Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Why we need to stop arguing over why feminism is called feminism

As I write this, International Women's day is 2 days away, but instead of being excited about such a positive event, I find myself anxious; preparing myself to spend the day being forced to defend my beliefs to people who choose to protest, yet refuse to listen to any other side but their own. I am readying myself for the hysterical cries of "but when is international men's day?", "Feminists are just man-haters!" and "women are already equal to men!"

For years now, the majority of feminists have calmly shut down these misinformed statements, attempting to guide people towards the true facts. Unfortunately, year after year the same things come up and to be honest, it makes me feel a little defeated. It seems as though so many people put out their opinion with no intention of listening to the other side of the story. It can often feel like talking to a brick wall. It frustrates me how day in, day out feminists are forced to defend our beliefs to people who won't listen anyway, which of course takes the focus away from the important things.

To be honest, I think we all need to take a step back and stop arguing over petty things. Before you start bashing feminists for what we believe, think about the true implications of what you're saying. A feminist is quite simply, as summed up perfectly by Beyoncé, "A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes." If you read that sentence and believe in it, then congratulations, you are officially a feminist! It really is as simple as that.

Of all the arguments I've heard in opposition to feminism, there’s one that seems to come up remarkably more often. On the surface, I’ll admit it may appear to be a somewhat valid argument, which is why I thought I’d take a few minutes to address it. Hopefully then we can all stop arguing about what feminism is called and come together to tackle the real issues!

"Why is it called feminism if it's about equality?"

Because in general, between men and women, women are the gender who need to be empowered and provided with more rights in order for equality to be achieved. Yes, 80% of the focus of feminism is on females, but again, this is simply because far more work is needed in this area; men's rights are currently far exceeding the female equivalent in the majority of areas. However, regardless of the fact that feminism focuses heavily on women, any true feminist is also an advocate of men's rights. Feminists deal with issues such as paternal rights, domestic violence towards men, and tackling damaging male stereotypes and expectations. Does a 'meninist' do this? Or do they just distastefully attack feminists?

Two women per week are killed by their partner in England and Wales[1], and one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. In most countries, women only earn 60-75% of what a man doing the same job earns. Two thirds of illiterate adults are women[2]. It is estimated that 200 million women who are alive today have undergone female genital mutilation, the act of removing external female genitals. This is often carried out without anaesthetic and in non-sterile conditions, posing risks including haemorrhage, HIV, tetanus and PTSD. In countries such as Egypt, Sudan and Somalia, it is estimated that over 80% of women will undergo this barbaric procedure[3]. The list of injustices, prejudice and violence women deal with every day is endless.

I think a simple way to figure out whether your argument against feminism is valid or not, is to put yourself in this situation. My challenge to anyone who has a problem with feminism and what it stands for would be to ask yourself, “would I feel comfortable presenting this argument to a girl who was forced to marry a man three times her age when she was 12?” or “would I feel comfortable explaining this to a woman whose own family threw acid at her for ‘dishonouring’ them?” If the answer to either of these questions is no, I would argue you need to think about the true relevance of your argument. I wonder how the women in developing countries, who are subjected to violence and injustice every day simply for being female would feel, if they knew people were attacking a group who are fighting for them for such irrelevant reasons.

Maybe some so-called feminists are man-hating extremists. Most causes have some individuals who are clearly not aware of the true morals behind the movement they claim to be supporting. Unfortunately, these are the people who attract the most attention, and it's easy for people to tar all feminists with the same brush. I think it’s time to stop arguing over why feminism is called feminism, and get to the real issues.

On a more positive note, happy International Women's day!





[1] registered, guarantee (2016) Violence against women. Available at: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/violence-against-women (Accessed: 6 March 2017).

[2] Commons, W. (2016) 7 appalling facts that prove we need gender equality now. Available at: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/shocking-facts-gender-inequality-international-wom/ (Accessed: 6 March 2017).

[3] WHO (2016) Female genital mutilation (FGM). Available at: http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/prevalence/en/ (Accessed: 6 March 2017).


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