Are you a feminist?
Updated: Feb 26
Are you a feminist? I am. Feminism, by definition, is a person who believes in social, economic and political equality of the sexes. There are many misconceptions around feminism. Misconceptions include that feminists don’t believe in marriage, can only be women, don’t shave, dislike men or are all lesbians. But by far the most dangerous preconception is that we don’t need feminism. That feminism- something that relies on but also causes constant change- is over, completed. But that is false and I am here to tell you why everyone should be a feminist.
And partly, you're right. When women protest in 2020 it's not for the right to legally own their own home or womb like it was in the seventies but instead to destroy systems that oppress women and men regardless of ethnicity, class, religion or nationality. Now this information is crucial. I want you to cast out the image you may have already had of a feminist because the truth is that, like the movement itself, what it means to be a feminist is changing. In the wake of the third wave of feminism a big fat fancy term called intersectional feminism was born.
Intersectional feminism means that everyone in all corners of the earth deserve equal rights, not just white middleclass women. Intersectional feminism has brought us movements such as #metoo, Saudi women gaining the right to drive, the legalisation of abortion in Ireland and the "take back the night" movement. Third wave feminism seems to tackle the smaller, well-hidden parts of oppression that is ingrained in culture. I’m not talking about how we call a gingerbread man a gingerbread’man’, I'm talking how a woman is less likely to pursue higher education or that men are three times more likely to commit suicide.
I’m sure I don’t need to stand here and tell you why we still need feminism in 2020. That if you look outside our Lytham bubble that 33,000 girls become child brides every day, that only 6 countries give completely equal work rights to women and men (Belguim, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden. No countries from the UK), that for every 1 woman in film there are 2.24 men, that women are statistically more likely to die in a car crash because the safety equipment has been designed for a male body or that only 58% of people in the uk call themselves feminists. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that even in Lytham it affects us when women ages 16-19 are four times more likely than other age groups to be victims of rape or sexual assault.
So how is calling yourself a feminist going to help? It’s all about the re-education around the word. Some people seem to have the idea that feminism is a dirty word, it's taboo and certainly uncool. When researching for this speech I listened to a speech Emma Watson gave titled ‘Feminism is not man hating’. Watson was giving a speech launching the heforshe UN program that encourages men to engage with feminism. When I scrolled to the comments I saw an overwhelming number of men firstly disagreeing but secondly asking the question “if feminism is about equality, why are we calling it ‘feminism?’” “Doesn't the name suggest the superiority of females?”. The reason feminism is called feminism is due to the movement being born out of women’s suffrage. The name does not undermine the movement and if anything the reluctancy to support a movement that explicitly expresses itself as feminine further proves the necessity for the movement. It reinforces the message that masculinity does not need to be threatened by femininity or vice versa.
I’m not saying that we all need to run out to the local New Look and buy pink FEMINIST t-shirts and start spewing out facts to whoever has ears. What I'm proposing is subtler, to have a generation that calls themselves feminists and promotes freedom to express opinions and ideals will raise generations that enjoy the freedoms promoted and are ultimately happier. To understand that people are equal is all it takes. You don’t need to worship the ground Emma Watson walks on or burn any bras to be a feminist.
As a generation we are heavily influenced by social media more than most traditional forms of media. Whilst social media can be prodigious in its influence on feminism in a positive way (see again #metoo spreading awareness of suffrage in other countries) it can also be detrimental. Online we can also see extreme personalities dubbed ‘feminazis’ who take the feminist message and twist the meaning. These people are not the spokespeople for feminism, even if they sometimes speak the loudest. They are in fact, not feminists for the key reason that they do not have the fundamental belief that ALL people are equal. My message is this, don’t allow extreme personalities to deter you from a movement that is and will shape the future. If we understand that to be a feminist all you need to do is respect others and yourself. If we encourage respect and integrity then the myths around feminism have no place in our modern world.
So I’ll ask again- are you a feminist?