Why feminism is not dead

feminist quotes

Feminism is still needed if only 125 of 190 countries have outlawed domestic violence, according to a 2011 UN report.

Even now, the word “feminism” can still conjure up old-fashioned images – especially among those who have not given the concept much thought. It is why I often hear people use the word ‘“outdated’”, or worse, “’dead’” if the subject is brought up.

Part of the problem is that these people don’’t often know what modern feminism is. In fact, no-one seems to know (especially when I have heard Victoria Beckham hailed as a feminist icon).

So, what is feminism?

The dictionary defines it as:

1) the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

2) organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

The problem is that now when women in the UK are deemed to enjoy the same rights and status as men, it is harder to explain what is meant by “equality”. (For example, “equality” would give men and women equal weight when deciding over the termination of a pregnancy). Sometimes, equality doesn’’t work and we are still working on finding the right balance.

One thing missing from the above definition is empowerment! Now that women in the UK have not only the vote, but positions in Parliament and the right to voice an opinion, it is important to use this.

Another thing that didn’’t exist in the 1900’s was reality television. We now have the right to consider being a footballer’’s wife a career,… but is that an empowering choice? Some feminists would say no.

So the world has changed since the original movement, but feminist values remain the same- they just look a little different.

Feminism doesn’t mean you stop shaving

The idea that feminists shouldn’’t wear bras or make-up and go hairy is a stereotype perpetuated by the anti-feminism movement, and by ultra-radicals. Or… by experimentalists going their own way. In general, though, if there was ever an outdated notion, it’’s this one!

There is no “feminist law” dictating what our wardrobes and make-up bags should contain. Believing that men and women should have equal pay has nothing to do with personal style. No-one should have to choose between attending an equality march, and wearing lacy knickers… and talking of lacy knickers, it is perfectly okay to wear them because your partner thinks your bottom looks amazing in them! They wear aftershave/have that shirt you like/wash their feet, right? (Right??)

Feminism is about an idea, not a single image.

Why feminism isn’’t dead

One concept birthed from feminism that continues to inspire women is that of sisterhood and supporting other women.

According to the UN Women’s Justice report July 2011:

Out of 194 countries…

  • Around 70 have legalised abortion and have easily-accessible contraception.
  • Around 125 outlaw domestic violence.
  • Around 117 outlaw sexual harassment
  • Many do not.

There are still women who do not have basic rights, let alone the equality the original feminists fought for. This fact alone proves that the concept is – and should be – very much alive.

Closer to home, it is estimated that between 75 and 95% of forced violations are unreported in Britain. In the US, it is considered the most under-reported crime. Statistically, one in four women will experience domestic violence, yet it is still drastically under-reported. Crimes against women is definitely a feminist issue.

What can we do?

So many things:

– Amnesty International work hard for women’’s rights. If you like to write, you can send letters to wrongly imprisoned women, political protesters and other people who may like to receive a letter to let them know they are not forgotten.

– Women For Women (affiliated with Amnesty) help empower women victims of war. If you can’’t donate, you can help by attending events and being sponsored. (September’s Run For Congo Women raised over £10,000!)

– Never become a domestic violence or sexual crime statistic. If you are harmed in that way, report it. If your boyfriend (or girlfriend) is violent toward you, don’’t give them a second opportunity to treat you as if you don’’t matter. (Yes, you are brave enough to do it.) Encourage friends in this situation to report the crime so the perpetrator doesn’’t get the chance to do the same to another person.

– Support “I Holla Back”- it’’s a movement to combat the street harassment that many women face every day. These women know that having your butt grabbed in the street is not just a downside to being a woman and are working to spread the message!

And most importantly…:

– If a friend, parent or colleague perpetuates the idea that feminism is dead, put them right. (Great article here all about calling out friends on their oppressive views!) Many people do not understand the concept of feminism beyond “Votes for Women”. Give them some of the above reasons and feminism may just gain another supporter.