The word ‘feminism’ has all but lost its meaning for many in today’s world. And for many more it only triggers images of bra-burning, man-hating scary butch types. This article attempts to look at a snapshot of the expansive field of feminism, and asks: does society need to be more accepting of feminism, or do feminists simply need to ‘man up’?
Despite the bad press that Feminism has received over the years, it is undeniable that many of the rights women ‘enjoy’ (I use speech marks because I believe these rights should be guaranteed, not granted) have arisen from feminist campaigners. Below is a selection of just a few of key feminist achievements:
This radical rewriting of the world to better incorporate women has led to a common belief that feminism has now achieved what it set out to do; ignoring the fact that many women are still held at a lower status than men throughout the world. In England and Wales alone, a reported 85,000 women are raped every year, and amazingly, in Saudi Arabia women still aren’t allowed to drive. Of course it is not always true that these extreme occurrences are equated with sexual inequality, but even a monkey on Google can see the sheer quantity of sites dedicated to exposing acts of ‘everyday’ sexism, such as club-groping and wolf whistling.
Due to this staggering amount of evidence (albeit sometimes anecdotal), it seems clear that the world is still in need of some egalitarian campaigning body – but this is not to say that feminists should fill those shoes. Rightly or wrongly, feminism today is widely derided and perceived as hypocritical, aggressive, and anti-men. Hold on to your decorative hats girls, here comes an attack on feminism…
Although I’ve already established that Feminism has been crucial in the promotion of women’s rights and quality of life, nowadays I believe that it is an outdated and flawed concept. For one thing, although I do not completely agree, I can totally empathise with those who think feminists possess double standards.
After all, how can women think it is their right to dress provocatively and yet at the same time expect not to be found sexually attractive?! What’s more, I find it slightly ironic that feminists have to beg permission for political equality from the very patriarchal society that first established the need for female subjugation.
In this way, it is plausible that feminism may even be damaging to the struggle for gender equality. For example –whether rightly or wrongly – the very mention of the word causes politicians, and even a large proportion of public opinion to immediately judge and marginalize the associated campaign. In some ways, it’s hard not to empathise with this viewpoint.
Although it shouldn’t be taken for the majority, some feminist groups actively attack and criticise men and the patriarchal system, so it’s no small wonder feminist ideas are largely derided! Furthermore, feminism inadvertently segregates women as a group fundamentally different to (and sometimes opposed to) men. How can we expect total equality if we are always separated from the ‘dominant’ sex?
Taking this into view, it may seem more natural for us to dispose of feminism all together, and look for other strategies for achieving gender equality. But having said this, maybe we should first ask whether we should change feminism, or whether society should in fact change to be more tolerant of bodies which challenge it. I make no pretences that I can even attempt to answer this question, but it is something that we should at the very least consider; we shouldn’t dismiss feminism just because it is uncomfortable for some to acknowledge.
Perhaps we should now look towards a ‘deeper’ form of change; instead of moving towards political change, we should focus on rewriting the very ideologies which underpin the patriarchal ethos that constitutes society. It’s the possibility of radical restructurings such as this, that makes the future of feminism a blurry and uncertain one.
Maybe in the future, we will accept the impossibility of total sexual equality, and move towards degendering instead: breaking down the barriers of gender so that everyone is considered of one equal gender. Although this future presents the potential for a level gender playing field, feminists would nevertheless lose their right to celebrate femininity as a defining feature of who we are.
Overall, one of the underlying questions provoked by the barriers that feminism now faces seems to ask whether we should adjust our behaviours for a ‘quiet life’, or whether we should demand society to change in order to accept us. If you ask me, the pop concept of ‘old school’ feminism seems to have grown redundant , and all though I’m in no way advocating giving up fighting for sexual equality, I think it’s time we moved above and beyond feminism.
Thanks for all you’ve done, feminism, but it’s time to move over and let a new wave of egalitarians step in.