Feminism: Not As Scary As It Seems
What is feminism and do we really need it?
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Ah, the F-word. Every time I mention it, people seem to look at me as if they’ve grown two heads.
Nowadays, the vast majority would think of feminists as skin-headed, hairy women from the 60s, waving picket signs about how all men are inferior. Today, this is not the case and I feel an explanation is in order – especially what with the media's attention of the subject as of recent. So many celebrities are both rejoicing and denouncing their own definitions of feminism – so I'm here to debunk the myths.
At the very root of the cause, feminism is equality for all sexes. Started originally in the early 1600s when French women began holding meetings where educated women could interact equally with men. Throughout the years, feminism has been associated with the idea that women are superior to men – when of course, it isn't about that at all. It's about equality in every aspect of life for the all sexes – and hopefully with a few examples, you'll see how vital feminism is.
I noticed recently a good example of inequality in Dundrum Shopping Centre. Marking the family parking area is a painted picture of a child’s buggy with the universal sign for a skirt-clad woman, seen on most bathroom doors. What is the problem with that? Well, for a start – not all people with children are women. What about single fathers who work tirelessly for their kids? Or are we still living in an age this can’t be acknowledged?
You might think I’m getting in a fuss about this small car park detail, but my point is: there are so many other examples of this going on around us in the world. Everything minor adds up to something major. Think of things like hygiene products aimed at "men": the packaging is usually dark and features scientific-style artwork. Then think of "women's" products: they're brighter (even neon), shinier and will often feature flower motifs. This is blunt and silly stereotyping.
Another aim of the movement is to live in a society where gender roles do not exist and people can choose freely to be, as they want, without standards or rules thrown upon them. I’ll give you an example: have you ever wandered / deliberately gone into the opposite sex’s area of a clothing shop, to find something there you actually like? But, there might be a certain shame upon buying something not aimed at "you." There is a need in this world to eradicate that gender divide, to eradicate shame and to allow free choice.
In 2007, the EU found men made up 76% of suicides that year. This statistic in itself shows the need for equal expression – that men should be allowed to be emotional and to not be afraid to admit mental health issues. Partially the reason for this high statistic is the "boys don't cry" attitude – which leads to men bottling up their feelings, until it becomes too much.
One of the places greatly admired for its liberty is Sweden. They’ve recently added the pronoun “hen” for people who choose to be gender neutral – and they legally prohibit gender discrimination in the workplace. Voted the top gender equal state in the EU, catalogues for children’s toys are now non-stereotypical (with both sexes advertising “boys” and “girls” interests, together).
To a child growing up, as most of us know, you get all these expectations flung at you. Eventually, after all of this training and restraining from modern society, we learn how to fit in: “ladies should be seen and not heard,” “don’t be a girl” and “man up.”
It's fine to fit into these ideals, if you feel most comfortable like that – but it should be equally ok for others then to not fit into these ideals, to be whoever they want in the most comfortable way.
I have two points to conclude with. Firstly, it’s a step forward understanding. Hopefully, now you know what being a feminist truly means. It's about letting people exist without rules, not associating a gender with someone's personality and ending inequality for all. Start small, like cutting out sexist phrases and accepting those who might be different to you.
Next: Don’t let the world exist, as it is – challenge it, challenge authorities, add your own shout to an already roaring crowd.