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The idea of rebranding feminism seems rooted in the idea that feminism, as it is now, is outdated. After all women can own property, vote, and take out loans now so surely feminism has done its job? Surely the sexes are equal now?
It doesn’t take much searching before a host of issues surrounding the unequal status of women comes to the fore. Saudi women banned from driving, arranged or forced marriage, and far more sinister abuses like female genital mutilation that goes on all over the world even in the UK. With Malala Yousafzai becoming a global symbol for the ongoing struggle of girls to gain access to the same education as their male counterparts it is hard to believe that feminism is done after driving legislative changes in a handful of countries.
We are lucky enough to live in a country where feminism has had a significant impact on our lives as women are, in most aspects, legally equal to men, but this does not extend to social equality. A woman’s body is still seen as her most valuable feature – from Theresa May’s trademark kitten heels to where Michelle Obama buys her skirts, a woman’s appearance is still focused on almost obsessively. Mary Beard (one of my personal heroes) is reviled for her grey hair and wrinkles but her lively and engaging commentary on history is barely mentioned. Why should she have to justify her presence on our television screens by her appearance rather than her status as a professor at Cambridge University?
Those who object to the sexist portrayal of women in the media are branded ‘killjoys’, yet nearly 70% of speaking parts in Hollywood films are taken by menLaura BatesThe Everyday Sexism Project
Feminism gets branded as all about women’s equality and women’s issues but it strives to do as much for men. The pressure on men to be ‘manly men’ is just as much an issue of gender stereotyping as the virgin/whore duality that women find themselves faced with. The tales I hear of small boys bullied for liking ‘girly colours’ and lad culture stating quite categorically what is ‘gay’ and what isn’t, apart from being homophobic, is restricting the freedom of men to be supported in their choices.
This leads into the growing challenge of what gender really is. With the rising numbers of transgender people coming out younger than ever it is important that the idea of one gender being better than another is stamped out as soon as possible. Even the language we use to describe ourselves feeds into this idea. “Hey, she’s got balls” is set against “That guy is such a pussy,” and although it can all be dismissed as ‘banter’, using gendered language to assign merit or lack of it filters down into the way we think.
Feminism is as relevant today as it has ever been. The oppression of women all over the world can be fought with the unwavering support of those in more privileged circumstances and the right of children, of all genders, to grow up however they like is a core goal of modern feminism. Feminism stands for gender equality regardless of race or sexuality, and while it has been criticised in the past for its focus on white middle-class issues, those lessons have been learnt. Feminism provides a platform for men and women to stand side by side and fight for social justice and the right to be more than our randomly assigned genitalia.