The F word: A strong word, perhaps a bit scary and something to think seriously about before using.
I’m talking about Feminism of course.
It’s easy to take this word with a nonchalant attitude, take it and put it in the pile of the other –isms that you think may have come, been defeated and gone. Well, it hasn’t.
It’s too easy to associate Feminism with the two biggest clichés: Bra-burning and men-hating. Even The Lad Bible (a very popular –with men- website which uses tongue-in-cheek analogies of sexism) constantly post pictures explaining that women belong in the kitchen and should not dare step out of it; All very funny until you read around the facts. Funny until you realise that there are in fact some countries that really do not let women out the kitchen, because, well, they have no right to.
But now, in 2012, we need to revaluate the word. Women have been there, burnt their bras, secured the right to vote and done that, so now what? Feminism means something else and if it means being proud to be a woman, seeing how far we have come and what we stand for, then where do I sign!?
Columnist and author Caitlin Moran who wrote the fantastic book How To Be A Woman explains the new move of Feminism like this: “Here is the quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your pants. (a) Do you have a vagina? and (b) Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said yes to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist!”
I took to Twitter for some opinions:
Sarah Anderson (@Seja75) said: “Feminism means fighting for equality and against the backsliding of women’s position in society”.
Margot Bloom (@Margot_Bloom) simply notes: “Feminism means that I am able to support my children as a single mother!”
Alexandra Therese (@AThereseFashion) puts it together in a nutshell: “Quite simply; Feminism means equal opportunity and not feeling disadvantaged in any aspect of life purely because I am a woman”.
Helen Baines (@HeleninLeeds) uses the power of the triplet: “I think feminism is all about the 3 e’s: Equality, Education and Empowerment”.
It is important to note that feminism is not a man-hating activity. In fact there are thousands of men all over the UK that are feminists in their own right too.
So when I sent out a journo request on Twitter for opinions on #Feminism, it wasn’t surprising to see facetious answers (and unfortunately the truth of what people associate the F word with) flood my inbox.
One particular man replied with a simple: “Feminism = Lesbian”, which I’m not sure even makes grammatical sense (and he had YOLO in his bio so, well, you know) so after a few banterous exchanges, he revaluated the word and sent: “errr what I meant to say was – feminist = inspirational, intelligent and amazing!”. – much more accurate, regardless of his sincerity of the latter quote, he still proved my point.
Many men on Twitter did come up with genuine thoughts too…
Jack Tomlinson (@JackTII) notices his main concern for feminism: “The current problem I see between sex and equality is the fact that women don’t get paid the same for the same job!”.
An Owl (@H00tings) said: “Feminism is the struggle for equality and a fight against the patriarch. Recognising that despite years passing there are still issues about it. It is quite difficult for some guys to see and recognise their privilege – usually turning into ‘What about the men?’”.
Despite how far Feminism has come, there are stereotypes and prejudice, like with anything that proves a little controversial, but the F word needs to be reinvented.
Seventeen year old Rosalind Jana is currently studying for her A Levels and thinks of herself as a passionate feminist with strong beliefs in genuine equality.
When asked what the word feminism means to her, she notes that it has become politically loaded and very misunderstood. I wondered how and why a 17 year old young lady should be so passionate about it but it became apparent that if there weren’t girls like this out there 100 years ago, there would be no transitions now. Maybe Rosalind is the new wave of feminism..?
She said: “Although my generation are hugely lucky in advances in equality, which is essentially what feminism means to me, I would say that the concept is now more important than ever. I know many girls who feel under huge pressure to conform to a certain body image and look, with the very visual nature of our society; meaning that we are faced with so-called ideals of what is deemed 'attractive' on a daily basis.
These pictures may be airbrushed and altered, but they still have an impact. Having worked as a model, I can recognise the differences between how I look in 'real life' and how I appear in photos. I'm lucky to be able to recognise that differentiation”.
Feminism holds a plethora of issues and deeper concepts that are being addressed as we speak due to the new multi-media world we now live in. Institutions such as Body Gossip and Beauty Cocoon are a part of the new way to get women to realise their potential and strive for not only equality, but more.
Rosalind talks about feminism and porn, a very hot topic with debaters: “A further, more pressing problem, I would argue, has been the influence of porn on teenagers of both genders. I am generalising, and it is certainly not applicable to everyone, but many girls my age feel the need to remove most of or all of their pubic hair in response to the ideals promoted by the highly sexualised images and videos that have become increasingly acceptable.
The concept of sex has been warped for some, with assumptions based on the porn viewed.
“It’s not rape if you shout SURPRISE!”
When I saw Caitlin Moran at Cheltenham book festival, I asked her if she thought it was harder for teenage girls now – and she agreed that it most definitely is. Her book has been absolutely fantastic in raising awareness of feminism, and is delivered in such an accessible way that it has opened up the idea to many who wouldn’t have previously considered themselves to be feminists”.
By way of summary, Rosalind speaks of her hopes for the future of feminism: “Issues like abortion, relationships, media representation of women, ageing, underwear, body and image standards are all issues that I think feminism should now be concerning itself with.
I’d ideally like to see it used as a tool to bridge the double standards and gaps between the genders, to champion the right for women to do what they want with their bodies, to encourage more women to enter areas such as politics and to inspire teenagers to stand up for their equality”.
The reality is, in 2012, there’s never been a more important time to be a feminist. Not a bra-burning, topless marching, hair-shaving feminist, but one who recognises how far we have come and how far we have yet to go for ultimate equality.
The media has a lot to say for Feminism. Earlier this year, the Uni Lad website, aimed at male students, published an article claiming that the number of rapes that go unreported (thought to be around 80-90%) represents “fairly good odds”. When the site followed up with an apology on Facebook, comments from men included, ‘proof women don’t understand banter’ and ‘it’s not rape if you shout “surprise!”’.
The site was suspended and but now has since been put up again now containing the ‘Viewer’s discretion’ agreement meaning you have to be 18 to enter… (y’know because a 15 year old wouldn’t click yes)… With this in mind it is scary to think what young males are growing up to read on social media sites. A simple ‘joke’ to them could ruin a female-rape-victim’s confidence and even life.
Take for example a recent case featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine: ‘Victoria Buglioni was on a night out. Dressed up to the nines, she and her friends were dancing and drinking champagne. It was getting on for midnight when she decided it was time to call it a night. She was a bit drunk and popped into the ladies, where she was followed by her attacker. He brutally raped her and then dragged her into the street.’
So, was it her fault because she was wearing a dress and was drunk? The jury found the rapist not guilty.
It’s a dress not a yes.
I could type and type and you could read and read about feminist issues, representation and paygaps (maybe my blog ‘Does your man have a bigger package?’ would be a good place to start).. but ultimately, the word Feminism is not a scary one, it’s one to be proud of and one that needs to be said more. Every single person with two X chromosomes should be able to call themselves a feminist (and even those with one are allowed in as long as there are no kitchen jokes).
Follow me on Twitter: @rosiehannah
You can follow Rosalind Jana on Twitter: @ClothescamerasC and hit her fantastic blog at www.clothescamerasandcoffee.blogspot.co.uk