What is it about ‘feminism’ that scares so many men and women today? Is it the idea that women are paid the same as men? Is it the belief that women shouldn’t be portrayed and displayed as sexual objects? Or is it the thought that women actually have something to say for themselves and their society? Whilst it is true that women have the vote, access to the pill and to abortion, and the freedom to do ‘masculine’ tasks such as drive, women are by no means equal in the eyes of modern society. Sex sells. Women sell. Many people, and many women, don’t think that society needs feminism anymore. Some think that sexism is the way of the modern world, and that we can never remove it from our world. We fight racism and homophobia on a daily basis, why not sexism?
Like many things, feminism is not without its stereotypes. Branding feminists as lesbian, man-hating, non-bra-wearing women is of course, absolutely untrue. Suggesting that feminists want to censor all images of the naked female body is also untrue. And the idea that only women can be feminists is too often accepted. The problem with feminism is that men get more credit for being a feminist than women do. Men get more credit for doing housework because it’s a job that is associated with women. Men get more credit for being inclusive because it’s a characteristic associated with mothers. Perversely, men also get more credit for consenting to their wife having a career because passivity is associated with females. Feminism, though isn’t just a woman’s issue, it’s everybody’s.
Feminism stands for equality between women and men. It seeks to equalise the patriarchal society that we live in today that views women as objects for sexual pleasure, and as machines to clean up the mess. Even in the democracies of the West, women are portrayed as second class citizens. In our Parliament, female MP’s are sexually taunted from across the benches. In our magazines, naked women are plastered in erotic poses for pleasure. On our streets, women are raped and sexually assaulted, with their attacker’s allowed to walk free. There are over 70,000 rapes committed against women, and 9000 against men each year. Yet disgracefully, only 1,000 convictions demonstrate the catastrophic failure of our policing and judicial systems. Why don't we do anything about it?
Anyone who speaks up for women's rights in the media is abused and threatened for it. Laurie Penny is often sent threats of sexual violence online. Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor who recently appeared on Question Time, also suffered from similarly horrendous abuse. On Twitter, ‘Everyday Sexism’ encourages women to speak up about the abuse that they suffer on a daily basis. After saying that Julian Assange should face charges against sexual violence in Sweden, I was called an 'Assange Hating Hoe'. I've been called a ‘feminist bitch’ and a ‘feminist whore’. If I express my political opinion, I'm told to ‘get back in the kitchen’ or to ‘shut my slutty mouth’. This is part of the daily routine in our society, and it seems as though we don't care. Racist comments online have been punished with prison sentences but we never hear about reactions towards sexist ones. We're told to grow a backbone, or to ‘grow a pair’. Even our colloquialisms contain underlying assumptions that women are much weaker than men.
This week has seen the ‘No to Page 3 campaign’, reach over 80,000 signatures. Rupert Murdoch has hinted that the end is in sight for Page 3. Rightly so, if a daily newspaper announced it were to print images of overexposed women today, we would be shocked. Page 3 and magazines like Zoo and Nuts promote unhealthy and unrealistic images of women. The issue is not that we don't want to see the female body, or that we want to hide it. Nudity shouldn't be taboo. Women’s bodies shouldn’t be offensive. We should accept our own bodies, and that everyone is different. We shouldn’t have to hide our bodies because they look ‘unnatural’ compared to the un-naturalism of media-culture bodies.
In the Second World War, black soldiers fought in the name of freedom against inequality. The Nazi’s wondered how they could fight for a country, and a cause, that didn’t give them their own civil freedom. Today, the West looks at some religious societies in the Middle East and Africa with disdain at their treatment of women. Yet in Western societies, women are treated and objectified in a similarly violent and vitriolic way.
I am a feminist, not because I should be, as a woman, but because I should be as a human who believes in equality. Feminism isn’t just for women. The patriarchal society, Page 3, modern media culture, doesn’t just brand women as sexual objects; it brands men as sexual predators. It portrays men as creatures that just want a woman to look good and to obey them. That’s not what the majority of men want at all. More importantly, it’s not what we should be upholding as Western liberalism and freedom. We are all equal, it’s time we started treating everyone equally.
By Soila Apparicio
Sexism in Parliament: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4216784.stm
Rape Statistics: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2013/jan/11/male-female-rape-statistics-graphic
Mary Beard Abuse: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jan/26/mary-beard-question-time-internet-trolls
No to Page 3 petition: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/dominic-mohan-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3