People complaining about the use of the words feminism/feminist, without taking the time to understand what they actually mean, is truly frustrating. A simple Google search will tell you that the definition is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. Is it wrong of anyone to want that? No. Is it wrong of anyone to deny women equality? Yes. Do we still need it in today’s society? Absolutely.
Prior to properly understanding my place in the world, how I slot into society, and how that same society views me as a young woman, I was scared to label myself a feminist. This was before I realised that everyone should be labelling themselves as feminists, because why on earth should half of humans not have the same rights/opportunities/pay as the rest? That’s what it comes down to, really. Humanity. I’ve never burnt a bra and I don’t own a pitchfork.
I think a lot of people who don’t get on board with feminism either genuinely just don’t understand what it means, or feel that there’s a blame game involved. But it isn’t about blaming men, or women, or anyone, for how things are. It’s about challenging how things are. I could list so many examples of times when I’ve experienced sexism. I genuinely think I’ve experienced it, however subtly or blatantly, very nearly every day of my life. And I could also recall so many times when people have asked me, “what, so you think sexism is still a problem?”. Yes, I do. Because it’s everywhere.
I genuinely don’t think that unless you’ve been at the receiving end of sexism (whether you’re a man, woman or however you identify), you can comprehend its impact on you, your perspective and your confidence. I’ve listed a few examples below. Some happen practically every day that I leave my house:
- Being beeped by passing cars/vans on my way to work (and bracing for it every time I walk along a certain ‘hot spot’ street because it makes me jump)
- Being whistled at or shouted at by people in the street/in cars/on public transport
- Being pushed up against on public transport
- Being blatantly stared at by a group of men/a group of men blatantly stopping talking as I walk past (very intimidating)
- Being asked how I got my job, instead of asked about my education (someone once said to me “well I wonder why you got hired” – WTF)
- Being fearful if I’m out on my own after dark/feeling guilty for being fearful of people around me when out on my own after dark
- Being ignored when walking into male-dominated environments (once got ignored by a mechanic in a garage who spoke to my brother instead of me, even though it was my car that I was collecting)
- Being expected to wear make-up to work
- Being told I look ill/tired if I don’t wear make-up in public
- Being forced to say I have a boyfriend (ie I’m someone else’s property) in order to get someone to leave me alone when out
- Being asked why I’m out if I have a boyfriend
- Being called a slut/bitch/whore if I ignore people who are blatantly rude to me
- Being refused a chance to voice my opinion in conversations involving anything ‘manly’
- Being called butch if I want a beer or lift weights
I’m not for a second saying it isn’t okay for someone to approach me and start a conversation, pay me a compliment, or be friendly towards me. I’m not saying it isn’t really hard for men to not feel attacked. It must be so difficult to live in fear of saying the wrong thing/doing something that might offend someone else. I’m not saying it isn’t a minority of people ruining equality for everyone else. I’m just trying to draw attention to the fact that feminism is necessary – and so is being mindful of the pressure men come under to fit in with ‘stereotypical masculinity’ also.
It’s rubbish that this conversation still needs to be happening, but clearly it does. I’m tired of it and you’re tired of it and everyone’s tired of it. But one day, I hope that we won’t have to raise this issue anymore. I hope one day we can celebrate our biological differences and embrace our overwhelming similarities as people. We are a far cry from that scenario right now, but shifts towards it are happening all around us.