Until recently, whenever I heard the word ‘feminism’ I automatically thought about women who don’t shave, who share the belief that they are being oppressed by our patriarchal system, and who subsequently wish for the end of heterosexual relationships in order to stop the domination of men (loosely known as radical feminism). Yet since learning about liberal feminism my opinion has changed.
Liberal feminism is basically the idea that women should have complete equality, with emphasis being on the public sphere. In other words: equality of education, employment and political rights. All of this I agree with. I believe that women should have equal opportunities, that gender should have nothing to do with the job you get, or the promotions you are offered. In the 21st century it is no longer right that women get 15% less than men for doing the same job (TUC figures, published in 2013). Take, for example, the fact that according to catalyst.org out of the top 500 CEO’s in the world, only 4.6% of them are women. There are many reasons for this, with one being that after having children most women tend to take up part-time work, and thus are never able to properly compete with men. However, I believe that the major reason as to why women still do not have complete equality is because most of society still has a backwards view. The amount of times I have personally been told that it doesn’t matter what I get in my exams, or what degree I do, because in the end I will just be a house-wife is astonishing. This isn’t just from members of the older generation, who may still be stuck in the past, but instead from my male peers. Nonetheless, until recently I would never have declared myself a feminist.
The reason for this was misconception- call this ignorance or naivety- but I do believe I was wrong. Feminism has, in my opinion, been given a bad name in the media. This is largely due to ‘radical feminism’, and more specifically ‘separatist feminism’. This is the idea that women should choose not to have heterosexual relationships in order to free themselves from the role of reproducers. As well as this, the idea that Miley Cyrus is now viewed as a feminist, purely because she is “for everybody, for everything”, is somewhat sickening, and completely distorts the core principles of feminism. How can someone who takes off their clothes in order to grab attention be called a feminist? Is that what modern feminism is meant to be? If so, maybe I was right to think that I want no part in it.
The reason I began to write this blog was due to an experience I had a couple of weeks ago. I was sitting in a Politics seminar, which was made up of ten boys, and three girls. The tutor’s first question was to ask us to raise our hands if we viewed ourselves as feminists. No one did. Yet my friend and I looked at each other, put our hands up, and stated that although we are not feminists we do not disagree with it. The next question the class was asked was whether or not we believe that feminism is no longer relevant, or in other words, if the goals of feminists have been achieved. I swiftly said no, after all females are not paid equally to men. At this point a male member of the class stated that in order for women to be powerful, they need to act like men. This is wrong; women shouldn’t have to act like men in order to gain their respect. Thatcher didn’t, she didn’t stop wearing her pearls and carrying her bag into the House of Commons. Similarly, Hilary Clinton hasn’t begun acting like a man; the first words on her Twitter profile being ‘wife, mother’, not ‘secretary of state’ or ‘former senator of New York’. There is no reason to believe that men are superior, there are no scientific conclusions that back up this point; therefore it is baffling to still see that this is a widely held belief – even after many successful and influential women have dominated business and politics.
Consequently, my main problem with feminism is that it has been misperceived, and this has subsequently had a negative effect on young women. That instead of being proud of being a feminist, it is now seen as almost taboo, as something that is strange. This isn’t acceptable, and I am pleased to state that in terms of liberal feminism, I agree.
By Olivia Gordon