The more I talk about feminism, the more I realise how angry it makes some people.
Some have rolled their eyes, others have said I’m “petty” or “taking things too seriously;” and no, these comments aren’t just from men.
I’m mesmerised by how many women claim not to be feminists, ashamed to be referred to by such a label. The word “feminist” is seen as an insult to some, yet they’re blasé about “pussy” being used as a synonym for “weak.”
We have all heard the stories of women being tortured for being witches. “Let’s drown them!” they’d say. “If they die, I guess they weren’t a witch. If they survive, we’ll kill them anyway!” It is shocking that as late as the 1700s women were being accused of witchcraft. Unsurprisingly, it was usually women who lived alone and supported themselves financially (often as a midwife or a ‘healer’).
Take her away. She’s independent.
Thankfully witch hunts are no more. But it has been over 300 years since the last women was tortured and accused of witchcraft, yet sexism and misogyny are still very much present.
Misogyny is a dislike or ingrained prejudice against women.
Sexism is where people are believed to be naturally inferior and treated differently because of their gender.
The difference is subtle, but important.
Sexism can also affect men, specifically in regard to stereotypes regarding gender roles, however it inherently affects women and girls disproportionately; and we can’t just “let it go.” Everyday sexism is harmful and intimidating, often leading to feeling unsafe, insecure, low self-esteem and deterioration of mental health.
Every day sexism varies from being told to “man up” or “grow some balls,” to the assumption we’re “on our period,” if we show any kind of emotion at all.
It can often be masked as humour or disguised as being in our best interests.
Most days I experience sexism, and it’s likely that you do too.
In school, girls were often told that their skirts were too short, and once I overheard the words “it will distract male teachers.” That sounds to me like a male teacher kinda problem, and the real issue is sexualising young girls.
This continues into adulthood, with our worth often determined by our appearance.
We’re told that clothes that show too much skin are “inappropriate,” despite the weather. If our bra straps are on show, that’s inappropriate, but if we don’t wear a bra; we’re slut-shamed for our nipples being visible through our shirts—in exactly the same way men’s are. Similarly, if we wear too much makeup we’re trying too hard, but not enough and we get asked if we’re ill or looked down upon for not making an effort.
If you have ever been asked when you’re going to get married, pitied for being single or advised to change your career plan if you also plan on having a family; you’ve experienced sexism.
If you’ve ever been cat-called, had your bum grabbed in a club, or were told you’re too aggressive or overreacting simply for stating your opinion; you’ve experienced sexism.
Misogyny has resulted in women being more likely to be physically attacked or sexually assaulted when walking alone. Not only do we feel unsafe to walk home at night, we’re also scared to get into taxis with male taxi drivers; and, if some lovely fella offers to walk us home, we still question their intentions (sorry nice men out there!).
So, what can we do about it?
First things first, let’s all agree that we are all feminists. Feminism is simply advocacy for women’s rights on the grounds of equality of the sexes; and surely we all want that, right?
This is our opportunity to empower each other to stand up for what is right, and call out what is inappropriate.
If something undermines us but is hidden in a joke; call it out.
So often we laugh along, as it’s easier and we don’t want to cause any trouble. They probably don’t want to cause any unease either, but they have to be called out to learn and rectify the mistake. Make sure your voice is heard. You have every right to share your ideas and opinions loud and proud.
Set boundaries and expectations of the way people speak and act around you and toward you.
Protect your space and report any inappropriate sexualised behaviour that we have otherwise been conditioned to accept. Believe it or not, grinding up on you on the dance floor without consent is not a “dance move,” it’s sexual assault. Similarly, sexualised comments are rife in the workplace, and it’s so important that we don’t let this go unnoticed, to protect future generations. It’s not okay, and often, it’s actually a crime.
We aren’t perfect, and we may well fall in to these traps when talking about other women or even about ourselves, but from now on let’s make a pact to be mindful. Let’s think about what we say, and set a good example to others; men and women alike. If you mess up, don’t worry about it. Let’s learn from our mistakes. You are not a bad feminist.
For centuries, women’s rights have progressed. In the last 100 years we have seen legislation implemented to enforce equal pay for the same work (which started to reduce gender pay gap), allow women to apply for credit without a male guarantor, and ensure pregnant women weren’t discriminated against for maternity leave.
We have came so far, but not quite far enough. We need to keep pushing for true equality; and for that we need to stand side-by-side in the fight to end sexism and misogyny. Because we are in this together.