You’d have to be living under a rock not to notice that this is the year of the female. We have had so many campaigns gain traction and even government support – the Gender pay gap, #metoo and abortion rights in Ireland, to name a few.
For me, feminism is about fighting for a fair shot at the opportunities men can often take for granted and having your voice heard. As women we strive and fight against injustices. We should be able to go about daily life without having to conform to societal expectations, especially on appearance, but also the role of a woman. How a woman chooses to exercise feminist behaviour is entirely up to her, but a few points stand out for me.
Appearance – I had to start here! When you think feminism, many conjure up images of bald women in baggy clothes going around with snarling expressions. This is obviously a stereotype, though for some women, grand statements such as a shaved head are part of their whole ethos. Whether your on this side or the short shirt high heels end, I really think we should be able to wear what we want. So often men, well people in general really, will blame a woman wearing a sexy or alluring outfit for any unwanted advances she might receive. I say it’s time to cut that mentality out! You should be able to walk around butt naked and not be leered at (that goes for both men and women and ok maybe it’s a bit dramatic…). Some women take confidence from their appearance and accentuating particular features could very well be a part of that. Who are we to judge. I too like to look feminine and spend copious amounts of time and energy trying to better my appearance. Does this make me a sell out to the feminist movement – hell no!
Men aside, the biggest critic of a women’s appearance is often other women. I’ll admit it, I’ve done it myself. It’s easy to be in a group of girls and look at another women and pass comments like “not exactly classy”. That said, you have to take a step back and berate yourself. Just because that person chooses to express them self in that way doesn’t make them less. It’s down to personal choice. Even though I am a firm believer you can tell a lot about a person from their appearance, I exercise restraint and reserve judgement until I’ve actually spoke to them.
Ambition – we’ve come a long way since the days when women were expected to stay home Cook and look after the kids. The only issue with this sentence is the word “expected”. Some women actually want to take on the more traditional roll and have partners that are quite happy to focus on the finances. This in itself is ambitious and to a degree feminist, it is taking a stand and saying I want to raise my kids because that is the most important job to me. Again it’s often other women who berate woman who choose to stay home and look after the kids. To me, being a good mother requires time and commitment if you feel that the best way for you to give that time is to stay at home then so be it and you shouldn’t be ostracised for that.
As with everything, the ambition argument is twofold. For every woman content to be a homemaker, there’s another who wants to be out there building a career or perhaps just working to help her partner balance the books and let’s not even get in to the single mums out there. The long and short of it is, you can do both. You can have the career and still be a good mum. I see this everyday in my day job. Woman who fly off on business trips, who speak publicly in the media about the company women who are CEOs right through to those who are simply in it for the pay check. Whatever your ambition, I think it’s high time we focus on our achievements and celebrate each woman for her successes in life whether it be running a household or a company.
Gender equality – this is a tough one for me. Yes, I believe that women should be paid the same as men for doing the same job. Yes, women should have equal access to employment and employment terms. Where I meet a major sticking point is with the term itself – “gender equality” can such a thing even exist? Women are not equal to men and vice versa. To lump us all together simply detracts from our differences. It is important to remember, in the process of being feminist we should not emasculate men. The easiest way to explain this is within a relationship. As you go through the process of getting to know each other, you begin to identify individual strengths and weaknesses if these don’t fill standard gender stereotypes, so what! I am fond of building a flat pack or two, but am I better at it than my boyfriend no. He is stronger than me and pays enough attention to detail to attach the hinges to the correct side of the wardrobe doors. Should I feel like a feminist sellout because of this fact? Should he watch me struggle and fail in the vein of my female empowerment – I would say not. The point here is there are definitely women who can put flat packs up better than me AND my boyfriend, but when it comes to physical things, men do tend to be stronger and faster – it’s called biology. The only wrong thing to do in this context is to prevent a woman from trying or failing to give merit where acceptable standards are met.
Get involved – so how exactly do you exercise feminism if it has nothing to do with your appearance, work status or physical ability? You get involved, that’s how! Be it standing on the picket lines protesting for related causes close to your heart or simply educating those around you about the real injustices of being a woman and how to deal daily – it all counts. The only reason we’ve made it this fair is by fighting against those injustices, from the Suffragettes through to Tarana Burke who started the #metoo campaign – these people were not afraid to jump on a soapbox and shout about change.
It would be great to know what feminism means to you! Let me know in the comments.
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