What a feminist is: a person who advocates social, political, legal and economic rights for women, equal to those of men. What a feminist is often confused with: a man hating, bitter woman whose only goal is to triumph over men in every way.
Recently the backlash that self-confessed feminists face daily has come to my attention. It’s ludicrous that such a positive idea – that both men and women should, and could, be seen as equals – is scoffed at and ridiculed as being a pointless attack on the male race. Through wider online access to information and an increased acceptance of social sharing, we are now more than ever, able to actively become a part of the feminist debate. And while it’s extremely encouraging that people world over can discuss and share view points, the online community can also have a negative impact on such matters. As more often than not information circulating the Internet surrounding feminism can be inaccurate, biased and edited. Such misinformation and hearsay is what ultimately ends up causing an adverse reaction to feminism.
Social media has an incredible impact on current issues within society. Research completed by First Bank in 2013, exploring Britain’s social media habits, concluded that we spend an average of 62 million hours on social media every day! With so much of our time being spent on social sites it is of little wonder that how we communicate, and what we are exposed to, is so adversely affected. A quick search on Facebook will reveal multiple anti- feminist pages and groups each offering their own warped opinion on the subject. An active participant of one such Facebook ‘Anti Feminist’ public group even went so far as to claim that “natural order of things is needed, women [need to know] their place and role in society.”
Sadly it has got to the point, in my early 20s, that I am no longer shocked by such statements. I feel for women that encounter this man each and every day, whether it be at the once, on public transport or in the gym, he is everywhere. Have you ever been told to smile by a stranger ‘because you look prettier when you smile’? Or had someone honk their horn as you’re walking down the street? As a woman being treated as if you’re a spectacle for the enjoyment of men is no new concept, but it is one that we can fight against. We are repeatedly too scared to retaliate, whether this is in the real world or online, through fear of a verbal backlash. So in what other ways can we express our need for equality and show our support for feminism?
Feminist Apparel may sound like women’s only territory, but it’s not. Their unisex t-shirts with witty slogans and quirky designs could be the talking point we desperately need in order to start discussing feminism in a different way. Their ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun-damental Human Rights’ slogan is making an important statement, one that does not belittle men and leaves no room for a counter argument. This not for pro t organisation is fuelled by the passion to start a real conversation.
“We are of the opinion that the negative connotations of feminism are unwarranted, misinformed, and stem from a present and mainstream culture of dominance; one that does a disservice to women, men, and all of humanity.” – Feminist Apparel
Thankfully Feminist Apparel aren’t the only ones seeking to change the perception of feminism for the better. A new wave of celebrity is starting to stand up and speak out – most notably British actor and Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, Emma Watson. At just 24 Watson is swiftly becoming a trailblazer for young women across the world. Last September she aided the UN in the launch or their HeForShe campaign, encouraging both women and men to support the cause – because after all this is not just about women! “We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are. It is time we see gender on a spectrum, instead of two opposing ideals.” said Watson.
Feminism is for everybody. It’s about being free of society driven expectations and challenging biased gender roles. And despite still often encountering sexism in my daily life, I believe that opinions are changing. The media is talking about these issues more openly and the more we are exposed to worldwide inequality, the more likely we are to combat the problem. Businesses are also beginning to understand the importance, and positive influence that equality can have on their company. Always have re-launched their ‘Like a Girl’ inspirational advertisements; Sport England have set in motion the ’This Girl Can’ national campaign; and Dove continues to promote their ‘Self-Esteem’ project. Most notably recognised is the ‘Women in IT’ campaign, launched by IT services company FDM, encouraging women to pursue careers in a currently male dominated industry. These progressive steps in the right direction will hopefully shine a much needed light on the importance of feminism and dispel any myths, making the world a better place for everybody.