Women are taught to be ashamed. We are told to close our legs (and shave them), to cover ourselves up and to act like “ladies” in every situation. Women are made to feel as though being born female that they are already guilty of something, and this needs to stop. We are blamed for what happens to us, stereotyped into thinking we cannot succeed and made to feel like the lesser sex. If you are wolf whistled in the street it must be your own fault. If you are followed home on a night out you must have been giving your attacker the wrong idea by wearing a short skirt or heels higher than your day to day attire. Why can’t we be encouraged to feel strong and independent? Why must we continue to be depicted as helpless and without intelligence? The issue currently circles around feminism and the idea of being a feminist. And yet again, the stereotypes that go along with this label. This is something I personally get asked quite frequently.
Are you a feminist?
But you write about women and gender constantly, so you must be?
You also seem so interested in women and sexuality, so you’re a feminist, right?
The problem is, many people don’t want to be labelled as a feminist, even if they consider themselves one. To me, gender equality seems like common sense, and feminism isn’t just about equality for women. Nor does supporting feminism make me some man-hating bra-burning psychopath. After all, it isn’t just women that get the short straw in a variety of matters. Just look at men who lose access to their children simply because the woman was the one who carried the child for nine months. Look at male rapists compared to women. If a male teacher is sleeping with a female student everyone suddenly finds the need to say how ‘vulnerable’ the young girl was, how traumatised she must be and clearly didn’t know what she was getting herself into. If a female teacher does the exact same thing we presume the lads to be high-fiving all day long at ticking ‘shag a teacher’ off their bucket list and she is more than likely to get off easily (excusing the pun there, but you get my drift). I don’t need to label myself as anything in fact. I don’t need to, nor do I see why I should, label myself when it comes to gender, sexuality, anything.
As many explain, feminism is about gender equality, and yes this works both ways. Feminism is a two way straight, but often the traffic can be more congested in one direction. If we look at equal pay, women are frequently lagging behind men, with far more members of the opposite sex taking authoritative roles and gaining a larger wage than women doing the exact same thing. But it isn’t just about money either. A lot of it is to do with the representation of women (and men) in comparison to one another. Women are often seen as decorative objects, especially in advertising and in films. If female celebrities are seen without make up they have ‘let themselves go’ while a male celebrity with a bit of stubble and a few grey hairs is suddenly sophisticated and ageing gracefully.
What will it take for people to consider themselves supporters of feminism? Or actually proudly state that they are a feminist? Do we need to eliminate the stigma around feminism in order for people to take it seriously? Or do we need to gain a greater understanding of the entire concept, instead of people thinking I’m going to stop shaving my legs and go burn my entire underwear drawer? Either way, something has gotta give.