Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Feminism has Changed. Time to Embrace it!



What it means to be a Feminist has changed. It’s constantly changing and definitely for the better. We live in a society where we are aware of what everyone thinks about everything is broadcast all over social media 24/7. So Feminism is becoming more accessible and less exclusive. It’s less about anger and more about wanting everyone to have equal opportunities regardless of gender/race/sexuality and ability. And being aware of your place in the privilege hierarchy whilst you’re doing it.

I really became aware of what Feminist meant when I was at Uni. I never felt like boys and girls weren’t completely equal and thinking otherwise was absurd. I'd grown up never consciously feeling "less" than my male peers. But now, at Uni, I had a name for this feeling. So I decided to do a gender studies course which of course confirmed that yes indeed, I was a feminist. However, this was the mid-90s. It was the 3rd wave of feminism…. what I learnt about feminism then intimidated me. So much so that I never felt confident actually saying I was feminist, lest I be interrogated about my beliefs and forced to account for my make-up wearing, men shagging, leg shaving, Patriarchy-kowtowing ways! I wasn’t able to articulate why I was interested in being attractive to the opposite sex. I certainly didn’t feel brave enough to try and defend myself to the bare-faced, hairy, natural-fibre clad, Birkenstock-wearing, uber feminists!

Feminist at this point very much seemed like a militant, all-in-or nothing stand point. And even though I agreed with it wholeheartedly, I wasn’t prepared to come out as one! I was 19 and I was not ready!

That was until the 4th Wave, which started a few years ago (by now, my mid 30s). The emergence of social media in our everyday lives has means that people are much braver in what they “put out there”. You have the edit / delete function. You can craft your arguments much more succinctly and articulately than when you’re sat in a lecture hall or a class room. So women have been starting to say, more and more, “No! This is STILL not OK!” We still have a massive gender divide in our society. We still have unequal pay, we still have victim-blaming, slut-shaming rape culture, disfiguring a woman is seen as acceptable in Afghanistan if she attempts to go to college, until recently women weren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, Female Genital Mutilation STILL EXISTS. There are endless reasons why feminism is still a very much a conversation we need to have.

But. Saying that. I have friends who don’t want to call themselves feminist. They don’t like the word. They think it’s associated with extremism...bra-burning, man hating anger. Which, in the 60s and 70s it was a bit. But then in the 60s and 70s, women were angry! The distinction between how the sexes were treated was stark. Things have definitely improved in terms of equality since then. We have a long way to go but things are definitely changing. The face of feminism is changing. People want to be seen as “equalists” not one favouring one over another. My answer to that is this. For time in memoriam the pendulum has swung in favour of men. That pendulum has to swing back the other way before it settles in the middle. That’s part of why we have women only events, awards, grants etc. Where are the men-centric equivalent? Note: See all of history!

But thanks to the likes of Caitlin Moran, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lauren Laverne, Malala, Meghan Markle even flipping Beyoncé (A POPSTAR….shock, horror!), people are talking about Feminism more and more. It’s becoming much more of normal thing to call yourself feminist. Modern feminism isn’t concerned with what you wear, who you sleep with, or what you look like. We aren’t saying we are superior! We are saying, just budge up and give us ALL room at the table! Give our Trans sisters and sisters of colour some room too! Let’s get intersectional & trans-friendly around here, OK?! 

The emergence of the #MeToo is further proof the war is not over. For all the women who use that hashtag, there are more women/men coming muttering about how some of the famous women are fame whores who just want some limelight. There’s still suspicion that SO many women have experienced abuse/harassment. And then there’s the super helpful (!)  “Not All Men” hashtag, a tasteless, badly timed response which totally detracts from the female experience to make it yet AGAIN about them. (Writtenabout quite brilliantly here.)
  
My outlook on this definitely changed, not just as I got older and more confident (the bonus of ageing to counter those wrinkles… you care less about them!). But having kids has made me see the world through their eyes too and, more importantly, the future. I don’t want my daughter to be faced with a future where her only options are pink and sparkly and I sure as hell don’t want my son growing up thinking mummies are domestic slaves and it’s OK to do a cheeky rape if you’re all drunk, especially cos she was wearing a mini skirt! No way.

We need to keep this momentum going, this sisterhood which is emerging across the social media world. The word of 2017 according to online dictionary Merriam-Websterwas Feminism! We need to keep spreading the word, it’s OK to be feminist! It’s GOOD to be feminist! We’ve all got your back! The future is Feminist!


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