Feminism is not a four-letter word

By Louisa Ackermann

Why are we so afraid to call ourselves feminists? An internet joke that was circulating recently defines feminism as ‘the idea that we can make both sexes equal by focusing solely on the issues of one.’ This kind of misses the point. Imagine if in 1960s America, white folk had flounced up to Martin Luther King to demand how he could possibly expect equality in the eyes of the law and in popular discourse if he didn’t give a second thought to the plight of the white man. You know, sun burn and stuff. We’re all in this together guys!

Feminism is scornfully dismissed by men and women alike as unnecessary, outdated and pedantic. We have the vote and jobs and birth-control pills… why are we still complaining? All those times that we’re told to get back in the kitchen, that’s a JOKE, duh! A post-feminism ironic commentary on those values that are all too distant a memory to serve any real relevance today. Those times a guy shouts from his car that he wants to fuck us, or goes a step further and gropes us on public transport, on the street or in a bar – it’s called a compliment…or something. And then people have the gall to say romance is dead. The truth is, we need feminism now as much as ever. Overwhelming the message presented to women is that our primary worth is not in what we do, but what we look like whilst doing it. Even female power-houses like Hilary Clinton or Michelle Obama can’t seem to escape this. According to the Huffington Post, ‘we all kinda freaked out when Michelle Obama cut her bangs…’ 

Are you freaking out? Are you?

Are you freaking out? Are you?

Did we? Did we really? And if we did, what does that say about us? This is a woman with degrees from Princeton and Harvard, an activist for poverty awareness, women’s rights, LGBT rights, an advocate for health and nutrition, a philanthropist .. WHY ARE PEOPLE FREAKING OUT ABOUT HER BANGS?

Mary Berry, television cooking extraordinaire of The Great British Bake-Off fame, recently described feminism as a dirty word – ‘I don’t want women’s rights,’ she said. ‘I love to have men around, and I suppose if you’re a true feminist you get on and do it yourself. I’m not a feminist.’

Well that’s not useful to anyone. Feminism isn’t women with hairy legs shouting at men and burning their bras, as Berry seems to have fallen victim to believing. It’s not a battle of “guys versus girls” as Taylor Swift referred to it – admittedly not someone we’d ever really turn to for enlightenment on the subject of female empowerment. But that could be an article in itself. Feminists can be mothers, homemakers, CEOs and politicians. And of course, they can be men. Feminism wants to build a better society with men, not in spite of them. Until we have a world where women are prized for their minds and their achievements over their looks, where harassment is not overlooked as a joke and where we have equal say and influence in politics and culture, we will continue to need feminism. Feminism is not a four-letter word.

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