I recently read Hadley Freeman’s new book, ‘Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies’ and something she talks a lot of about is Feminism and how essential it is for modern society. She is part of the recent trend of open discussion about Feminism which also includes, Caitlin Moran’s ‘How to be a Woman’ and popular websites such as everydaysexism.com which talks about the sexism women regularly face in their day to day lives.
All this talk of Feminism is particularly welcome for me as I have been a self proclaimed Feminist for as long as I can remember, ever since I heard the word. However, something I have always struggled with is the surprise and criticism I have been met with when declaring myself a Feminist. People often ask me why I am a Feminist and the question has always puzzled me, isn’t it obvious? I am a Feminist because I believe in equal rights for men and women; I believe that women should have the same opportunities and choices that men have, the same rights to education and the right for control of their own bodies. This to me, is what Feminism is all about and when pressed I believe that many people also believe in these principles, they just don’t like the term ”Feminism’’. For some reason, the word has developed certain negative connotations, often associated with burning your bra. Therefore, both women and men often seem to shy away from describing themselves as Feminists. I myself have never burned a bra and I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the other myths I have personally encountered about Feminism.
Myth #1 – Feminism is irrelevant in this day and age
People often tell me that in this day and age, we as women have already gained equality and therefore Feminism has no real purpose anymore. For example, we have the vote, we have equal pay, haven’t we achieved equality? However, there are many things that Feminism still needs to address. A particular recent example that shocked me was the decision high street chain Boots made to label science toys as suitable for boys, not girls. The suggestion being that women are not interested in science, something many female scientists would strongly disagree with. This type of labelling is especially damaging as it suggests to young girls that they shouldn’t pursue this academic direction purely because of their gender. This is the same type of reasoning that markets Nurse Costumes to girls and Doctor Costumes to boys. I think this can be extremely damaging to both girls and boys and can serve to limit a person’s future choices based solely on gender. Thankfully, Boots have chosen to reverse their decision and labelling, mainly because of protests and complaints they received. I believe this is a fantastic example of Feminism in action!
This of course is not the only problem women have to face, another more obvious one, is in regards to birth control and abortion. This is particularly relevant in America, where many states are seeking to limit women’s access to these services. Feminism is extremely relevant and necessary here as we need to fight to keep control of our bodies and to decide when we want to have children. Without Feminism, women would still by dying from backstreet abortions and taking a step backwards in time is not an option.
Myth #2 – Feminists hate men
Another problem I have encountered when telling people I am a Feminist is that they seem to assume I hate men. This is quite frankly, ridiculous. I think you’ll find that most Feminists do not hate men, they have friendships and relationships with men just like anyone else. People tell me that Feminists believe that women are better and superior to men but having read a significant amount of Feminist literature, this is not something I have encountered. They believe in equality with men, not superiority. Another thing I would like to address in this section is that men can be, and often are Feminists too! Most men I know believe that women should have equal rights and choices to men; therefore they fit the definition of a Feminist.
Myth #3 – Feminists can’t be housewives
The fact that I believe that women have the right to successful careers and that they shouldn’t have to give these up just because they get married or have children is sometimes interpreted to suggest that I believe women should not be housewives. This is ignoring one of the key aspects of Feminism, choice. If a woman chooses to be a housewife herself, then that is absolutely fine. The point is that they have the choice, they are not forced into it by societal pressures. For much of history, women did not have this choice so the fact that they now do is important. It is possible to be both a housewife and a Feminist, not just one or the other.
So to conclude, this is just my personal view and perception of Feminism and of course many people will disagree with me. To me though, Feminism is about equality and the freedom to choose, two of our most basic human rights. It really does baffle me that people can’t seem to understand this.