Feminists are few and far between. It has become almost a taboo to admit that you are a feminist. Feminism is the butt of many chauvinist jokes and something which many people claim that they ‘don’t think about too much.’
Yet men still earn more than women; in 2010 full time male workers earned just over 10 per cent more than their female counterparts. Men are still more successful than women; four out of the twenty nine cabinet ministers are women. Even women who do battle through the glass ceiling have to make choices between their career and having a family. Women are forced to reject their femininity and assume more ‘masculine’ qualities in order to succeed in a male dominated society. Girls outperform boys at GCSE by 72.4% A*-C grades compared to 65.4% for boys (2010 Guardian Study of GCSE results) and then again at A-level. So why are women less successful in the work place and why do their feminine traits hinder rather than help their progress?
It wouldn’t surprise me if you told me you’d heard this barrage of information before. Anyone who studied Sociology A-level will no doubt be tired of hearing about the ‘gender gap.’ Yet, despite the fact that nationally we are aware that women are earning less, we still argue that feminism is no longer needed in today’s society. Despite all the evidence of a patriarchal society Feminism is still a dirty word. Why?The stereotype of a feminist is the Radical Feminists of the 1970’s. These women publicly burnt their bras and hated men. Statements such as, ‘All men are potential rapists’ and ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’ made this approach to women’s rights unpopular. After asking several of my male and female friends what they most associate with Feminists the most popular choices were, ‘bra burning’, ‘lesbian’ and ‘man haters’.
So I looked up Feminism in a dictionary. The dictionary definition of Feminism is ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.’ Nothing about burning your bra, hating men or being a lesbian then. In fact, surely every well informed person would believe men and women are equal and should be treated as such.
Emily Davison of the suffragette movement died under the king’s horse in 1913 for women’s right to vote. A century later and women are rejecting the idea of Feminism all together. The word ‘Feminist’ has been misconstrued. To be a feminist you do not have to wear trousers or dump your boyfriend. And for men, being a feminist doesn’t make you a ‘poof’. Every person I know believes in equal rights for men and women. Therefore every person I know is, by definition, a feminist.
Our generation has seen the world change in countless ways (with the birth of the internet, the invention of the mobile phone etc.) yet we still live in a society in which women are treated differently to men. We jumped at the chance to march against the increase in Student Fees, but a ‘Rights for Women’ march would probably have been less popular. The word ‘Feminist’ needs rebranding. It has been claimed by patriarchal society and filled with negative connotations. Surely in 2011 men and woman can stand up for equal rights. Surely, the word feminist need no longer be a taboo.
My name is Alexandra Wilks and I always wear a skirt, love wearing red lipstick and enjoy receiving flowers. My name is Alexandra Wilks and I am a Feminist.