Why we still need Feminism

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Feminism. Once a glittering movement uniting hundreds upon thousands of people under a common cause of equality and liberation – now a forgotten, seemingly irrelevant ideology of times gone by.  Some say that all the major battles have been won, we’ve got the vote, we’re entitled to equal pay and maternity leave and we achieved sexual liberation and the freedom to do what we want with our bodies. We’re all equal now, right? Wrong. The battles may have been won but the war for equality is still in its infancy, and we have a long way to go yet.

There are numerous feminist theories and ideals, exceedingly different movements in all but name, but for simplicity the movement has been split into three different ‘waves’. What first started as a rapidly rising tide was soon followed by a tsunami of epic proportions, a tsunami that aimed to destroy the landscape of misogyny and drown out the voices of the patriarchy under a foamy cataclysm of liberal ideologies. Since the eighties though, it seems that the waters have calmed and the battle for equal rights is now nothing more than a rolling tide, occasionally coming close enough to lap at your toes. This is mostly down to the fact that feminism is seen as irrelevant now – an outdated movement reserved for man hating, bra burning lesbians who refuse to invest in a razor.

In the past few years the rise of so called ‘lad’ culture has led to misogynistic undertones in every day student life. While I would love to say that the majority of ‘uniLADs’ I’ve met at Lancaster only spout harmless banter it’s a statement that’s far from the truth – rape jokes appear to have become the norm and objecting to any statement which devalues women is usually met with a ‘get back to the kitchen’ joke. Whilst many of the men, and women, who prescribe to this type of lad culture will use the ‘it’s just banter’ defence the truth is that this culture is a reflection of the way modern culture portrays women , as little more than an object. The increased sexualisation of women for the apparent benefits of ‘female liberation’ has only helped in separating the person from the object. A quick flick through ladbible.com, ‘the biggest lad community in the world’, and your eyes are instantly assaulted with pictures upon pictures of scantily clad girls, littered with comments of what the users would ‘do to them’. These users do not see a girl when they look at the pictures, but an object with no real value apart from sex, to be ridiculed for her imperfect body and mocked for being a slag. How can we ever be expected to be taken seriously when this is how we’re perceived?

If you still need convincing here’s some statistics for you: one in four women are reported to have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime; 5% of the female population has experienced rape; on average, two women a week are killed as a result of domestic violence; overall, women in Britain are paid an average of 18% less than men; women hold less than a third of Britain’s most influential jobs; and only 42% of women in Britain identify themselves as a feminist. So, what exactly is it about feminism that you don’t agree with? Is it equality in general you object to? Or are you just scared of the negative stereotypes associated with the f-word?

It’s these stereotypes – which are even more ingrained in our public consciousness through negative portrayals in the media – that make being a feminist a shameful and embarrassing thing to do. Upon uttering the dreaded taboo ‘I am a feminist’, you can expect a variety of reactions, most of them bad. At best you will probably be met with a bemused expression and an ‘oh… why?’, at worst outright derision. It is seen as a spectacularly unsexy identity to take on, but it is now more than ever that the movement needs to be re-kindled and embraced by men and women alike.  It’s only then that we can overcome this equality myth which we’ve been brought up with and get down to the nitty gritty of making equality a reality.