During these past few weeks the internet has exploded with whiteboard posts, confused cats and arguments between women who feel they need feminism as opposed to those who think they don’t. Women against Feminism, a tumblr page that was set up over a year ago has suddenly gained a lot of attention in the online community. The site encourages women from around the world to post quotes describing why they feel they don’t need feminism or why it is not relevant in our modern world. This is one of the photos I came across:
“I don’t need feminism because:
- I am an adult who is capable of taking responsibility for myself and my actions
- I define myself and derive my value by my own standards. I don’t need to be “empowered”
- I am not a target for violence and there is no war against me
- I respect men. I refuse to demise them and blame them for my problems”
This was only one of the many photos I found depicting a quote that described only the woman’s own situation and didn’t consider the circumstances of other women around the world. I actually agree with some of the things this woman has said. But the problem is, we are western white women who have probably the most opportunities in the world. We take it for granted that from the age of five we start school and continue until the age of 18 where we have the opportunity to continue our studies at university of our choosing. By looking at this from a self-imposed perspective we are not considering the other women in the world who do not have the same opportunities as us.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) 17% of the world’s adult population are still illiterate, two thirds of these are women. On top of this an estimated 122 million young people globally are illiterate, of which women represent 60.7% of this number. While we, as western white women, are able to express our views on the topic of feminism, there are women and girls out there who don’t even have the opportunity to communicate their thoughts the way we are, in writing.
Over the course of the past 250 years, feminists, both male and female, have been locked up, beaten, tortured, and even killed in the pursuit of equality between men and women. They did this with ink and paper; with their actions; through their voices; and they did this in bars that they fought to be allowed into, and fought harder to stay in by themselves.
They did this so that women would no longer be seen as objects to be used to satisfy men’s desires, as property, breeding machines, punching bags, or immature morons. These women did not do this for only themselves, they also did it for their daughters, and their daughter’s daughters for generations to come. They did this for women they would never meet, women who were separated from them by large expansions of oceans, across countries and states and even across time.
If you feel that you have never been affected so far in your life by even the mildest form of sexism; anything from feeling uncomfortable as a man cat calls you while you walk down the street, to feeling scared whilst walking alone on a deserted street, night or day; and every man who you have ever come in contact with has treated you with uttermost love and respect, then I am so glad for you. If you feel that you don’t need feminism, then that is a victory for the movement. You have satisfied all the dreams that every suffragette being force-fed in prison prayed for and dreamed you would one day.
However, as much as the past 250 years of feminists have achieved, even in western society we have a long way to go. If we are apparently equal to men, why do women still only fill 24% of senior management jobs? Why are women still used as punching bags with more women than men being domestically abused or even killed every week at the hands of their partner or ex-partner? Why is there still a pay gap of 17.5% (in Australia) for women doing the same jobs and working the same hours as men? There’s a mentality among our western societies that the reason women are paid less is because they don’t put in the same effort and this is absolute bollocks.
The posts on this page cut so deep because they expose to us just how misinterpreted feminism has become. And it doesn’t just stop with these photos on a tumblr page. This misogyny is so ingrained that even famous women are quick to separate themselves from the “F” word because of the negative connotations associated with it. They’re afraid of being branded as bra burning, hairy legged, whinging, man haters, or lesbians.
The connotations surrounding the term “feminist” needs to be changed. Women don’t want to be labelled as a feminist because they don’t want to be branded, and they feel as a feminist, you have to hate men. Many feminists love men, they’re married to men. Being a feminist does not mean you cannot marry a man and feel safe in that relationship. I want people, man and women to be proud of being a feminist.
The suffragettes fought so that we, women of the 21st century in Australia have the right to vote for the political party we want to represent us. Feminists from the last 250 years have fought so that I could learn to read and write. They fought to enable me to attend a secondary school for girls, that rivals schools set out for boys. They fought to give me the opportunity to attend university, to choose the course that I want to do.
So in return, we must fight to close the still existent pay gap between men and women, to break down that glass ceiling forever. We must fight for women across the oceans that cannot fight for themselves. We need to fight to provide every woman with the same opportunities that we have been blessed with.
Feminism is a movement for freedom, choice, equality, love, compassion, respect, solidarity, and education. These core beliefs of the movement have never changed and they never will.
So before you hold up your anti-feminist poster and feel proud of your own sense of empowerment, telling everyone why YOU don’t need feminism, think about all the other girls out there who do. Because a while ago, that was your mother, grandmother, great grandmother. And wouldn’t you want every girl to have the same opportunities that you have been given? These girls need someone to stand up for them. You can be that someone.
So I urge you to upload your own photo, explaining why you think we still need feminism. Join the movement.