Monday, 30 May 2011

Feminism- A Man’s Word?

Are you a feminist? If not, why not? Are you ideologically opposed to gender equality, or are you a woman who has been made to feel ashamed about feminism by a man?

I’m not going to write this piece apologetically- I am a feminist and proud- and you should be too. Men have done a tremendous job of making women feel like feminism is for no-one but shaven-headed, briefcase-brandishing ‘lesbians’, and it’s about time women stood up and put the record straight.

For a start, there’s nothing wrong with being a skinhead, homosexual working woman. But the problem is, men have characterised feminists in such a way that the concept isn’t one that appeals to women any more. Women who endorse feminism feel increasingly belittled by men who like nothing more than stereotyping them for their own benefit. Of course, ladies, men are going to be reductive about feminism, but that doesn’t mean you have to believe it.

Increasingly, working women are realising that they can’t ‘have it all’, and no, they won’t see as much of their children if they devote most daylight hours to their career. But housewives can be feminists too, because feminism is a belief, not a lifestyle choice. Feminists shouldn’t be an endangered species; everyone should be one. It seems like the root of the problem is that men and women have forgotten what feminism is. Modern notions of feminism, conveniently informed by men, involve ‘dykes’ and ‘pitbulls’, and no woman wants to be labelled as something she doesn’t believe she is, so she rejects any notions of feminism, even if she does believe in what it actually stands for. Feminists, as Mary Wollstonecraft would have us believe, support equal rights for women and fair access to education, and yet so many of us dismiss the idea embodying these values.

Dragon’s Den entrepreneur, Deborah Meaden, recently denounced feminism, stating “I'm not a feminist. I consider my position in the business world not as a woman but as a person”. I find it astounding that such high-profile figures, role models even, are embarrassed to call themselves feminists. It is feminism that allows her to enter boardrooms, feminism that supports her status as a person. Her entire notions of self, the basis of how she considers herself are grounded in the work that feminists did for women nearly 200 years ago. If we are ever to close the gender pay gap, if women are ever to be considered and the political, social and economical equals to men, then we must stop listening to the men who tell us that feminists are ‘butch’ and start truly recognising the pioneering intelligence of our female ancestors.

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