I am a feminist, and I am ashamed of myself that I didn’t make a feminist post on International Women’s Day, as surely this is a brilliant opportunity to celebrate women writers and what it means to be a woman. However, to make up for that, I thought I would talk a bit about feminism and what it means across the world, as well as to me.
Pondering on the idea of feminism, and my own feminist views, made me think about all the inequalities women face in today’s society, with the inequalities I may face being nothing compared to what someone living in Saudi Arabia or Nigeria, for example, might face. From this, I thought of the question: If women face so many more inequalities in non-Western countries, is it selfish that women from Western countries often fight for their problems, rather than looking at the wider world?
In my opinion, all problems are problems, and whether a woman feels discriminated against because she’s being picked on by her male boss, or because she’s not allowed to drive, surely these are both problems that should be combatted, in order to encourage equality all over the world? It’s a difficult question to examine and there are so many arguments for either side of it, which is why this is a good time to consider how we fight worldwide discrimination.
The question – what is a feminist?- is also one that can confuse and divide. Some (mainly men who do not understand) may see a feminist as a person who hates men, who burns bras and tries to force men out of power, and as much as those women deserve opinions, they’re not really what feminism is about, in terms of what it actually means, and in some ways this generalised view of feminism gives feminists a bad name. The dictionary definition of feminism is:
“the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.”
This definition shows that a feminist is anyone that believes that women and men should be equal, which I wouldn’t say is really asking that much. This definition says nothing about feminism being a women-only clique, nothing about bra burning and nothing about women trying to take things from men- just feminists who want the genders to have equality.
This question of what a feminist really is leads onto the idea of the different feminists in society. There are the ones that fight constantly, joining marches and refusing to marry because they see this as the taking away of their rights. And then there are the ‘normal’ women, the women who marry, who have children, who perhaps are a little quieter, but who still are feminist. These women, who perhaps play the role of mother and wife, are not necessarily any ‘worse’ a feminist, they are still feminists- anyone who believes in gender equality is a feminist! I think it’s hypocritical and wrong when women turn on other women, suggesting that they’re not ‘proper’ feminists for the way they live. Sometimes women can be their own worst enemy and, instead of blaming and fighting each other, we need to promote feminism and gain a new reputation across the world as women and men who want equality.
Finally, while thinking on this subject of feminism, I got riled up about the image and representation of women in the workplace. This is a key issue Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie highlights in her book and speech ‘We Should All the Feminists.’ If women are strong-willed and determined in the work place, telling people what to do and acting as a boss should, they are often called ‘bossy’ or ‘bitches’ due to this behaviour, and are greatly criticised. When a man acts in exactly the same way, however, people take this as a given, and he is seen as powerful and acting in exactly the way a boss should. Why, when a man and a woman act in exactly the same way, do women get slated but men don’t?
I think it’s due to the fact that women are still often seen as ‘maternal’ and ‘sensitive’ and so when they act in a way that breaks this stereotype, they are criticised. Personally, I think we need to break this mould, change the way women are viewed in society and particularly in the workplace, in order to encourage equality.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the joys and pitfalls of feminism- feminism is a brilliant, innovative and exciting movement that I, like Adichie, believe everyone should be part of, regardless of their age, role or gender. I hope that, in years to come, there will not even be a need for the movement, with gender equality prevailing across all seven continents, and women feeling that they can speak out when they want, about what they want, without fear of discrimination or sexism.
If you have any thoughts on this interesting, important topic, let me know them in the comments below!! 🙂
Currently reading: ‘The Remarkable Journey of Miss Tranby Quirke’ by Elizabeth Ridley