I am a feminist. Am I a wild, radical extremist who demands men to be eradicated from planet earth? Occasionally. 

“What about International Men's Day?” a male comrade of mine recently exclaimed. “Why are women entitled to an entire day celebrating their existence and men aren’t?” Oh the anguished tears of oppression.  And in case you're wondering, international men’s day actually falls on the other 364 days of the year.    

A lot of men will see the title of this article and think ‘Oh brilliant. The F word. We need further discussion on this? How is that possible when it’s bloody EVERYWHERE?! Women can vote now. Get over it’ 

 

But the blunt fact is that the feminist movement is not over, and we should not and will not stop advocating for it. When girls stop getting shot for going to school, we will stop talking about feminism. When one in five women in the UK stop experiencing sexual violence (and often blamed and shamed for it), we will stop talking about feminism. When women’s bodies are no longer scrutinised, fetishized or politicised, we will stop talking about feminism. When women are no longer taxed for our bodily functions, we will stop talking about feminism. When women no longer earn 78.6 cents for every dollar a man earns, we will stop talking about feminism. When women are no longer being burned alive for declining to succumb to grotesque male pleasure, we will stop talking about feminism. When women are no longer under-represented in every sphere of life, except that of being mothers and wives, we will stop talking about feminism. When female genital mutilation is no longer practised in 29 countries (it’s happening to girls as young as 5 months), we will stop talking about feminism. But WAIT! Women can now agitate and support any political party they wish to, so I better keep my mouth shut, right?

The doctrine advocating the political, social, economic, cultural and basic human rights for women. That is what I tell anybody and everybody who might actually question what feminism is about. Feminism has fought for social welfare, for reforms within the law, for the safety of women entering and exiting abortion clinics, for better and safer working conditions, for access to universal education, for the right to join political movements, and for the urgent need for rape crisis clinics and women refugees. “Feminism has killed no rivals. Feminism has practised no cruelties. Feminism has not starved a nation, set up concentration camps or landed drones in Middle Eastern countries.” (I Call Myself A Feminist). So when friends of mine nervously dismiss or express their abhorrence of feminism and feminists, I often question “Why? What is wrong with you?” Statistically, 42 per cent of British women identify themselves as a feminist – and only 29 per cent of American women. As Caitlin Moran brilliantly put it; “What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? What do you think feminism is, ladies?” 

“I’m not a feminist or anything, but…” is a phrase that I never want to hear again. A 17 year old Charleigh would have timidly expressed this exact same phrase in desperation at not being associated with the prejudices surrounded by the term, yet even then I was undeniably in favour of gender equality. I believe the stigma rooted in and around feminism stems from a perception that feminism is an extreme radicalised movement.

 The belief that feminism is outdated and that sexism no longer exists, particularly in the wealthier countries, is as absurd as it is ignorant. If you believe this, just have a look at the staggering disparity between the number of male and female political representatives in global government. Then do some intensive research on the current sex trafficking crisis happening here in the UK, the USA and across the globe. Go onto Youtube and watch countless videos of the verbal abuse women around the world experience walking into abortion clinics. According to the Counting Dead Women campaign run by Karen Ingala Smith, at least 126 women within the UK were murdered by men in 2015. That’s one woman being killed every 2.9 days. 

Feminism challenges the status quo of a patriarchal society and that makes people exceptionally uncomfortable. By creating a stigma attached to feminism it has been possible for the male dominated mainstream media to minimalize the threat that feminism poses. Proliferating a fabricated negative interpretation of feminism continues to be detrimental to the basic aims of feminism, with many young people, including academics, feeling a sense of unease at openly identifying themselves as feminists. This is unquestionably an important issue that needs addressing.

 In order to rectify the negative image of feminism, we women need to start proudly identifying ourselves as feminists. YOU need to start proudly identifying yourself as a feminist. More importantly, MEN need to start identifying themselves as feminists. Declaring the continued importance of this movement will help in the breaking down of the manufactured stigmatisation and thus encourage others to join in the fight against inequality that women still demonstrably face. Start challenging your friends, family and work colleagues to become proud feminists. Educate the ignorant and do not stop advocating for the feminist movement. Say it with me: I am a feminist. 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 March 2016 16:06 )