Hi, I’m Amy and I’m 21 years old. I’m British, a university graduate, and engaged. I like pretty clothes and animals and books and lifting weights. I am also a feminist.
“I’m a feminist”. What does that statement “say” to you? Do you picture a woman who resembles Janis Ian from “Mean Girls”, perpetually scowling and making angry comments about “the patriarchy”? Do you imagine a woman who saunters around naked in large-scale protests, brandishing lewd slogans on home-made signs? And if so, do you judge this woman?
It shocks me that so many of my peers have skewed perceptions of feminists—and, following this, are afraid to identify themselves as feminists. Most of us believe in contraception, in women’s rights to equal pay, in being able to vote, in making a stand against offensive media… and yet when the “F-word” comes into play, we’re quick to brush it off. We don’t want to be counted among the Janises and the Slutwalkers of this world. These girls are bolshy and bawdy—we judge them rather than praise their efforts, and shy away from championing the feminist cause.
But why? Why are we so quick to disassociate ourselves from feminism? Feminists aren’t an elite band of “undesirables” that enjoy getting antsy about everything. Feminists are women of all ages, cultures and backgrounds who take issue with the parts of society that suppress and objectify women. We don’t have to be loud, obnoxious, or aggressive. We don’t have to hate men, or reject personal grooming, or parade around with banners. We are women with a common goal: to provide a better world for ourselves and our daughters. And, as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with that—in fact, it’s a cause we should be proud to identify with.
Not too long ago, I had a long chat with my fiancé about feminism. I began to realise how feminism is more important now than it has ever been, and how it upsets me to see that, despite all the many improvements that our mothers and grandmothers fought for, we’re stepping back from continuing their fight as it seeps into modern-day culture and grips onto modern-day issues and mediums.
Nowadays, feminism is about creating the ideal environment for the changes that our predecessors made possible. We’ve got the vote, we’re sexually liberated, we can wear short skirts and low-cut tops. And although there will be some who still dispute these changes, it’s hardly big news that these changes are here to stay—and the majority of us would agree that the victories of past feminists have created a far favourable world for today.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. We’ve come a long way in the fight for equality. Once upon a time, there was a clear opponent in each battle—the men who denied women the right to vote or take the Pill; the fat cats sat in offices who dominated the world that we call “the Patriarchy”. But the fact still remains that men seem to be “more equal” than women (to quote dear Orwell). This new world brings a new crop of issues. Feminism is constantly evolving; it is arguable that we aren’t faced with the same sense of opposition that existed several years ago. But if this is war, then we must recognise that the opponent is smart; he has wisened up to the feminist cause and he knows how to fight back. He utilises new technologies and creates new discourses; he pervades the media and tells us to look a certain way, causes rifts amongst our ranks and, ultimately, gives “feminism” a bad name.
Think about the struggles of being a woman for a second. Think about weight and pubic hair and make-up and the length of your skirt and being cat-called and compared—and then being chastised for getting angry about your struggles. Like, srsly: finding a happy medium with any and all of the daily problems that women face is a massive achievement. And just think, for a second: all the worry and self-doubt that is programmed into our brains through the cultural diet that we are fed from a young age… men don’t have to deal with any of it.
The problem is, there isn’t one root cause any more. Once upon a time there was a clear goal, and women would push, together, to make those individual victories happen. These days we’re objectified, suppressed and patronised from all different directions: advertising, the media, Hollywood, men, other women, laws… the list goes on. So we need to win these little battles one at a time. How do we do this? By doing it together.
And we could start, perhaps, by getting over our fear of feminism.
Women are scared to identify as feminists because admitting to actively fighting for feminist causes says something about us. Feminism has become saturated with cultural myths that make many women shudder. “Living out loud” frightens us because it puts connotations about our character on the table—connotations that are less than preferable in a world where ‘the Patriarchy’ still lingers around every corner of our lives.
This is a discourse that has been put in place to keep women in their place, and nothing is going to change unless we reject this attitude.
Feminism is only loud and brazen if we choose to make it that way. Speaking out isn’t the only way to identify as a feminist. By acting graciously towards other women and boycotting the elements of the media that are at fault, we’re making small victories every day against the myriad of tiny battles that need to be won in order for women to fully enjoy an equal society.
My message to you is simple: Don’t be afraid of feminism. Don’t be afraid to say “…and I’m a feminist”. By standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands—millions, even—of other women across the globe we can make changes in our world to better the way women live not only today, but for generations of women who will come after us. I’d say that was something to be pretty damn proud of.[divider] [/divider]
Are you scared of the “F” word? Tweet us @litdarling.
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