Ever since I decided I was a feminist, around age 16, I have heard the same things over and over again:
‘Feminists are so tetchy!’
‘Women have equal rights to men now anyway.’
‘Oh here we go…’
‘Men have it hard too you know!’
And my personal favourite: ‘get back in the kitchen’ – ha, what a classic.
Identifying as a feminist has –ironically- lead, on many occasions, to me being seen less of a woman. Not because of my views, but because feminists are thought of as being aggressive (a behaviour typically associated with men).
I realised if I ever started a conversation along the lines of:
‘I’m a feminist, my opinion is…’
the rest of my point seemed to be void of all potentially valuable meaning, because the word ‘feminist’ was enough to make most people huff, sigh, and determine they already knew what I was going to say before I said it:
‘I’m a feminist, I love my body hair, I hate men, I am a lesbian, and men are responsible for all women’s suffering…’ yada, yada, yada…
So, after a while, I stopped calling myself a
feminist. I was so fed up with my actual thoughts and opinions being ignored or written off just because of that one word! Now I say: ‘I believe in gender equality’, ‘I stand up for equal rights’ etc. etc. but make an effort to avoid ‘feminist’ when I want to have a mature conversation with someone.
The thing is… whatever I call myself- the point remains the same… There is so much inequality in this world- not just between men and women, between ethnicities, between age groups, between able bodies and disabled bodies, it’s everywhere! And, it’s ugly.
There are too many people in this world that silence women (and men) who dare to point out that women have, and are, suffering at the hands of oppression.
‘Yes, but it’s equal now, and men suffer too!’
yes, men suffer too. And as a believer in gender equality, this makes me so angry. But that does not mean that it’s the same! Women have, for all history, been treated as the inferior sex, from being legally raped in their marriages, being sold like objects, being told to get back in the kitchen, being told to only speak when spoken to, etc. None of the suffering women have incurred belittles the sufferings of men, but it’s not right to pretend that women have not gone through an awful lot of shit. Silencing people who talk about the history and future of women’s rights, just goes to prove the need for feminism.
So, here are 25 reasons why I believe in gender equality:
- Because in over 150 countries around the world there are STILL laws that are actively discriminate against women
- Because 1 in 3 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives, mostly between the ages of 15-44. In fact- women in this age bracket are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than they are at risk of cancer, car accidents, war, and malaria!
- Because there is a taboo about periods being dirty and unsanitary, a natural bodily function of women that makes men cringe and look at us like we’re gross
- Because I’m sick of women instantly being looked upon as the more appropriate parent in custody battles- I’m sick of men having to fight to the death to be able to look after their own child, just because women are thought of as ‘naturally’ maternal, and men as ‘naturally’ aggressive
- Because there are over 15 million people in the UK with eating disorders, 90% of those are women and girls- tell me that’s not to do with an impossible fight for an impossible body that the media says we as females should have!
- Because the Bank of England ran a seminar for its female employees on: ‘how to dress for success’, where it highlighted the importance of wearing make-up everyday
- Because 95% of ‘Rape Crisis’ service users are women and girls
- Because around 85,000 women are raped in a year, and around 12,000 men. That’s 11 rapes every hour.
- Because women are told to expect sexual attention if they dress a certain way
- Because when women are raped or assaulted, it’s deemed acceptable to ask what they were wearing, as a means to justify the motive for an attack
- Because women saying ‘no’ is flirting, or playing hard to get
- Because women saying ‘no’ is open to interpretation of men
- Because 98% of sexual trafficking victims are women and girls
- Because many of my relationships with men have been strained and broken by their engrained defiance to show vulnerability and emotion- because they are raised to see that as a sign of weakness
- Because I hate how expressive men are instantly labelled as ‘gay’ or ‘girly’
- Because there are more men committing suicide than women- men are discouraged to talk about their emotions… bottle it up, don’t cry, don’t talk about it, man up, grow some balls, stop being such a girl…
- Because suicide is the 7th leading cause of death among males
- Because the majority of world leaders are middle-class men, who get to make decisions about women’s bodies
- Because our differences have to be seen as inferior or superior– it can’t be accepted that there are differences between men and women that should be celebrated and shared. Differences don’t have to mean one gender is better than the other
- Because for the majority of life, my self-worth has been dependent on whether I fit the ideal woman- the woman that is attractive to, and wanted by, men. I have cared more about my looks than my personality- how ridiculous
- Because when my niece was 7 years old she came home telling me she felt sad because her legs were ‘too’ fat
- Because I want my nephew whose favourite colour was once pink, to not cringe and tell me it’s a girl colour now he’s been exposed to the different expectations of boys and girls
- Because I couldn’t live in a world without the diversity of men and women- but I don’t want to live in a world where my gender is doomed to be oppressed
- Because I love my boyfriend with all my heart and never want our relationship to be burdened by gender barriers, that effect our full potential to love and communicate
- Because I want my future children to grow up respecting others, caring for others, understanding the importance of what is beyond skin deep, and loving unconditionally– for men, for women, and for everyone in between
I believe in gender equality, and all equality, because I am proud to not place a physical condition on who I love, respect, and care for.
It’s important to talk about the oppression humans have inflicted on other humans in the past, because until we learn from our mistakes we are bound to keep making them. We’ve come so far, and done so much in the way of justice and equality, but there is still so much left to change.
We’re all wired differently, not one person is the same as another, and I absolutely love that about us.
So, to end, I’ll leave you with the wise words of Pocahontas: ‘if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew…’