More and more frequently I seem to find people questioning whether we need feminism in the 21st century, a standpoint that baffles and bemuses me every single time. However, debate keeps our minds fresh and stops arguments from becoming stale. Therefore, people who question the importance of contemporary feminism play just as important a role in feminism as Emily Wilding Davidson did, when she stepped in front of the horse over 100 years ago. But the fact that we still need feminism is undeniable, and here’s why.
Firstly, we need to deal with the small yet crucial issue of the understanding of the word feminism. There is an erroneous misconception that feminists think women are the superior sex. The belief that women are better than men is actually known as hembrismo, which is the opposite of machismo. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said, ‘Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.’ Yes, it has the word ‘fem’ in it instead of ‘masc’ and yes, this could be seen as misleading, but can we just agree that the aim of feminism is equality? Frustratingly, I find this point having to be reiterated again and again, repeated countless times in Wessex Scene articles let alone the media as a whole.
21st century feminism has moved beyond the stereotypical tropes of burning our bras (expensive) and being angry all the time (tiring), and yet feminists are still assigned the stigma of wanting a matriarchal society, in which all the men are forced to wait on us like slaves. Constantly having to explain the definition of feminism wastes precious time that could be spent getting on with the real goal – equality of all people.
The Women Against Feminism movement has gained momentum in the last few years, which isn’t surprising due to the widespread myth that feminists are man haters who ignore all hardships not related to women. A recent viral video showed a young woman, Lauren Southern, ‘destroying‘ feminism in under 3 minutes, based on the evidence that men have problems too and ‘feminists’ don’t campaign for them. The fact that men have problems too is undeniably true, but fighting for women to be equal to men does not lessen their cause.
People who claim that feminism is in some way denying men a voice and a sense of agency is missing the point of feminism entirely. As Andrew Lowry reports:
Huffing and puffing about humourless harridans who are trying to deny the lads their banter doesn’t change any of the systemic realities in our society. And turning the progress women have made into an excuse for quasi-politicised self-pity is just pathetic. Feminism is not a zero-sum game, where every breakthrough for women means a loss for men.
The argument that feminism somehow reduces the importance of male issues is ludicrous. A similar argument emerged in the wake of #BlackLivesMatter, a movement that aimed to highlight the inequalities faced by Black people in America. It led to ‘outrage’, as some believed it would be more appropriate to have a campaign entitled ‘All Lives Matter’. Whilst this seems like a beautiful sentiment, it actually damagingly serves to dismiss the systematic oppression of black people and does nothing to further the cause against it. A perfect illustration of why the ‘All Lives Matter’ idea is ridiculous comes from actor Matt McGorry:
#BlackLivesMatter doesn't mean other lives don't. Like people who say "Save The Rainforests" aren't saying "Fuck All Other Types of Forests"
— Matt McGorry (@MattMcGorry) July 18, 2015
However, the Women Against Feminism movement, whilst seeming to miss the point that feminism doesn’t dismiss men’s problems, does actually serve any purpose. Women Against Feminism continually highlights the progress and sense of agency that feminism has afforded women. These women have actively decided that feminism (or equality) isn’t for them, and used the platform they have express this; something that they wouldn’t be able to do had women’s rights campaigners not fought for their right to a voice. As Caitlin Moran says:
The more women argue loudly, against feminism, the more they both prove it exists and that they enjoy its hard-won privilege
Worryingly many people who argue against feminism also claim they don’t need it because they are not ‘victims’, viewing feminism as irrelevant because they themselves do not feel oppressed or marginalised. This is the more concerning side of the anti-feminist movement, as it implies that because oppression is not tangible for you, it doesn’t exist.
This sentiment also reeks of privilege. This particular breed of anti-feminist campaigners cruelly use their voice and agency – afforded to them by years of women’s rights campaigning – to deny the same thing to people living in oppressed conditions all over the world. This is hardly ‘progressive’ as the anti-feminism movement claims to be.
Third wave feminism does mean equality, and it does mean the right to freely choose how you use your voice. The constant degradation of the word feminism continually highlights why we still need feminism in the 21st century – to fight for a voice and equality for everyone.