Feminism to me means fighting. It’s a very nuanced, complex thing, but at the very core of it I’m a feminist because I don’t think being a girl limits me in any way.
– Tavi Gevinson
I can’t fathom why people are ashamed of being female. Furthermore, it baffles me as to why more women aren’t fighting for equality in a society that privileges men over women, for no apparent reason. The only reasoning I can find behind this mentality is that these women don’t want to run the risk of being labelled a Feminist. Neither being a girl, nor being a feminist should be apologised for and these things certainly shouldn’t be hidden away – why should a woman feel that being branded a feminist is a bad thing? When someone suggests that there are negative connotations attached to the F word, aren’t they attempting to silence another female voice that is desperate to fight for equality? Aren’t they then validating the treatment of women as an ‘Other’ rather than an equal?
With 2014 being described as “a watershed year for women’s rights, a year in which women’s voices acquired greater legitimacy and authority” by The Guardian and The Huffington Post declaring that it had been “a bad year for women, but a good year for feminism”, it seemed that 2015 might find some success within the women’s rights camp. Unless you haven’t seen the news recently, The Sun titillated the feminist community with the suggestion that Page 3 would be scrapped, only to then reveal another topless woman later on in the week. The No More Page 3 campaign was up in arms, as were many other women who thought that we’d finally broken through the patriarchal constraints and had found a voice – unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Whether this tease of change was accidental or purposeful, it exhibits another way in which this male privileged society strives to control women.
However disconcerted this may make the feminist-sphere feel, it isn’t always the men to blame. Sometimes the worst perpetrators of anti-feminist, anti-women ideals are the incorrigible women who endorse them. In light of the disingenuity of The Sun many Page 3 girls jumped atop their pedestals to defend their chosen ‘career’ paths. Porchia Watson, a Page 3 model seemed concerned that people were celebrating the loss of her job suggesting that if it were “any other job… people would feel sorry for them… but no, let’s celebrate, just because some bunch of unattractive prudes decided it’s wrong”. Unattractive? Charming. Prudes? I think not. In fact, Third-wave feminism in the early 1990s fought to expedite social acceptance of female sexual freedom and encourage sexual liberation. With the arrival of the 21st century a new wave of feminism appeared, unconfirmed as Fourth-wave feminism, it brought even more sexual emancipation. In 2013 Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter released their book The Vagenda and in an interview the two have said that a woman can “still be passionate about women’s rights… [and still] have porn-inspired sex”. In spite of this, these bizarre and unfounded comments from Page 3 girls kept coming – Rhian Sugden, another Page 3 model voiced that “it’s only a matter of time before everything we do will be dictated by comfy shoe wearing, no bra wearing man haters”. Sorry – what? This struck me as an utterly absurd comment for many reasons, perhaps the most notable being “no bra wearing”. Sorry, Ms. Sugden, but it seems that you’re not exactly adverse to getting your baps out for men in the media, and I’m sure that would qualify as not wearing a bra? What’s more, she suggests that “everything we do will be dictated…” but fails to clarify who the ‘we’ is that is governing ‘their’ actions. The ‘we’ and the ‘they’ that she is referring to are one and the same, the women who are for feminism and those who couldn’t give a damn – either way, the ‘we’ that is being opposed to the ‘they’ shows the fragmented idea of ‘A Woman’ in today’s society; within Ms. Sugden’s comment a sad truth is revealed.
The ignorance that these women hold about feminist issues isn’t acceptable. We feminists are not entirely made up of unshaven, bra burning women and we’re certainly not sticking pins in man-shaped voodoo dolls.
Emma Watson is fast becoming an advocate for women’s rights with her campaign HeForShe, which calls on men and boys to support the fight for gender equality. I’m not entirely sure that Emma Watson would fit into the ‘unattractive prude’ category, nor the ‘no bra wearing man hater’ brigade – but she is a successful woman who is PROUD to be a woman and is not afraid to do something about it. Given the Page 3 women’s stance on feminism, they’d be surprised to learn that Watson’s campaign is supported by the likes of Paloma Faith, Kate Nash and Sophia Bush – and they’d be even more surprised to learn that the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Simon Pegg and James Van Der Beek (yes, MEN) are fully supportive of the campaign too.
Feminism is growing and shifting daily, feminist solidarity is within our grasp and it seems that only a few women have chosen to be left behind. The Everyday Sexism Project began as a social media campaign in 2012 by Laura Bates, a British feminist writer, and it didn’t take long for it to come into fruition. It offered an open forum for women to come and discuss their experiences of sexism and was just what we needed – in just over a year, the site had over 50,000 entries. Bates stated that “the project was never about solving sexism. It was about getting people to take the first step of just realising there is a problem that needs to be fixed”.
For men, and worse, women, to ignore the fact that there is a problem is destructive. If you shun feminism and deny women a voice, you are relinquishing any ownership over your ‘self’ and your body, you are condoning sexism. Not only this, but those who fail to act are, by default, sanctioning sexual harassment and sexual assault, accepting domestic violence, they’re going to be taking a pay cut and be walked over in the workplace. All of the things you take for granted as a woman, the right for you to own your body, the right for you to have an abortion, the right to work, the right to vote, are as a result of women speaking up and fighting back. If feminism isn’t something you consider, if you ignore it and carry on regardless you are allowing these injustices to happen without resistance or question – and that’s not ok with me.