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What exactly is feminism?

feminism

“Congratulations! You’re a feminist”

Caitlin Moran said it most bluntly about feminism. A popular UK journalist and writer, Moran declared in her 2011 book “How to be a Woman” that it was time to reclaim the word feminism. Flabbergasted by the lack of enthusiasm to be involved with the term – only 42% of British women consider themselves feminists – she went on to say that women’s rights is something a woman wants as a birth right. To be a woman is to be a feminist. How far would you agree with this statement?

Dictionary definition

The best place to start seemed to be the official English lexicon. Under the entry for feminism is:

“The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”

That seems quite simple. Obviously, deciding what constitutes equality and what constitutes a right is something up for heavy debate, and has been up for heavy debate for decades. [The truth behind gender inequality in the workplace]However, the desire to have rights and be treated equally seems good. Maybe Moran was right? Feminism has been coated with a very broad brush – accusations of feminists being ‘man-haters’, nothing but political activists and not wanting to be women at all have flew at various times – but judging by what the dictionary has to say, every woman is capable of having their own idea of feminism, and surely does depending on their life experience.

Your feminism

Every woman has been through a time when their gender has affected their life when it shouldn’t have. Certain opportunities may have been denied to you, certain expectations may have been had of you, and certain opinions have been assumed of you just because you’re female. Maybe you felt it was unfair, made you feel uncomfortable or frustrated. Sometimes women make choices that are open to judgement just because they are women. A woman wearing a miniskirt causes more debate than a man wearing short shorts. The man might get judged briefly, but all sorts can be apparently pulled from what a woman wears, from her sex life to her personality.

Differences that aren’t real

Gender differences can’t be ignored, but the problem feminists seem to have is that there are differences assumed that don’t actually exist. For example, being seen as incapable for a job because women are more ‘emotional’ than men, though this has never been proven. Feminism appears to have moved on from the radical movement it was during the Seventies and is now focussed on real-life experiences and injustices. The Twitter account Everyday Sexism logs the experiences of its followers to demonstrate the things they experience daily, proving that reported sexist behaviours seen as exaggerative are much more frequent and realistic than some people think.

Feminism for men

The very female-focussed name and dialogue of being feminist can be a barrier. People assume it fights for female superiority, when really the term applies to ‘equality’. If you define yourself as a feminist, you want to be on a level playing field with men and want the freedom to make life choices as men have historically without your gender getting in the way. This can liberate men too. Female qualities, not just women themselves, have been getting some unfair judgement over centuries and it can inhibit men from doing what they want. The idea of being too ‘girly’ or ‘feminine’ can be harmful to men who may just be sensitive or would love to be the stay-at-home parent. By putting it out there that femininity and masculinity both have positives and negatives and should not have a sense of shame surrounding them, more people altogether can lead happier lives.

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This article was contributed by Pink Moods.

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