It was really only a matter of time before I wrote this piece. Feminism is a very current, and very important trending topic in society and the world today. And it is just as important now as ever.
But seriously, Feminism is something I believe very firmly in, and am very passionate about. It’s not something I lecture people on or get into debates about, although I love a good intellectual conversation every now and again. For me, keeping it simple is key. Feminism is NOT about man hating, it is not about women being better than anyone, or being crazy, angry, hippie bitches. Feminism is simply about equality, and giving a voice to those who don’t necessarily have one.
While a lot of what we see in our media (that being Western media) is about equal pay for women and a call to stop street harassment, what we need to remember first and foremost, is that this is not a ‘first world problem’, it is not solely, nor is it primarily a developed world issue. There are so many women around the world who still face oppression every single day. Sure, women are starting to get paid more, and most jobs, in Australia anyway, pay genders pretty much equally, based on talent, qualifications and duties. (I am aware that this may still not be the case in America, but I am writing from my point of view, and in my country that is not an issue at the forefront of feminism. I am not discounting it as an issue, but I am simply looking at the bigger picture here.) We need to remember that this is about much more than just money. This is about equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women (wiki). This is about women’s basic human rights as people. Rights over their minds, over their bodies and over their lives.
Malala Yousafzai discusses feminist issues on a global scale, particularly women’s education, something we very much take for granted in our western societies. Gunned down by the Taliban, Malala survived, and is now a strong female voice and advocate for the education of women in her home country of Pakistan, where women have actually been banned from receiving any kind if education. You can see her story over at the NY Times.
Emma Watson has been doing some great work with the UN in global feminism awareness, but her speech and some of her views, have been labelled as ‘First-world Feminism’. That’s not to say that the issues she has discussed are not important, but that the fight needs to be for all women, not just women in America, or the UK or Australia. On a global scale, there are people who have everything and people who have nothing, and a bunch of people in between; while we are never going to get everyone on financially equal footing, when it comes to rights, there is a huge gap. ‘First-world Feminism’ is one thing, but sometimes the bigger picture really needs to be looked at and addressed. Maisie Williams has stood up against ‘first-world feminism’ and stated that there are women out there that have a lot less than any of us, as we sit here reading this on our computer, or phone or tablet. While the western front of feminism should not be ignored, the global fight should also be highlighted. You can read more about Maisie’s views at hello gigles.
Bringing it back to basics for a moment, for me, one of the most basic, yet key issues within feminism is that we should be working together and supporting each other as women instead of hating each other. This is something that I personally struggle with due to low self esteem and simply preferring male company. Most of my friends are male, and my boyfriend is my best friend. I would love to blame the fact that I went to an all girls high school and say that the cattiness and bitchiness put me off women forever, but that’s simply not true. Bitchiness and cattiness are two of the things I hate most about women, it’s true, but I don’t think that has anything to do with my small amount of female friends, I think that is simply just a personality thing. I love women, and men alike, thats pretty much the definition of a bisexual, which is how I identify sexually. But I have learnt that as a woman, I really need to be less judgemental. It’s something I’m really working to be better at, and I still have a long way to go.
“Women – Love each other, support each other, defend each other. It comes at a greater cost to you to attack the women around you than it does to empower them.”
– Caitlin Stasey
I’ve been reading a lot about feminism lately, reacquainting myself with it’s foundations and it’s horde of supporters. Last year, ELLE magazine dedicated their entire December issue to feminism, and I devoured all the articles written by strong feminist and female voices, about great and inspirational women (I don’t care much for the fashion side of these magazines.) With a gorgeous Emma Watson on the cover, sporting her new position of UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, I couldn’t go past it (let’s face it’ I’m still the biggest Harry Potter fan I know).
You can read more about Emma Watson and her interview with ELLE UK HERE
Emma has helped society take several huge steps toward equality, launching the HeForShe campaign in September 2014, which has been taken up in support by a large number of other celebrities, who you can see talking about feminism and HeForShe here, and hundreds of thousands of everyday men, as a promise to fight for equal rights. We really need men onboard with Feminism too. Without men onboard we are fighting a losing battle, we will never have true equality unless everyone agrees to it. Unless men see women as their equals, we never will be. Which is why I love that the majority of my favourite male actors are in fact feminists. Daniel Radcliffe, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt for a start. See a list of a handful of famous male feminists over at huffpost.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt talks about his support of feminism brilliantly in this youtube clip.
I can’t help but be unashamedly proud of our generation, and the change that it is instigating. Emma Watson is a hugely intelligent young woman with huge inspirational pull, who is using her fame and her voice to spread goodness and change in the world, I just wish there were more out there like her. Having said that, there are actually a huge number of female celerities out there fighting the good fight alongside Emma, such as Lena Dunham, Ellen Page, Taylor Swift – a huge range of voices and inspirations, find out more over at popsugar.
One if my idols, and my favourite musician, Taylor Swift, is a known and very outspoken feminist, and I agree with much of what she has to say, as biased as I may be. But again, with a voice as powerful and as listened to, literally, as hers, it is so brilliant to see young girls and women alike have such strong, feminist role models to aspire to. Taylor has made some great points about feminism, one of my favourites being:
“So many girls out there say ‘I’m not a feminist’ because they think it means something angry or disgruntled or complaining. They picture like rioting and picketing, it is not that at all, it just simply means that you believe that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities.”
– Taylor Swift
Surprisingly, there are even female celebrities on the feminist wagon that I didn’t even particularly like, but who have some really interesting things to say, and who have gained a new respect from me, such as Kristen Stewart, who has been bashed by internet trolls and people in general after her role of Bella in the Twilight series. Having been harassed online and in person, she has a pretty strong skin to let it all run off, and some very strong points on why women should be feminists. You can read what she had to say at huffpost.
And of course, there are gender roles. I’m not going to delve into all the ways gender roles are pushing back feminism and ruining society (don’t get me wrong, I love baking, I just can’t handle cooking), but I am going to touch on two points that I believe the views on need to change: Abortion and Motherhood.
I am very pro-choice. I believe that a woman’s body is hers, first and foremost, and she decides what happens to it and when and how. You can never truly know another persons innermost thoughts, nor can you presume to understand their reasons for their choice. But it is THEIR choice, end of story.
When it comes to motherhood, I hate that it is still expected and I am laughed at, questioned and ridiculed when I say that I don’t think motherhood is for me. I have multiple reasons for not wanting kids, now or in the future. Health reasons and mental reasons and financial reasons and completely selfish reasons. But I believe the better choice for me is not to have kids, and while the idea has been discussed and thrown around between my partner and I, right now we sit on the same page, I am not depriving him of something he wants either. My reasons are mine, and they should be respected, but the fact that people still scoff at the fact that I don’t have children at thirty or tell meI’ll change my mind when I’m a bit older really bothers me. Another of my favourite ladies has some interesting points on this issue as well, you can read what Jennifer Aniston thinks about motherhood expectations at Hello Giggles.
Coming back to women’s bodies and and how they are our own property and no one else’s, Caitlin Stasey, an Australian actress has started my new favourite website, herself.com, an amazing space for women, run by women, to simply express themselves in any way they like and be candid and truthful about themselves and their sexuality. This is a place that brings women together, in a place away from male judgement and expectation. It is about empowerment and free-speech. This is a project that I fully support and relish in, something I may one day have the guts to participate in. You can read more about Caitlin and the #herselfdotcom initiative over at Oyster Mag.
I think one of the points Caitlin makes that really resonated with me, is that this is as much about women’s rights as it is about gender equality and sexual acceptance. And not just the acceptance of others sexuality, but also of our own. We should be the only person with control over our body and our sexuality, and while we are entitled to share our body and our sexuality with whomever we like, it is still ours to control and ours to determine and categorise. Many people identify with sexuality differently, and these differences are part of what makes us unique, every sexuality and choice should be accepted, that is part of the belief system of equality – you can’t neglect any one gender, race, religion or sexual preference because you don’t agree with it.
Having said that, I think rape culture needs to be addressed momentarily here: equality means that no one, male or female, should be afraid to walk down the street at night, or to wear a cute skirt because some sleaze will take it as an invitation. Rape is about the objectification of women and it is dehumanising. Rape culture is not just about rape itself, the whole culture is against everything feminism stands for. Rape culture includes:
Victim blaming (“She asked for it!”)
Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)
Sexually explicit jokes
Tolerance of sexual harassment
Inflating false rape report statistics
Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
Gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television
Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
Regarding gender diverse roles as aberration
Pressure on men to “score”
Pressure on women to not appear “cold”
Assuming only promiscuous women get raped
Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped
Refusing to take rape accusations seriously
Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape
A complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm . . . In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable . . . However . . . much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.
Rape and rape culture need to stop. As does all forms of bullying, harassment and violence against anyone of any gender or sexual preference. If you agree with that, you are a feminist.
As a feminist, I am very much a huge supporter of the LGBTQIA community. I have many friends who are gay, lesbian or bisexual, and I hate knowing that some of the best couples I know don’t have the same rights or recognition as some straight couples I know who are crap. Equality knows no boundaries, that is it’s point. We are all human, we are all equal, period.
At the end of the day, I think why a lot of people are against feminism, or don’t identify as a feminist is because they are confused about what feminism actually is. Which is the fight for equality. It’s that simple. This article at Hello Giggles sheds some more light on why feminism is sometimes misunderstood, but at the end of the day, we all need feminism, because we should all be treated equally within society.