A couple of weeks ago, I heard a few simple words spill out my friend’s mouth which I never thought I would be too shocked to hear yet by which I was completely taken aback. Those words?
“I’m not a feminist.”
Each word, innocuous on its own, combining to form a definitive sentence with a surprising sting at its core.
I pride myself on my ability to accept the opinions of others, but feminism is an issue close to my heart and as such, I found this revelation from one of my closest friends slightly unpalatable.
“Why?!”, another friend and I gasped, in horror.
“I don’t understand why it’s still an issue – women are pretty damn equal with men now!”
Stop. Stop right there. This is exactly why progress in society’s attitude is slow and requires constant pressure for any change to take effect. There is not only one taboo “F word” – “feminism” is still seen as a dirty word by many people, who are under the impression that the feminist movement is all about hating men and fighting – often very rudely and aggressively, in the mind of those who believe these stereotypes – for equal pay, the vote etc. So these issues may be resolved, or at least almost resolved, in our developed world, but let’s get some perspective here.
There are women being stoned to death in the Middle East for driving, for choosing their own romantic partners. There are women, frequently from central and eastern Europe, dancing provocatively and being leered at in Amsterdam, forced into making a living from their bodies as a result of trafficking, yet being seen as some cheap, tourist gimmick. There are young girls in war-torn states who must risk their lives just trying to better their quality of life and prospects by going to school. There are women, worldwide, having words of hate rammed down their throats, telling them they were to blame for their sexual assault, whether it be because of their clothing, alcohol consumption or simply because they were being friendly towards men.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Feminism isn’t some local coup which can easily be solved by allowing women the power to tick a box on a sheet, or to collect a fatter paycheck than once was possible. It’s much bigger than that. It’s a global issue which we all – men and women alike – must push for every day. The fact that we still have songs like ‘Blurred Lines’ highlights this. Catchy as it may be (and I will confess that yes, even I have downloaded it), how is it possible that such morally ambiguous songs are still the norm in pop culture? It’s not just in music: films, sports, websites, you name it – there’s still an overwhelming attitude that females exist for the sole purpose of pleasing males. On the flip side of the coin, there are films targeted at women which celebrate being powerful and sexy and having men wrapped around one’s little finger (Sex and the City, I’m looking at you!), but let’s be honest – while these films are empowering and often enjoyable, they often err on the side of portraying women as being somehow better than men. Again, this isn’t what feminism is about. It’s about us all being equal and gender being removed from the equation.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need feminism, but the reality is, the world is not some middle-class, white-washed, first-world town.
It’s a beautiful yet tainted minefield of inequality. We can only tackle the issues if we’re willing to remove the cotton wool from over our eyes, or, if necessary, have it ripped off to reveal the harsh reality that lies before us.