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Monthly Archives: March 2013

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It is easy to think of feminism solely in a negative way. A cause championed by angry old women, lesbians in plaid shirts and men haters. Yet this lazy stereotyping could not be further from the truth. Feminism is a cause that all right minded people, regardless of age, gender or sexual preference should be fighting tooth and nail for.

This years International Women’s Day comes on the back of an eventful 12 months for women’s issues around the world. From the shooting of 14-year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan, to the brutal rape and murder of the student in India that caused huge protests around the world. Such cases merely serve to illustrate what is still a global struggle for female equality.

Last months One Billion Rising campaign was a crucial step to raising awareness. It was a global event, held in countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, focused on raising awareness of the continued discrimination faced by women around the world. One Billion Rising is so named for one simple, shocking statistic: that worldwide one-in-three women will be raped, beaten or abused in their lifetime. Founded by Eve Ensler, it was a call for people everywhere to come together as a show of solidarity to end such violence.

Whilst gender equality has come a long way in the West and is certainly better than many countries elsewhere, it is still impossible to say that women are treated as equals to their male counterparts. The pay gap between men and women, despite falling last year in the UK, is still nowhere near reaching parity and women are underrepresented in many senior roles in society.

And yet perhaps it is Western attitudes towards rape and sexual abuse that is most shocking. The vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported, in no small part due to the lack of faith victims have in ensuring a conviction. We may take pride in the strides made towards gender equality, but it’s simply unacceptable that people are unable to come forward and report they’ve been raped. This isn’t helped by utterly ridiculous safety campaigns that tend to suggest women should take some blame for their rape, such as the repellent campaign by West Mercia Police. I was also shocked to learn that the exemption for marital rape in the UK was on removed in 1991. It’s not just confined to the UK either. In the USA for instance you have politicians such as Todd Akin citing: “legitimate rape” and Richard Mourdock saying pregnancy from rape was something that “God intended.”

A disturbing trend that I’ve noticed recently is of women decrying feminism, some of whom are in positions of authority and power they wouldn’t have been able to get if not for feminism. Take for instance this piece of sexist bilge by Suzanne Venker, titled ‘To be happy, we need to admit that women and men aren’t ‘equal”. Whilst there is no issue whatsoever with women who wish to settle down as a housewife and raise kids, peddling nonsense about women simply not wanting to be CEOs is utterly ridiculous.

Worryingly, it isn’t just old fashioned women stuck in the past that spread this attitude. A quick search on Twitter of the hashtag #tellafeministthankyou produces the expected amount of absurd men, spouting the usual nonsense about ‘Feminazis’. But hidden amongst those are a worrying number of women who simply don’t get it, that think they are equal in society when all the evidence points to the contrary.

It’s unsettling that these myths about feminists being man haters and Feminazi’s are able to gain so much traction. Because they are myths. I don’t doubt women like that exist, but it’s not representative of feminism as a whole. In fact, any feminist worth their salt is going to be well-reasoned and rational. Whilst the likes of Pussy Riot in Russia generate headlines, it’s hardly conducive to creating public discourse.

All of this serves to widen the gender divide. Crucially, the empowerment of women may go some way to solving many of the problems we face as a planet – overpopulation for instance. Allowing women the right to have control of their body and to choose when they have children and how many they have, can help to solve that issue. By extension, this could also have an effect on reducing poverty and economic turmoil.

Simply put, we need the feminism movement and to empower women worldwide to fulfill their potential. Hiding behind the status quo or basing arguments on outdated, inaccurate stereotypes helps no-one. To those that don’t classify themselves as feminist, perhaps you are happy to allow 50% of the population to be treated as second class citizens. Maybe you even actively enjoy it. In which case you should take a good, long hard look at yourself and settle those Mummy issues simmering inside you because your actions are detrimental to everyone.

Of course not all women will end up as successful businesswomen or lawyers or politicians, but for crying out loud they deserve the opportunity that is currently being denied them. So if a women decides she doesn’t want to be a working stiff and would rather be a housewife then so be it. She isn’t betraying feminism if it’s her decision, she’s actually employing it to do what she wants for herself.

If One Billion Rising and various other women’s rights organisations worldwide can help to rectify this inequality, then the world will be a better place. And it’s important to remember that men must also do their part. We have a responsibility as people to ensure all are treated as equals. Simply put, it is trivial to isolate this as being just  a women’s issue. It affects us all. Mothers and daughters, wives and girlfriends, we all have them, and all deserve to be treated as equals.

Photo: via Elvert Barnes

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