In a super clever move, society has managed to convince a lot of us that feminism is bad – mention the term in public and watch people recoil in horror as if you just whispered that you get off from throwing puppies from railway bridges in your spare time. Feminists are angry women, who don’t wear bras or shave right? They hate men, don’t they? Aren’t feminists those lesbians who can’t get a man so bitch and moan about it? Side eye x a million. Feminism has somehow been saddled with a ton of prerequisites that er, don’t actually exist. There isn’t a gift box that arrives the moment you declare yourself a feminist stuffed with a stick on merkin, some dungarees and The L Word box-set and yet we see people falling over themselves to label feminism as ‘dangerous,’ ‘anti men’ ‘anti feminine’ and ‘hateful.’
On twitter there are hashtags dedicated to anti feminism – they tend to be full of angry men claiming that they’d never date a feminist (as if they’d get the chance..) and women holding up signs that say things like ‘I don’t need feminism because I like men,’ or ‘ I am against feminism because I believe in equality.’ Both of these groups make me sigh – the first hold a lot of power and speak from a privileged platform by default of being men and have an easier time convincing society that they are right (because hello, centuries of it already) and the second just don’t understand what ‘feminism’ actually is. Add in a Tumblr blog and a Facebook page dedicated to hand made signs slating a movement that gave women the opportunity to have a voice and be heard in the first place and it’s a problem.
That is it. Feminism literally means wanting equality with men. It means tackling the wage gap that STILL exists despite the introduction of The Equal Pay Act in 1970 and it now being 2014 where women STILL earn less; it means fighting back against the objectification of women in the media – for example, this cover of Entertainment Weekly magazine. Why is Anna naked but Stephen is fully clothed? Bigger question, why is this replicated in and on magazines the world over and not challenged? I often hear men argue that guys are ‘just’ as subject to this as women and my response is always no. Not even close. For women, the objectification and body policing is constant, systematic and often focused in on certain parts, thus rendering the whole woman as redundant in the face of her tits or bum. Men’s bodies are idealised; they are lauded and celebrated as conforming to hegemonic expectations of masculinity – think Beckham in his boxers. I’m not denying that men are subject to scrutiny, and that pressure is increasing BUT it is not on the same scale as what women face daily, hourly.
Being a feminist isn’t a fad, or trend. It is common sense to me. I can not comprehend a movement like anti feminism that actively opposes equality for women; “one opposed to women or to feminism; a person (usually a man) who is hostile to sexual equality or to the advocacy of women’s rights, is how Wikipedia describes the movement. Dismissing a movement that fights for the rights of women to be equal seems as ludicrous as saying no thanks, I don’t need air or anything. I’m totally cool without gravity, ta mate. Food? Nah, you keep it.
For me, the MRAs trolling the hashtags in search of an argument where they can insert the long words they’ve googled minutes before and Paul Elam quotes, or the angry men who actively trawled through the #feministsareugly to leave horrible comments for the women subverting the misogynistic derailing of the tag don’t bother me that much. OF COURSE some men will be threatened by a movement that seeks to challenge the privileges they’ve benefited from for decades. OF COURSE some men will be threatened by powerful women, not afraid to speak their minds because they’ve grown up in a world where girls are socialised to ‘be seen and not heard.’ To me, those men are scared of change, much like my grandma when I tried to teach her to text and she ended up sending a message to the doctor saying ‘GooD NigHT FroM GRandMA’. No, what hurts my heart is misinterpretation of the term ‘feminism’ and the fact that it is creating girl on girl hate.
I LOVE women. I champion them all the time. My best friends are women, I am inspired on a daily basis by the amazing women on my twitter timeline, I support the rights of women to make whatever choices they want to with regards to their bodies, sexuality, education, family life etc. I think that the combined power and potential of women is both awe inspiring and possible if we just pull together and stop listening to a society that wants us divided and angry at each other instead of the injustices and inequalities at play. When the ‘feminists are ugly’ hashtag was trending, I was full of love for the thriving, goddess like women supporting each other, spreading love and solidarity in the face of the men jumping in to say ‘ugly, wouldn’t bang etc.’
There are no ‘rules’ that come with being a feminist; no code of honour and conduct that you have to sign up to. Bras are completely optional. For me, feminism is when I go for a Brazilian wax safe in the knowledge that if a woman wanted to grow her pubic hair long enough to plait then that choice is equally valid. It’s knowing that it wasn’t my fault when I was raped and understanding that rape culture CAN be tackled. Feminism is when I sunbathe topless, confident in the idea that my choice to show my body should be as respected as the women who cover up. It’s knowing that I can access contraception and it’s the knowledge that no number defines me; not my age, how many sexual partners I have had, how many times I have watched Frozen and sung along to ‘Let it Go’ loudly enough to make my neighbours bang on the wall. It is refusing to stop fighting for an end to FGM or child marriages, refusing to compromise on the rights of women to have full autonomy and reproductive freedom. It is refusing to ignore street harassment or casual sexism. It is supporting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault by campaigning for better funding and support structures. It is getting angry and refusing to support the constant fat phobic, body shaming media that seems to exist solely to keep women in a perpetual cycle of body loathing and consumption of products designed to ‘fix’ constructed issues.
Feminism is tackling slut shaming and the double standards that come with female sexuality – men having casual sex is super cool, but a girl? SLUT. It’s about tackling binary, arbitrary gender roles. It’s about the right to wear what you want; short skirt, long johns, Disney Princess costume to dinner, whatever.
It ISN’T about hating men. It’s nothing to do with wanting female superiority. You can be a happily married, stay at home mum who bakes cakes, wears heels and gets her nails done and still be a feminist.
What do you think? Follow me on twitter @anygirlfriday
When my friends say they aren’t feminists, I just want to cry because of course you are, you’ve just been taught to fear the word
— Em (@anygirlfriday) June 15, 2014