Tomorrow marks International Women’s Day: a day which has existed in some form since 1909, set aside to celebrate the achievements of women around the world and to serve as a reminder of the need for gender equality.
Yet, as every day which illuminates the problems faced by a particular demographic (even one as big as half the Earth’s population), the day will not pass without controversies and objections.
There will always be someone will will take umbrage at the day’s very existence, and take it upon themselves to yell into the vast void of social media sentiments like:
“why isn’t there an international men’s day?!”
Which would be a great point, save for the fact that there is an International Men’s Day. It falls yearly on November 19th, something which comedian Richard Herring spent an entire day reminding Twitter users this time last year – AND the year before.
There will always be someone who is worried that women are trying to take over the world, concerned that this day of recognition is appeasing the men-hating “feminazis” of the internet, which naturally, will lead to world domination (the army will consist of cats, and women’s magazine columnists, and will be characterised by the smell of nail polish and burning bras) .
This blog is for those people: the ones who don’t understand feminism, be they men, women, non-binary, anti-feminists, accidental misogynists, and blissfully unaware meninists. Here are the things you’ve got wrong about feminism.
So you’re not a feminist because…
“We already have gender equality”
It depends on where you look. Maybe you’re living in the UK and working for a wonderful company which pays its female employees the same as equivalent male employees, where both maternity and paternity leave are equal, and where sexual harassment is dealt with in a second. Maybe you’ve never been abused or assaulted, never even walked down the street and felt threatened by a group of six-feet tall men wolf-whistling at you. Maybe you’ve never even heard anyone use phrases like “man up”, “stop being such a girl” or “that’s not very ladylike of you.” If that’s the case, you live in the world I want to live in.
But not everyone’s so lucky to live in that kind of dream-world/micro-climate. Because there are women out there who live in places where violence against women is the norm, where women don’t have access to quality education, and where women are trafficked.
Even in somewhere like the UK, there are still issues which need working on, including closing the gender pay gap, increasing the number of women in management positions, and providing more help to victims of domestic abuse.
“Because men have it tough too – we need to fight for human rights, not women’s rights”
I see where you’re coming from. There are a lot of issues which affect men more than women, such as suicide (the leading cause of death in men under 50 in the UK), prostate cancer, and limited access to paternity leave – and the truth is, we don’t talk about these enough. A lot of issues which are commonly thought of as “women’s issues” also affect men, including domestic violence, which when directed at men is sometimes mocked instead of taken seriously. Being a feminist doesn’t mean that someone you don’t care about these issues – far from it. A big issue on the feminist agenda is that we need to do more to increase the amount of paternity leave men can receive, and give them equal child custody rights. If a feminist says she doesn’t care about men’s problems, then that’s a symptom of heartlessness and selfishness, not feminism.
The world feminism doesn’t mean only caring about women, or trying to elevate women to a level above men, and while “equalism” or “humanism” might seem like more friendly and encompassing titles, there is nothing in the definition of feminism that says feminists want anything more than equality of the sexes. It’s only called feminism because the idea behind the movement is to bring women’s rights in-line with men’s. But granted, we do need to face equal emphasis on helping all genders – not just one.
“There’s too much ‘white middle class feminism’ – nobody cares about racial issues, or women with disabilities, or LGTBQ communities”
Admittedly, one of the issues with feminism can be that not everyone recognises issues they don’t personally witness. We can sometimes forget about feminist issues facing other countries, or different types of people. We can get lost in the gender pay gap in the UK when the more pressing problem is violence against women, globally. A lot of feminists do recognise this though, and if issues affecting more than just “white middle class” women are something you feel strongly about, then you’re exactly the kind of person who should be raising awareness of these issues. We need more people like that, who can see the bigger, more inclusive picture.
As for some feminists who do not believe trans-women should be encompassed in feminism, I see no place for those people in feminism. Trans-women deserve exactly the same rights as we all do. And so do people of every gender, sexuality, race, religion, the list could go on. It angers me that this even needs to be said – it should be a given.
“I’m not a career woman: I’m a stay-at-home mum and I cook for my husband every night”
Kaley Cuoco, is that you? Let me ask you a question: do you cook every night for your husband because society tells you that you must, or because you like cooking, and it’s convenient for you both (you’ve got to eat, after all)? If it’s the former, it’s time to break that rut and start cooking on your own terms (but maybe don’t boycott cooking altogether – girl’s gotta eat after all). If it’s the latter, then you can still be a feminist. Unless of course, you don’t actually want equality. The aim of feminism isn’t to make all women tough, career-driven women who don’t cook or clean, and who embody typically “masculine” traits. Respecting women means respecting women for what they are, not for “trying to be like men”.
“I love men”
Have you even been listening?
“But I don’t want to burn my bra”
Really? Are you even living on this planet? And those things are expensive, so no-one’s going to be burning them anytime soon.
Featured image by Robert Wade