No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half its citizensMichelle Obama
Ever since I was a little girl I always felt aware of a difference in the way society treated me compared to boys. Whether this was on the playground at school when I wasn’t allowed to join in football or in college where I was told I let the whole sixth form down and was a disappointment to the suffragettes (true words from my headteacher) because my skirt didn’t cover my knees despite being a straight A student. Or even at university studying a law degree where I have been told by another boy in the class that I had a ‘power complex’ simply for voicing my own opinion. This is where feminism means so much to me. I have been called bossy instead of assertive, a know it all instead of intelligent, I have been slut shamed for wearing clothes that make me feel confident, harassed by a man who didn’t understand the word no and I have seen face to face some men look extremely uncomfortable with me confidently raising my own opinion. Of course my experience of misogyny and what feminism means to me doesn’t represent those of all genders and backgrounds and I have been very lucky that I have not been significantly held back in life. Feminism means something different to different people but the core value of equality should remain the same.
So many times I have heard feminism twisted into hating on men or excluding trans women or not representing women of all backgrounds and ethnicities and it absolutely breaks my heart to see. Those who claim to be feminists whilst excluding or marginalising a group of people are not true feminists and have completely missed the point of what feminism is about. There are radicalisations of every group you can think of and feminism has been evolving in modern society to include all groups of people where it may have been lacking in the past. We now know that there is not a one size fits all approach to feminism. For example, what empowers you may not empower another person. If covering your skin empowers you, then cover your skin, if showing skin empowers you then show your skin. But don’t tell someone else what should or shouldn’t empower them. Be accepting of what empowers each of us and what feminism can mean to different people. I have so much hope for this generation and those to come that feminism and society as a whole will be more inclusive than ever before and this can only start with acceptance, learning and understanding.
Feminism should represent the inequalities between men and women from equal pay to men’s mental health. It should discuss the intersections of other factors like race, class, sexuality and disability to name a few. It should really be for everyone and if this has not been your experience of feminism then I am truly sorry and I hope that it has not taken away from what the true meaning of the cause is about, regardless of mistakes made in the past.
Feminism is still needed for those countries where equal pay doesn’t exist, where female genital mutilation still happens, where men’s suicide rates are one of the leading causes of early deaths in men, where ethnic minorities and the trans community still feel underrepresented in the fight for equality. We’ve come so far but there is still so much more to be done and I have so much hope for how much further we will go.
For those who have also experienced the bitter end of any misogyny, you have my sympathy and understanding. Keep being bossy, a know it all, too sensitive, too loud and all things in between. And keep spreading the word that feminism really is for everyone. Spread love and acceptance always.
I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselvesMary Shelley
Thanks for reading my thoughts on feminism, a friend of mine recently asked me to share my thoughts on this on his Instagram page and it prompted an important discussion and got some great feedback so I thought I’d share it on here as well. Hope everyone is staying safe! XOX