Up until the last few years, the idea of feminism was something I completely ignored and, quite frankly, dismissed. It wasn’t until I took a module based around race and gender in 20th century America that I actually properly considered what it meant, which funnily enough involved actually reading something on the topic, rather than mindlessly nodding along to popular opinion.
In one of our last seminars, our tutor asked us how our perceptions of feminism had changed, and there was pretty much a unanimous opinion that we now all associated with it on a much greater level. It is evident that we had all entered into the module with preconceptions and scepticisms over what feminism was about. I remember once telling my mum how feminists annoyed me, and her crestfallen response of how she worried for my generation.
Frustratingly, there is a huge temptation to completely avoid identification with feminism due to the image of the single woman who, through lack of having sex, wants to get her kicks from a good bra burning. It’s for this reason that I wish, that somehow, there could be a complete rebranding of what feminism means. In my ideal world, if there was ever a social ill that someone proposed solving, John Lewis would step up and make an advert about it with a heart-warming story and acoustic backing track and everyone would fall in love with it and understand the error of their ways the end. Sadly this is looking unlikely. There is a complete lack of education on the topic, leading to misleading and demeaning general conceptions. Example number one: in the study of women’s history, there is no evidence of any bras being bloody burned. That said, this common image so closely associated with the movement, whilst historically unfounded, had its power in its day. For the women’s liberation movement, it could have been a liberating and empowering image for women fighting oppression. The problem is, in the modern day it has become irrelevant.
It has become irrelevant because, ta da, women’s rights has become recognised and accepted within society. So therefore, they should really shut up, stop moaning, and get ready for Steak and BJ day. I mean, we can vote, drive, work, and even be totally objectified, intimidated, and belittled on a daily basis – Pankhurst would be cheering in her grave. Could we please now, in a time of women’s recognition and free press, just realise that feminism has not had its day, because underneath all the stereotypes it is genuinely just an expression for equality. Talking to a friend about the topic I heard him put forward the argument that he didn’t agree with a movement that “says one gender is better than the other”. Yet it should not be considered to be about women asserting that they are better. Beyoncé has already got that down. It’s about recognising the everyday gender inequalities in society. And yes, this includes men too. It encompasses values and morals that most people would find it hard to disagree with. It’s not about saying that women should have hairy legs and the best jobs in the world. It’s the argument that they should have the choice and the opportunity. In exactly the same way that a man should have an opportunity to assert his rights for issues such as sexual violence, paternity, and the choice to oppose the masculine stereotype.
Essentially, it just so happens that society formed in a pretty fucked up way, and in the last few centuries everybody started to realise this and thought, hey, let’s make some legal changes to combat this. Job done, feminists go home. The image of the 1970s feminist is tired and old, and until we stop propagating it, the fight for truly equal rights will just become more difficult. A few years ago Burberry was considered the uniform of Chavs. Now its models double up as Hermione Granger and Great Expectations’ Pip. It’s all about rebranding.