ or being ‘girly’ or being ‘too in touch with [their] feminine side.’ This is why feminism is so important. It confronts the patriarchy and brings to light exactly what is wrong with it.
Not just for women, but for men too.
We, as born women or trans women are seen as objects with the sole purpose of pleasing men rather than having the purpose to live and to experience. We are constantly told in school by our superiors not to show our skin because it will distract the boys rather than telling boys to control their urges. We face the consequence of being sent home from school if we dare to show a bit of flesh, and making sure that boys aren’t ‘turned on’ is apparently more important than a females education.
Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that’s only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator. When a woman becomes the victim of rape, or sexual or physical assault, the first things she will be asked are, ‘what were you wearing?’ ‘How much did you have to drink?’ ‘Did you lead him/her on?’ ‘Did you leave alone?’, because these questions are much more important than wondering why the attacker didn’t understand that no means no. Likewise, when a man becomes the victim of rape, or sexual or physical assault, society is quick to ridicule him for not being ‘man enough’ to protect himself. This is why we need feminism, to understand that a victim is a victim and should be treated with care and understanding rather than judgment and accusations.
I believe, like the millions of people that marched during the Women’s March, that we still need feminism, and it is not a dirty word.
The Women’s March had the power to get people talking worldwide about feminism and gender equality, and the media played a big part in this by streaming the marches live, as well as taking powerful live action shots from the protests. This not only had the power to spark the debate over what feminism means in 2017, but also how important feminism is when a supposed misogynistic leader has power of the ‘Leader of the Free World.’
Much of the mainstream media assumed that the Women’s March was an anti-Trump march, however, experts and founders of the Women’s March say that the protest was in aid of letting everyone know that ‘women’s rights are human rights.’ It was a march to create a feminism movement that includes women of all backgrounds. As Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, explained, “Intersectionality simply means that there are lots of different parts to our womanhood … and those parts — race, gender, sexuality, and religion, and ability — are not incidental or auxiliary. They matter politically.”
We are living in the 21st century, yet we still don’t see gender equality amongst the society that we live in. Women, and in some cases men too, are constantly victimised, and although these problems also affect males, women are the ones who feel the burn of victim blaming, body shaming and slut shaming.
It seems appropriate to finish this article with: I am a feminist, and feminism to me means ‘a movement for granting political, social, and economic equality for the sexes.’ I will unite with my sisters (and brothers) in solidarity, and fight until gender equality is no longer something we have to fight for, but is something we are given as a basic human right.