Feminism. The word of the hour. Well certainly the word of the hour in my life. It would seem that as I grow older, I take more and more of a feminist outlook on life. Having dipped a toe in the murky waters of the employment world, being in my final stint at university and preparing myself to be a fully-fledged adult, it appears that as each day passes I have more and more reason to fight the corner of women.
If I identify myself as a feminist, I am not always met with cries of ‘Good for you!’, but indeed sometimes a condescending eye-roll, or a sigh that hints at someone begging for patience.
Feminism, it would seem, is the new f-word. A word that is not the label of pride and desire for equality that the first-wave feminists intended. It is almost become a curse word. It would seem that in some circles feminism has become a dirty word, a label to be worn with shame and a lowered head, whispered about and discussed in hushed tones. It would seem, from my point of view at least, that some people have had enough of feminism. They’ve tired of women wanting to have equal pay, equal healthcare, equal anything in fact.
And because of this I am proud to stand up and say that I am a feminist. I don’t hate men. I am in fact quite a fan of men. I think most men can be incredibly brave, strong, gallant and loving people. In fact the majority of my friends are male, and I am very lucky to have a wonderfully supportive father, stepfather and older brothers.
That said, as with anything there are of course exceptions to the rule. There are some leftover dinosaurs from bygone eras, who get frustrated when I say that society has to change, that all-male circles can be destructive and inaccessible to women. There are men who have looked me in the eye, seemingly forgotten the fact that I am about to finish a degree, that I have A-levels, an education, ideas, a brain and a future as bright and as prosperous as theirs and yet they have said to me: ‘But why do you want to be successful if your career will be over when you have children?’
I won’t apologise that I don’t allow my biological and genetic make-up to rule my life. And I won’t apologise for the fact that I want to be equal to my male counterparts. I don’t want to subjugate men, make them obsolete or suggest that they are inferior to women. Men and women are equally flawed and are equally brilliant. In different ways maybe, but certainly equal nonetheless.
All I want is to open up all areas of society to women. To open up work, education, healthcare, religion and politics to equal opportunity. I am tired of hearing about glass ceilings. I accept that maybe these so called ceilings are just remnants from past ages when women in high up places were a rarity, but frankly as a feminist, I am continually irritated by the success of a woman being treated as a phenomena, a miracle.
There are some women who are truly exceptional. Just like there are men who are truly exceptional. If we continue to treat successful women, strong women and powerful women as being in the minority, these women will continue to be the minority. We need to normalise female success. We need to make sure that women are not scorned for deigning to seek equal opportunities. Women and men are made the same, so give them the same status, the same chances. Yes, there are differences, but we should embrace that. Life would be very dull if there wasn’t a little variety.
And so, that is why I am proud to say the F-word, and to brand myself as such. I’m not going to stop shaving my legs or wearing make-up, just to prove that I don’t need a man’s satisfaction. Being a woman, and acting like a woman, does not make me less equal to a man or less of a feminist. I will not shun femininity to prove a point. But I will also not lie down and accept second class status just because I’m a woman.
I am a feminist, not a man hater or a bra burner. However, if I have to talk back to a few men and burn a few bras to raise awareness for equal rights, then so be it. Don’t mock feminists or treat them with patronising forbearance, because the irony of that is almost too bear. Every time you do so, you justify the cause you seemingly think is irrelevant.