Last year in a lecture, my lecturer asked us to raise our hands if we were feminists. There was an awkward shuffling and looking around before a few people put theirs up, mine hovered mid-air out of indecision and fear of reprobation. And then she asked us if we believed in equal rights for men and women and naturally every hand went up. She told us that we were all therefore feminists.
It was at this moment that it clicked for me. Before, feminism had been a concept I was aware of and internally supported, but I’d never had the courage to label myself as one, or even to comprehend what the term actually meant. Obviously feminism means different things to different people and there are militant radical feminists just the same as there are quiet indecisive supporters, but unfortunately feminists are often all tarred with the same brush with people afraid and too ignorant to recognise what it actually stands for.
To me, feminism is a concept still defining itself in my head. A conversation with an old regular at the pub I work in resulted in him telling me that he didn’t know why women wanted to sink down to the level of men when they were already far better in his eyes. Amusing, but unreasonable, probably something to do with the seven pints he had just consumed. When talking about feminism I get a lot of people asking me why women think it’s fair that they want to be treated better than men which I think is a misconception a lot of people have about the movement and perhaps even within it. Ultimately, however, feminism is simply wanting men to be treated the same as men, whether that be in the workplace, at home, or in the media.
I personally feel a little boil of rage in my stomach when my male friends make careless sexist remarks about female inferiority, or when I see women portrayed in the same mother/wife/cleaner/cook roles in adverts on the TV. I think that the biggest problem I have with female portrayal in the media is that of the infamous Sun page three girls, something I think is outdated, stereotypical and should have been banned a long time ago. I hardly think that the right message is being sent to young children when the first thing they see upon opening a newspaper is a topless woman flaunting herself to the nation (although The Sun as as newspaper is questionable in itself) and it’s simply enforcing the gender roles of a society long gone. There have been many protests about this issue and it seems like the campaign to ban page three models has already gained a lot of support, with Rupert Murdoch even hinting on Twitter that he might be considering a change. This seems like good news, but what is most worrying about the issue are the people who don’t see a problem with the blatant objectification and sexualisation of women. Fair enough if these women want to be topless models, there are plenty of lads mags for them to go and do so, but in a national newspaper available to influence anyone and everyone, more thought needs to be put into how women are portrayed and presented.
Ultimately, time has moved on and it’s sometimes easy to forget just how much has changed for women in a century. But that doesn’t mean that we are going to sit around being thankful for what we already have. Feminism to me is about striving forward to change not only tangible things like the law, pay rolls and voting systems, but also people’s perceptions and consciousnesses. I wish I could say that all gender-related problems will be solved when the older generations pass on, and that a new generation of rational-thinking gender-aware people will bring the world forward but I think that there are still many problems with society’s view of women today and these need to be highlighted and altered before the Utopian dream of equality can even be in reach.