Last weekend marked the end of this years Women’s History Month. A whole thirty one days, dedicated to the history of a gender that has so often been marginalised in the past, and still is today. If you don’t believe me, may I suggest you watch this video of a Polish politician called Janusz Korwin-Mikke (granted he is 74, but does age warrant the excuse ‘it was a different time’? I’m not too sure…) telling women that they “must earn less than men, because they are weaker, smaller, less intelligent, they must earn less ... that is all”. This mind-boggling marginalisation towards woman has happened for many, many years, so despite being a millennial child of the 21st century, nothing about this video shocked me that much. In a bizarre sort of way, I was kind of weirdly pleased. Before you call me out for being a ‘bad feminist’ (read some Roxane Gay baby), let me explain why. I can't count the times that men (boys, lets be honest) and the odd woman have said “you don’t need feminism” or “women are completely equal to men” or “you can’t talk about feminism when you haven’t experienced the world” or “I hate feminists” (straight up, that makes you a sexist matey, bet your mumma would be so proud!) I don't know why people are so reluctant to say they're feminists. Could it be anymore obvious that we live in a patriarchal world when ‘feminism’ is still a bad word? To all the men and women who I have been too intimidated by to argue with before, I can tell you that I am only 20 years old, a lucky and privileged white girl, and I have definitely experienced sexism. Sexism still exists, and this video of the crazy Polish politician proves it – that is why it is important. I am a woman having to find hard evidence that sexism exits, so that the men in my life believe me when I say we need feminism.
Despite having experienced my fair share of sexism, what I feel is the most important ‘hard evidence’ of a need for feminism, is the horror happening to other women, far away from my privileged, white, western life, in which I have been extremely lucky to grow up with mostly feminist men, who encourage me to have an education and to stand on equal footing with them. Tragically, this is not the reality for a lot of women in this world. I have seen the horrors inflicted upon women just for being women, that play out daily on our TV screens – and even though it’s literally in our front room, not enough people are talking about it, or even taking note. It’s like every time I hear people say they’re not feminists because they haven't personally experienced any situations that ‘require’ feminism, I just think “Global warming isn't real because I was cold today! Also, great news… World hunger is over because I just ate!”. It doesn’t work like that hun, we have to take note from Maya Angelou (original QFE) who said “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women”. It’s that simple: we must rise together and acknowledge that outside of our comfy cotton wool, cabbage patch lives, sexism is alive and terrifyingly well.
It is so incredibly easy for us all to sit back and say “we don’t need feminism, we’re fine… I mean I believe in the equal rights of men and women, but I’m not a feminist”. It’s the “I believe in the equal rights of men and women, but I’m not a feminist” that really grinds my gears. My cousin is currently exploring the big wide world before university, and despite only having been gone for a few months, the change in her is remarkable. We so often get consumed and moulded by the bubbles that we live in, afraid to do anything but conform, afraid to stand up for what we believe in, and it’s all too often that I see people leaving school, or a particular job or area, and only then do they feel able and free enough to truly express themselves- how sad is that? We so rarely see beyond our iPhone encrusted noses, to face reality. My cousin and I had a lengthy conversation the other day at 3am (she’s in Oz and I’m an insomniac) about the frustration we both feel when people are terrified of admitting they are feminists. I think Aziz Ansari puts it really well if you’re not sure what I mean:
“If you believe that men and women have equal rights, and then someone asks you if you’re a feminist, you have to say yes. Because that's how words work. You can’t be like,
‘Yeah, I’m a doctor who primarily does diseases of the skin.’
‘Oh, so you’re a dermatologist?’
‘Oh that’s way too aggressive of a word, not at all, not at all.’”
How bonkers is that? Very, is the answer. But this is a situation I have come across far too many times, and it is for this reason, that things like ‘Women’s History Month’ is so important. Apart from being able to celebrate the incredible achievements of wonderful femmes who have gotten us to this point, from inventors to writers to artists, Instagram became a much more de-stigmatised place this month. Although it has been doing great things for the promotion of feminism for a while (apart from the no nipple thing… c’mon guys, this is the 21st century), it became a huge platform in which I felt completely free and empowered to preach to the world the wonders of womanhood. A place to say the word FEMINISM freely and powerfully, and get back a wave of supportive empowerment from others. The more people talk, post and tweet about feminism, the less stigma the word holds, the more people become feminists, and the closer we are to a society build on the equal rights of men and women.
Be proud to call yourself a feminist, because frankly, if you don’t call yourself one, you’re tarnished with the same brush as this guy…