Why Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word

September 24, 2014
feminism, Emma Watson, Beyonce, gender pay gap

Wikipedia: Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.

The Macquarie Concise Dictionary: feminism n. advocacy of equal rights and opportunities for women, especially the extension of their activities in social and political life.

Whenever I hear a woman, young or old, declare they are most definitely not a feminist, with the same distaste as if you’d just called them a serial killer, I feel white, hot rage. Why aren’t you a feminist?

For feminism is most definitely not a dirty word. It does not mean – see definitions above – that you hate men, or the institution of marriage, or you have lesbian leanings (not that there’s anything wrong with that), or you’re a bra-burning, angry and unattractive freak or any of the other wildly ridiculous, grossly untrue and negative meanings associated with the term.

Feminism is not an ugly label. I am proud to call myself one.

When I hear women balk at being called a feminist, I want to rage at them: “Do you believe in equality? Do you believe in equal rights and equal pay for men and women?!” If you answered, yes, that makes you a feminist, sweetheart.

As British journalist/author and comedian Caitlin Moran once quipped: “Do you have a vagina? And do you want to be in charge of it? If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations – you’re a feminist!”

I feel particularly sad and disappointed when I hear a young woman in her 20s say feminism means nothing to her or that she “doesn’t need feminism”. I’m sorry, what?!

I want to admonish them with: Are you OK with the ever-growing gender pay gap? Why aren’t you alarmed that Australian women are earning less (in relation to men) today than ever before, with the gender pay gap soaring above 18 per cent, to reach a record high of 18.2 per cent? Do you think it’s OK for women to still be seen as inferior? And judged solely by their appearance? Have you ever worked in a male-dominated industry, as I have, and been bullied when pregnant?

Then there’s the unequal distribution of household labour to consider, anti-feminists: a new study suggests that men and women could be doing an equal share of the housework – drum roll – by 2050?! How is this OK?

And, there’s the ugly issue of the high incidence of sexual violence against women and children and domestic violence in Australia, whereby women are routinely murdered by current or former partners. Still think you don’t need feminism?!

And while I concede that old-school feminists like Dr Germaine Greer – a major feminist voice of the mid-20th century and the author of groundbreaking book, The Female Eunuch – can be a little, well, batshit crazy at times, it’s completely ridiculous to write off the whole feminist movement lest you be associated with her.

Last year, I found Greer’s comments on ex-PM Julia Gillard to be completely abhorrent and disappointing to say the least. Dr Greer, as a guest on the ABC’s Q and A program derided Gillard’s wardrobe, and said: “You’ve got a big arse, Julia, just get on with it.”

feminism, Emma Watson, Beyonce, gender pay gap

But hope is very much on the horizon for there’s a whole new breed of young women, who are positive role models for females, young and old, who proudly – gasp – call themselves feminists. If you’re scared of identifying yourself as a feminist, think again. If super-successful, talented and gorgeous young women like singer Beyonce (main picture) and actor Emma Watson (pictured above) can proudly stand up for feminism, and declare women are equal to men in front of international audiences, then there’s no reason why you can’t too.

I was particularly chuffed to read of Harry Potter star Watson’s first big speech as a newly appointed United Nations Women’s Goodwill Ambassador. Emulating her brave, heroic and strong Harry Potter character, Hermione (pictured below), Watson, 24, launched the UN’s HeForShe gender equality campaign in NY last Sunday, calling on men to stand up for women’s rights and equality too.

feminism, Emma Watson, Beyonce, gender pay gap

She said: I was appointed six months ago and the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realised that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating.
“If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop. Feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”

Bravo! And amen, sister.

What do you think?

feminism, Emma Watson, Beyonce, gender pay gap

Main image of Beyonce via www.thebackofmyhead.com, Emma Watson image via www.cosmopolitan.com.au, Hermione image via www.ign.com and feminism cartoon via dancingdrafts.wordpress.com

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