Thursday, 5 March 2015

The War On Feminism


Thank you.

I see your discomfort at having to read yet another blog about the importance of feminism in today’s society. Calm yourself. Just take a deep breath, and throw out any expectations of what you think you’re going to read on here. Throw out all your angst. Just let it go for, like, ten minutes. Then I promise you’ll be able to re-palm your pitchforks and torches and continue to chase me out of the city.

I’m not writing this blog because I need to rant about men. I’m not writing this blog because I need to rant about women. And I am most certainly, most assuredly NOT writing this blog simply because I am a privileged white young woman, who has grown up in a home without any form of abuse. It is because I am privileged that I am able to write this blog, and I fully acknowledge that. I also fully acknowledge that it is because of my high standard of education that I am able to have an opinion on feminism, and furthermore be able to write about it in a public space.

It will be impossible for me to portray a perspective on this topic with which I am not familiar, which is why I am making it clear now, before I start, that this is purely my own opinion, as influenced as it is by my background, my class, my education, and even my race.

All this aside, I feel the need to share why I believe it is not only necessary, but crucial, that women in positions of power embrace feminism. And by “women in positions of power”, I mean all women who, like me, have had the benefit of a good education on their side, and possess enough intellect, independence and integrity to fight for the rights of those women who do not possess these things as a result of their sex.

I’ve noticed that a lot of teenage girls reject the word “feminism” with a standard reaction that involves rolling their eyes, tilting back their heads and breathing a long, loud, exasperated sigh. Honestly, if I took offence at every time a teenage girl did this around me, I’d have a psychologist’s bill that I could roll from here to Congo… right onto the doorstep of a woman who’d been raped, beaten and verbally abused from the age of five for no other reason than because she is a woman.

Look, girls, I know that you get a lot of lectures on what it means to be feminist, and how important it is to be a feminist and fight for equal pay in the work place etc. etc. and so on and so forth to infinity and beyond, but I still don’t think you really know what a feminist is, or why it’s so important. So let’s try sort that issue out first.

FEMINISM (noun): the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.

HANG ON. PAUSE. Take note of that word I so kindly put in bold print for you. “EQUAL”. So, like, exactly the same. That’s it. Feminists fight for equality.

If your idea of feminism looks like this:

then you are wrong. This is misandry – totally different discussion for a totally different day.

And if your idea of feminism looks like this:

then you need to re-examine the definition up there. Because feminists fight for equal rights. At the moment, feminism is so not even nearly focused on addressing the issues of sexes holding open doors for each other. Honestly? Do you really believe arguing with a male because they did/didn't hold open a door for you is the biggest problem we're facing right now? And this brings me onto my next point…

Feminism is not about you.

(Bolded, italicized and underlined for your convenience. Interpret that as you will.)

That’s right. Chances are, if you are reading this blog right now, you are educated enough to be able to read and understand what I am writing. Chances are, this blog hasn’t been censored in your country because it evokes ideas that are considered “dangerous”. Chances are, you’re actually able to read this blog because you both have time to waste on the internet, and a device on which to read it. That means, at this present moment in time, feminism does not apply to you.

Well, feminism shouldn’t aim to empower you alone. YET. Let’s go back to the definition once more: feminism has the aim of giving women equal social, political and all other rights to those of men. So, surely, when you’re looking at fixing a damaged social situation in which one sex is placed below the other, you start with the most pressing problems.

Let’s think about it logically: What enables you to become an activist for women’s rights? Education. What enables you to fight for a job amongst male candidates? Education. What enables you to gain enough independence to see the difference in the way in which men and women are treated? Education. And, most importantly, what will give you the opportunity to seize a chance at independence, to create your own identity as a woman, and to fight against misogynists for your rights in the workplace, in your home and in society? EDUCATION.

(And then building onto this would be to combat the issues that interfere with a woman's education, including health, governmental restrictions, poverty… but we won't go into that because I will go on forever.)

So, realistically, (going right back to the beginning here) as a woman (or man! You guys are invited, too) who has the benefits of a good education on your side, you should be embracing feminism so that you can aid other, less privileged women in their quest for equality. (Here are some statistics to motivate you. And even more.) This all comes down to empathy and action. We need to empathize with women who are in much more drastic situations than we are, and then we need to do something about it. (This is what we can do. Or be creative and launch your own activist campaign.) Only then, once we have educated and empowered as many women as possible, can we focus on the other - undeniably important - issues such as equal pay in the workplace (and there are so, so, so many more). Even “free the nipple” or whatever those radicals are going on about.

You’ve got to build your army before charging into a war, don’t you?

(And while we're empowering other women, we can work on destroying the gender stereotype by changing the way we act. The way that we portray feminism is ultimately either going to gain a whole lot of support for the movement from both men and women - which is essential to its success, honestly - or ruin it.)

There are so many more issues we can address about feminism, but what's important to remember at this point is that you do not have to define yourself as a "feminist" - especially if you disagree with what some people who identify with that label do in their fight for equality (I, for one, don't agree with the "All Women" notions that tend to over-generalise in their aim to defeat stereotypes). What's important is that we fight together for a cause that will bring about global change, and that we work towards a place of greater equality for the sexes, where everybody will be able to enjoy the same rights and privileges.