As chair of my university Feminist Society, I am used to hearing the question ‘but why do you only fight for women’s rights? Shouldn’t men have rights too?’. To that my response is always quite simple. I do stand for men’s rights! However, throughout history, especially the last 100 years, social power has been predominantly in the hands of men leading to the objectifying and oppression of women. After all, women didn’t receive the vote fully in the U.K. until 1928 and rape in marriage wasn’t recognised as illegal until the 1990’s.
I am a Feminist because I believe in the equality of all people, no matter what gender they may identify with.
The word ‘Feminist’ is not ‘Equalist’ because in wake of the extreme power that men have always possessed, I wish to raise up women’s rights to the same level opposed to taking away those men already have.
This determination to protect women’s rights has been awakened in the outlook of so many recently. With politics leaning increasingly to the right and predominantly male individuals making important decisions about women’s reproductive rights for women (e.g. limiting access to abortion and contraception), we are being thrown into a situation where female freedom as it is now is being threatened, not aided.
I am a Feminist because I do not want to wake up in Margaret Atwood’s Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale.
I do not wish to be a possession or an object which is observed more as an emotionless machine with the sole purpose of producing babies. I do not wish to see my friends reduced to half child, half object creatures carrying out the actions they are told by men. Instead, I want to protect the way things currently are, and to protest peacefully that equal rights and equal responsibility should be offered to all instead of retreating back to the standards of the Victorian Period.
I am a Feminist because I know that at the end of the day, everything is man-made including these constructions we have created of what it is to be a girl, boy, woman or man.
Our media reinforces these ideas day in day out, from the ads that are on way past our bedtime promoting beauty products which will ‘stop women from aging’, to the movies where only men can be heroes and women damsels in distress.
These ideals are half produced for capitalistic gain, because placing a VAT on sanitary products and selling two different types of gendered toy for children, one blue one pink, does increase profits. But it’s not the profits I am concerned about, but rather what is sacrificed as a result.
I am a Feminist because I am tired of my friends from childhood becoming so conscious about their bodies and thinking themselves ugly because they do not look like an airbrushed model from the pages of Vogue.
There are all different kinds of beautiful, each of them unique, which is why we have so many words for it in the English language. Why reduce those myriad forms of beautiful to that one very small elitist box so few can fit in?
I am a Feminist because I know that not all men are the problem.
There are wonderful, kind, compassionate men who walked alongside women to achieve the vote and now to fight the everyday sexism that Laura Bates brought to public attention in her 2012 Twitter campaign. And I know that women having equal rights and gendered constructions being broken down would benefit them too – that it would in fact lead to equality.
Opposed to pushing boys to be sporty or forcing men not to cry, we should acknowledge that they are also complex individuals who fit all different categories of beautiful. We should embrace male creativity because it is equally as valuable as physical strength.
And we should recognise that these stereotypes are what lead men to stop talking about their mental health and having the leading suicide rate statistic across the world because of it. Inequality is dangerous because it stops both men and women from being who they are, whether that be in hiding their sexuality out of fear or becoming bullies because those around them don’t fit the ‘right way of doing things’.
But most of all, I am a Feminist because I believe that there is so much that women and men can do if that glass ceiling is lifted.
I see it every day as I learn more about those women in the past who discovered DNA or helped to crack the Enigma Code in World War II but lost recognition largely due to it being accredited to men. Equally so, I recognise that Feminism needs to be more empathetic to the intersectional discrimination that is applied to women based upon their race, ethnicity or social class than it has been so far.
I am a Feminist because I want to see more girls empowered by their gender and wanting to become not just pop singers and ballet dancers, but also marine biologists, fire fighters and athletes.
I want to see boys empowered by their gender and wanting to become not just footballers and astronauts, but also nurses, musicians and Olympic level figure skaters. I want to see equal accreditation and support for everything that everybody does, equal opportunities, and for no one to ever again feel like they aren’t allowed to achieve their dreams. Because no one should be denied to live their one and precious life the way they wish.