Three waves of feminism has been like a really bad game of Chinese whispers for the feminist movement. I am a feminist. Unfortunately I haven’t felt as much pride in identifying as one lately. My recent Instagram poll revealed to me that a lot of people my age don’t either. I’d like to get some of that pride back for me and for anyone who has the pretty reasonable request for a society of equal opportunity and rid of gender-based assumptions. Unfortunately the F-word has grown legs and become a beast in it’s own right. Damn. radicals. It’s drifting further away from what many of us believe in and that’s not ok. Feminism is not complicated, it advocates for ‘equality of the sexes’ but that definition has been largely skewed by some radical and frankly irrational ‘feminists.’ Men and women need to remember what feminism is truly about and why we absolutely still need to keep the spark alive.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own” ― Audre Lorde
As far as I’m concerned, I have my rights. However, when I think of why we still need feminism, I think of all the women around the world who don’t have basic human rights. I think of the women who are not allowed to leave their home alone with out a man and the young girls who undergo genital mutilation to ensure they are nothing but a sex hole for men and an incubator for babies. I think those women might look at western culture and be amazed at the privileges we have. They might be offended that even with our equal rights, we seem to be primarily concerned with #FreeTheNipple. We still need feminism, we are still fighting unequal treatment around the world and unfair social perceptions a little closer to home. We need to be careful about what we know feminism to mean and not allow extremists to take it away from us. We need realise how far men and women in the western world have come in creating a society that is socially, economically and politically equal. There is still work to be done but we need to celebrate that and continue to move forward without wasting any energy on bitterness or hate.
Young, Irish and female in 2018. Not a bad place to be. The Irish education system gets a bad wrap but I personally think it’s fantastic. A completely anonymous system where work ethic and dedication determines your success, regardless of your gender. I’ve found the key to overcoming any gender-based assumptions in my life so far has been knowledge, every time. I guess that’s pretty obvious considering these issues blatantly stem from ignorance. A small example is a recent one for me. I felt completely confined to the ‘girls section’ of the gym for a long time. Even when there was stuff I needed to use in ‘the boys(weights) section’ I just couldn’t cross the threshold. It wasn’t until I actually educated myself about what I was doing that I realised how silly it was to be intimidated by a notion that existed only in my head.
As the fourth girl there was no real opportunity for sexism in my family so I do feel very lucky in that regard. However there was notably no expectation set for me to play sport into my adult life like there is for my younger brother. I’m a big girl now so I set my own expectations, as we all should. Traditional mindsets are inevitably trickling down from the generations preceding us and it will take time and hard work to completely shake those beliefs. I have encountered obscure social stigmas and perceptions that frustrate me but I have learned that my life is in my hands I get to choose how much these things affect me. The generation of women who went before us had to deal with the law going against them when fighting for their rights. If they fought that then we can handle a few nonsensical stigmas. Because of those women, I have my rights, I have a voice. It’s up to each one of us what we choose to do with it.
I do believe the majority of this generations westerners believe in equality. Of course there are still some whack-jobs preaching about male supremacy, they will always be there. Just a few months ago I heard a young guy (we’ll call him Joe) say “Females shouldn’t be allowed into university.” Needless to say, I was kind’ve irked. I tried to put myself in Joes shoes. “I’m Joe, I am an insecure human and I don’t have much going for me other than the fact that I am male so I really need that to matter. I really really need sexism to stick around otherwise I will have no reason to feel superior over anyone” You see what I mean? Joe does not represent all men, just a small few dickheads that aren’t going anywhere and who we need to learn to ignore. Any self-respecting, educated man who is confident in himself as a human being will not condemn women for empowering themselves, these men will welcome equality and equal participation from women in life because they’re not afraid of it. There will always be people who hang onto sexist, racist or homophobic views because they need them to make themselves feel better. They know that if there is ever a level playing field that that might lose.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt
We all know that double standards for men and women still exist but they certainly go both ways. If you want to remove a double standard then you have to be willing to let go of the side of it that benefits you. You’re on a night out, dressed up and don’t wish to be whistled at on the street just because you’re a girl (fair enough) but on that same night I doubt you’d refuse free entry into a night club or to skip the que for that same reason. I am partial to accepting an occasional free drink, making me a…big fat hypocrite? It’s not easy to make these changes but as long as we continue to hold onto the double standards that suit us, the longer they will stick around.”She’s a slut/He’s a faggot”, “She’s too muscley”/He’s too skinny!”. Realising that these stigmas have a negative impact on everyone and serve no-one just highlights how quickly we need to abandon them. Realistically they can only affect us as much as we let them. In terms of overcoming stereotypes, my general approach is to ignore them. Do whatever you feel is right for you and once you feel proud of your own decision then no daft double standard can touch you.
‘Notions’ about modern Feminism.
Feminism has become synonymous with men hating and bra burning which is so indescribably wrong. Maybe we need a new word. It’s completely mental to condemn a whole gender, such thinking is not representative of feminist beliefs. I’ve seen tweets and statuses like “Death to all men” from so called ‘Rad-fems.’ Do you want the world to end? Feminism stands for equality. No room for man-hating in an equal society so I think you should probably stop calling yourself that. I love men and I love my bras. Sure some individual men can be dicks and some bras can be uncomfortable but I would lose a large amount of support from my life if I gave them up tbh. There are notions in the media that feminists reject typical ‘feminine’ behaviours like shaving or wearing perfume. Another golden nugget of bullsh*t. Do what you want, The whole point of feminism is that you have that choice. I still love doing typically girlie things like wearing makeup, doing my hair, feeling pretty and buying sparkly things because that’s part of who I am. I love feeling feminine, You do not have to abandon it to be equal.
Equal but Different
Men and women are equal but we are not the same. We are wired differently (evolution, biology etc) and accepting that will help us to work together rather than competing in a ridiculous power struggle. We have different strengths and weaknesses. In general, with a few exceptions, men are physically stronger and faster than women. Imagine a uni-sex olympics? How many women would get there? In general women are more emotionally intelligent. Do you go to your Mom or Dad when you’re upset? If we work together, combine our strengths and learn from each other rather than competing, it would make the world a pretty spectacular place. We’re already beginning to do that in a big way which is very exciting. We can work as a team, one where your success and position is determined less by your genitals and more by your talents, work ethic and value added.
I am surrounded by the most amazing, driven human beings everyday. My best friends are my inspiration. I don’t know whether they identify as feminists or not and I don’t really care. It’s not calling yourself a feminist that counts. It’s working hard, believing in yourself regardless of gender and looking out for each other along the way. Make it so that the world has no other choice but to accept your value. Yes there is still work to do but we are here now, we have our rights, we have our voice. As long as we’re making ourselves proud then all the social perceptions and stigmas in the world won’t get to us, eventually they will just f*ck off. As long as there’s no law stopping me from doing my thing, I’m happy to keep moving forward towards the ultimate goal, a goal that we will reach a lot quicker if we work together.
“We are more than we are, we are one”– Simba