I am a feminist.
Does that mean I don’t shave my legs, hate all men, and am unfeminine?
Sometimes, yes, but that doesn’t make me, or anyone else a feminist.
Unfortunately today, the word has become entangled with this stereotypical view of a hairy legged, ball busting, unfeminine, lesbian, man hater - but feminism in its simplest form is about equality.
Do I believe that everyone is created equal? That we should all have access to the same opportunities? That we should not be told how to act, who to be, and how much we can earn based on our gender? Then yes, I do believe I am a feminist.
We are so caught up that sometimes we forget to delve a bit deeper. We take the word feminist at face value, quickly associating it with women because of the “fem” (coming from the Latin word “femina” meaning woman), and never stop to deconstruct its meaning. A feminist is someone who believes in the economic, social and political equality of the sexes. It’s not about putting women over men, or men over women. It’s about saying we are all equal as human beings.
If you go back in history, one of the first feminist movements – the Suffragist Movement in Great Britain wasn’t about women trying to take over politics, the economy or even the household, it was about women fighting to be recognized as equals in society, with equal rights and opportunities by being granted, with what now, is considered a fundamental right, the right to vote.
Sadly the evolution of the word “feminist” has gained a negative connotation, being considered a dirty word by some people. Women shun the word, afraid of being labelled “angry, and “extreme” and men run for miles in fear of being part of the “girl gang,” or god forbid lose part of their masculinity for sympathising with the women’s cause. And there, is where the problem lies - Feminism isn’t about “us” or “them,” a feminist is a man, woman, and anyone in between who believes that everyone deserves equality.
People constantly ask me, why single women out? Why women’s rights and issues? Why is feminism so female centric?
Women make up almost 50% of the world’s population yet globally there is still a 32% pay gap between men and women. Out of 149 countries just 17 have female heads of state. Globally women hold about 34% of managerial positions and spend twice as much time on household activities and unpaid work. Over 70% of women have experienced violence by a partner, 650 million women and girls have been married before the age of 18, and over 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation.
Women have been oppressed throughout history. So, if we’re talking about equality, is it not fair to talk about what is happening to half the worlds population?
The reality is that I will continue to be a feminist until there is equality in practice, not just on paper. I will continue to be a feminist until the gender pay gap disappears. Until there is equal representation in the parliament. When I feel safe to take a cab alone in the night. When I can take public transport or walk on the road without being harassed. When I can look a little girl in the eye and tell her she will not be judged for what she wears, that she will have the same opportunities as all the little boys, and that she has nothing to be scared of.
Feminism is about choice and equality, not man hating and not excluding one sex in favour of another. It’s about balance. And until we have found that balance I think we all should be feminists.