The insidious spectre of sexism is haunting society, but what we’re all really scared of is the F-word. Feminism.
Now more than ever, the mere mention is enough to strike fear into the heart of misogynists and evoke criticism from all corners. However, it is now that feminism is more relevant and necessary than ever.
We all, whatever our gender, owe a lot to feminism. But there is so much more that needs to be done, and I passionately believe that feminism is the answer. The struggle is nowhere near complete; in the past, political objectives such as gender equality legislation have been a motivation for feminists, and this of course remains a goal where appropriate. However, I think that the battleground is different in the contemporary world, and a large part of the struggle for gender equality is now dependent upon changing attitudes and social norms, not just law. Sexism and misogyny are endemic; I hear sexist comments everyday and I find it awful enough when I’m not even on the receiving end.
I don’t believe that sexism receives the stigma that other forms of discrimination do. Comments such as “man up” and “slut” go unchecked; the objectification and sexualisation of women is normalised through page 3 and “lad’s mags”; women can’t even walk the streets without being cat-called and verbally abused. “Little” things like gendered insults may seem insignificant, but it all contributes to the situation we find ourselves in, where women are still treated like second class citizens.
The battleground has changed, and the goal has shifted, but feminism remains the answer. Feminism is the tool we all need to show that not being male, is not and should not be, a disadvantage, and that the existing patriarchal system of male privilege has no moral basis. I do not accept the argument that feminism sets apart and segregates women, despite the fact that it is often portrayed as such; men and people of other genders all need feminism in my view.
I would argue that one of the reasons suicide rate amongst young men has spiked, is because the patriarchy (the patriarchal world that we feminists fight daily) creates a sense of hypermasculinity, in which men feel that they can’t seek help with mental health problems. Feminism isn’t about getting special treatment for women, it’s about gender equality and breaking down unhelpful stereotypes around all genders. We all benefit from feminism, and “being a man hater” doesn’t come into the equation.
The double standards argument is one I hear lot. Maybe , when dressed “provocatively” (although how a woman dresses is totally irrelevant), women don’t get offended at being found attractive, but maybe the offence stems from the fact that men make degrading comments, inappropriate gestures and generally have a false sense of entitlement, which again stems from the patriarchy in which we live. That’s the real issue here. Feminists have double standards because they criticise men? Yes, I do criticise a privileged group who sexualise and humiliate women, so you’ll have to excuse me for not breaking out the violin every time I hear “but what about men!?”. Maybe we should focus on actual gender discrimination, instead of inventing cases of “reverse sexism” (which isn’t a thing) because white men are terrified of losing their monopoly on society?
The point is that we live in a society that is completely different to that faced by first and second wave feminists. Gender discrimination is sometimes more subtle and below the radar, but is by no means less salient. Feminism has had to adapt and will continue to do so, but in my view it still should be the primary tool in our arsenal when it comes to smashing the patriarchy. Feminism alone won’t solve all of society’s woes, but that’s where intersectionality comes in, highlighting the need for all disenfranchised groups to work together.
Gender discrimination is not just a problem for woman; inequality of one group affects us all. Sexism is damaging, not matter how covert, and no matter where it stems from. Feminism is what we need to overcome it.