Sunday, 20 October 2013
Why I Became A Feminist - Girls will be girls.
To explain why I became a Feminist I really have to tell you how I became a Feminist. I don’t mind admitting that for much of my adolescence I thought that to identify as a Feminist was to identify as a man-hating female Supremacist…though perhaps not in so many words. I wasn’t really exposed to feminist thought until I went to University, despite having studied Philosophy at A Level and having made a habit of asking the awkward questions in life for as long as I can remember. However, I had always believed in equality of the sexes, despite the fact that I grew up in a very traditional ‘man works and woman does everything else’ set up. In a lot of senses I ‘was’ a Feminist a long time before I was comfortable identifying myself as one.
I feel that the community I grew up in mirrored much of society now, in that it believed that women are equal now, more or less, when, if we look closer, there is still rather a long way to go. It was like I’d taken a blindfold off when I realised this, having thought for so long that the Suffragettes had done a great job, but that we now lived in a different age where such inequalities had been resolved. I suddenly realised that looking back, though there had been no distinction between the academic expectation of girls and boys at my school, that it was only the girls who’d had obscenities shouted at them in the street, who’d been told they’d be lucky to get on the housing ladder these days unless they married someone rich, who were groped unapologetically from the first time they started going out, who were expected to know how to cook, whose favourite colour was assumed to be pink and who never had the go to excuse of ‘girls will be girls’. Frankly I felt stupid when I recognised my blind acceptance of all this. One of the biggest shocks being when I was informed that actually someone groping you in a night club constitutes sexual harassment, when I had thought it had to be something much more serious. The fact that I didn’t see a stranger groping you intimately as serious being the true sign of an epidemic.
The common connotations of the word Feminism perhaps go the longest way to illustrate how far the cause of women’s rights still has to go. That I thought it meant being a man-hater, despite being a well educated and intellectually inquisitive adolescent illustrates this. To me Feminism entails a commitment to equality, not to artificially instating exact proportions of men and women in all roles (though I’m unresolved on the quotas argument), but to equality of opportunity. Further to this I have come to realise that equality does not mean ‘the same’ treatment or opportunities. In a world that has been favourable to men for so long, many traditional opportunities aren’t all that suited to women. It’s a long and complicated process, to which there are no easy answers, but this in itself explains why I am a Feminist, because I want to be a part of the conversation about the solution.