Sunday, 27 October 2013

Why I Became A Feminist - Sitting on fences hurts

The simple response to such a question is why on earth wouldn’t I be? Anyone who thinks the fight for equal opportunities and treatment ended when parliament decreed that women were capable of participating in the democratic process, is either wilfully ignorant or dangerously naïve.

A lot of people argue that they are equalists, not feminists. I think they are positing a position that loses any substance the second you analyse it. If you’re for equal treatment between the sexes, you’re going to have to advance women’s rights and representation in many areas, including the cabinet and front page. If you’re for equal treatment between the sexes, then you’re going to have to make men do their fair share of child rearing and household chores. If you’re for equal treatment between the sexes, then you’re going to have to change the way you speak about, and to, men and women when it comes to sexual behaviour. If you’re for any of the above things, you’re a feminist.

You see, voting isn’t enough. It wasn’t enough for men, it wasn’t enough for freed slaves and it certainly isn’t enough for women. The right to vote is a crack in the ceiling, not the sound of glass falling down around our ears. Participation and representation are the blows that will enable any group to fully emerge from oppression and that isn’t achieved with a single piece of very hard won legislation. It takes time and it usually involves going ten rounds with people who are terrified of change and the loss of authority. It takes generations, each using the various tools at their disposal (protest, political campaigns and office, legislation and now the internet) to fulfil a promise.

I’m not suggesting that great strides haven’t been made. I’m asserting that there are many more to be made in order to have a truly meritocratic society. And that some of the rights that were fought for at great cost are under attack by men and women for reasons that both disturb and escape me. Saying that you want equality, without acknowledging the necessity for a feminist movement, when feminism is so clearly one of the routes leading to an equal society, is ridiculous.

Without a feminist movement in this country, and across the globe, we will never see a society that offers each gender a fair shot at the life they want. I am under no illusion about the fight that we are in for. Nor do I imagine it will be achieved in my lifetime, but I do hope that my generation will make that crack in the ceiling big enough for the next generation to feel a breeze coming through.

I am feminist because the work isn’t done. And even when society can say that the genders are equal in their educational, political, physical, legal and familial treatment, I would still be a feminist and not an equalist, because being part of a movement that seeks to improve the lives of billions of women and girls, rather than one that sits on the fence, is something that I am proud of. Plus sitting on the fence really isn’t as comfortable as it sounds.


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