Women have started renouncing feminism. This sentence seems contradictory, but it’s true. In fact, it has almost become a trend for women to say, “I’m not a feminist or anything”. That is to say “I’m not a man-hater or anything”, or “I’m not bitter or anything”.
It’s truly disheartening to see women taking this stance, however, I do not blame them. Feminism has been framed distastefully by social and broadcast media for as long as either have existed. The true and original definition of this word has been skewed and swayed to suit each individual’s personal politics and I have to say, I am somewhat guilty of this myself. Even as I write this, the word makes me feel a sort of fear of being perceived as radical or hateful, but then I recall the history lesson in which I learned about suffragette Emily Davidson, who was one of the powerhouses during the fight for women’s right to vote. She has a gruesome story and quite an extreme one, but it embodies the reason this movement exists. I feel that feminism has forgotten its own name, so I’ll remind it.
“Feminism is a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that aim to define and establish the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes.”
When we go back in time, through our history books, we find that the right for women’s basic human rights such as divorce or work were fought for us by feminists, but if we look at our current climate, the source of the movement has diluted down to things that it never originally was. The media and businesses have turned it into a promotional word. Products are sold under the pretense of feminism, music videos are promoted just the same. Feminism is not just choosing to wear a mini skirt or maxi dress. It is highlighting and fighting against the injustices we are facing daily.
This means starting productive conversations with our brothers and male friends about what consent truly means. This means telling them that when they talk over us, they are degrading us. There are still injustices happening all around the world akin to the injustices faced by the women who fought for the same cause before us.
These issues may seem to be on a smaller scale, but they exist and they add to a very toxic and very real patriarchy. For example, women’s magazines are continuously perpetuating dangerous diet lifestyles and pushing unattainable beauty standards onto women. Plastic surgery is growing increasingly popular and women are ending up hospitalised because of trying to make their bodies fit the hourglass-obsessed mainstream. Around 5 million women are sex trafficked every year. One in four women are victims of rape. Sanitary products are still classed as luxury products and the pink tax means we are still paying more for our hygiene than men, simply because we are women. These issues are where our voices need to be heard.
Globally, there are still women being denied employment on the simple basis that they are women. In Africa, young women are abandoning the idea of a career in the hopes they’ll marry a well-off man and live a somewhat meaningful life. Pleasure marriages are growing increasingly worse in the Middle East and it is our role to research and do whatever it takes to combat the oppression of women everywhere; not just women here, because feminism means all women.
This is not a rant about the supposed “downfall of feminism”, this is a reminder. A reminder to tend to the wounds that matter, that are prominent. Misrepresenting feminism as being concerned with shallow issues breeds resentment even from women. Let us ensure the true definition is never lost.