Whenever I dare bring up the dreaded F word with my friends, I often get variations of the same response.* My ex-boyfriend’s response is one that particularly springs to mind; he claimed he didn’t understand why women were still ‘complaining’ because, as he so eloquently put it, ‘you’ve all got the vote, right?’
And this isn’t a person that you might describe as a modern day ‘lad’. He is intelligent, caring and open-minded, coming from a single-parent family – his mum runs the household, caring for both him and his brother. Yet he, like so many others, chimes off the ‘feminism is pointless’ or ‘feminism has gone too far’ response. It’s far too easy to believe that just because we have legislative equality, we gals have true equality. We don’t.
Sexism manifests itself in many forms. Its evidence pervades history; we can recall a time when women were disallowed the vote, a time when women were treated as property by husbands and fathers. Society has come a long way in respecting the rights of women as people in their own right but more needs to be done. There’s an inherent sexism in the way women are viewed and treated in many aspects of society. Too many of my female friends have anecdotes about being groped, or pressured, or spoken down to by men in nightclubs. I myself have had a few nasty experiences with men who didn’t seem to want to take ‘no’ as an answer, or didn’t seem to want to take ‘no’ as anything other than a challenge. And what are we to do? Smile and ignore it because that’s life? Wear big baggy jumpers and shapeless clothes to hide our bodies when we go out, as a male friend of mine suggested? Why are the victims of this kind of sexism asked to change? Why are WE the problem – not the perpetrators? Why is ‘Feminism’ still a dirty word for so many people?
Many of us, men and women, need to reshape the way we think about these concepts. ‘Feminism’ shouldn’t be the dirty word, ‘sexism’ should be. ‘Victim’ shouldn’t be the dirty word, ‘perpetrator’ should be. ‘Slut’ and ‘frigid’ are beyond dirty words, they’re just void; they belong to a different era, in which women were judged to be either the domestic ‘angel’, ‘good’ and ‘pure’ or the sexually deviant ‘fallen woman’, ‘immoral’ and ‘corrupt’. By 2013, it should now be clear that women cannot be categorised in this way. Women are people before they are anything else, and that can include a whole number of different things. Student, mother, daughter, wife, business woman, lawyer, politician, friend, sister, girlfriend, Olympic swimmer. Women’s rights are human rights because women are people.
So, while we might have the vote, there’s a long, long way to go. Feminism is far from dead.
* In case you still weren’t fully clear, the F word is feminism. Don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea