Anyone who is a feminist out there has their own reasons for being one. Most of the time, these reasons are similar or the same to others, but their reasoning for needing it, that’s what different, because everyone’s experiences with the things that fuel the need for feminism in the first place are different.
Feminism. Yes, it’s a word and it’s not a bad one. Yet people are stigmatized for stating they are one. Just like periods, masturbation and fetishes, feminism isn’t taboo. It isn’t about some gender being a head of another. It’s about equality, something everyone should be concerned about. Yet, feminists get a reputation for being ‘crazy, lesbian, men hating ugly women’. Isn’t it funny how, when we are talking about equality and equal rights, people have to put a label on what they think the cause is about. They don’t agree with it, so they stick a label on the cause, they stigmatize these people. For what? The hope that less people will become a feminist? Because god for bid you become a ‘crazy, man hating women’ right? Wrong, it’s not funny. Not at all.
Although the feminism movement didn’t appear till the 1960s/1970s, women have been fighting for equal rights since 1848. The first women’s conference was held in Seneca Falls, America in 1848. It was at this time that women started to realise that in order to change society they would need their own organisations to do so. But it wasn’t really until 1897 that the move for women to have a vote actually started. Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage. The word ‘suffrage’ means the right to vote. She wanted a peaceful protest. She felt that any violence would persuade men that women could not be trusted. Her tactics were patience and logical arguments. She argued that if parliament made laws and if women had to obey those laws, then women should be part of the process of making those laws: she argued that women had to pay taxes, like men, they should have the same rights as men. It was unfortunate that her progress was very slow.
She converted some of the members of the Labour party (known as the labour representation committee back then), most men thought women wouldn’t be able to understand how parliament worked and therefore should not take part in the electoral process. This made women angry, which prompted the creation of the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters.
The union became better known as the Suffragettes. The members of the suffragettes were prepared to use violence to get what they wanted. The suffragettes continued fighting for the right to vote, holding protests and even getting arrested for doing so. The Cat and Mouse Act was introduced to deal with hunger strikes that where being held by jailed suffragettes. The act would allow the suffragettes to starve while in jail if they did not want to eat, they would then release the suffragettes, so the government wasn’t responsible for the death on an inmate. Once they were fit and healthy again, they were re-arrested for any reason and this process would happen again. On the 8th June 1913, Emily Wilding Davison died after stepping out in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby on the 4th June 1913. She was a member of the Suffragette movement. She was their first martyr. In 1918, women over the age of 30( who also met a property qualification) were given the right to vote. It wasn’t until 1928 that all white women over the age of 21 had the right to vote.
Of course, it didn’t end there. There was a lot that still needed to be fought. For instance, the pay gap between women and men, discrimination in the work place and sexual and physical violence issues.
In 1948, The NHS was introduced, which gave everyone access to free healthcare, where as before only the insured (mainly men) would benefit. In 1974 contraceptives become available, free under the NHS.
In 1977, the first rape crisis centre opened in London.
In 1985, The Equal Pay Act allowed women to be paid the same as men for the work of equal value.
In 1994, Rape in marriages was made illegal.
What shocks me more then the years in which some of these things were legalized or made illegal is that we are still having to fight for the most basic human rights. Men still earn more then women in some job roles or in some companies. Women and men are still subjected to physical, sexual and verbal abuse by partners, little is being done about these issues. Sexual harassment is a massive issue, one that seems to get swept under the rug more often then not.
Women and men are being sexually harassed all over the world, every second of every day. If you’re in a room filled with people right now, you can bet they have been harassed at some time in their life, and most likely it was sexual harassment. It’s to common and it shouldn’t be.
I need feminism because these women fought for my freedom. They fought for my vote, my access to free contraceptives, my right to have a legal abortion, to study anything I like, to have any Job I want, to file for a divorce, to own my own property, to have my own money. Most importantly they fought for me to be my own person. To be me, not just someone’s daughter, wife or mother. They gave me the freedom and decision to be whomever I wanted to be.
I need feminism because I am a victim of sexual abuse and our country does very little for abuse victims. Schools aren’t teaching the important issues of the world, but as long as you know algebra, who needs to know about the suffragettes and what an abusive relationship looks like… right? No, they need to learn these things in high school because too many teenage boys, boys who have grown up in the 21st century still think its acceptable to smack a girl on the ass, or stare at her chest. There are people out there that think groping, cat calling, inappropriate messages and unasked for nudes are acceptable.
I need feminism because I am taught that walking alone at night, wearing a short skirt or flirting is dangerous and that I should not do those things if I do not want to get raped. I live in a world, where we sexualize children, teach teenagers what to do to not get raped and stigmatize women for living their life their own way. I live in a world where my 8 year old sister cannot take her top of at the beach, without someone telling me that it is wrong and she needs to out a top on. I live in a world where teenage boys are allowed to be young and silly. They’re allowed to be ‘boys’ but teenage girls need to careful and watch what they say and do. I live in a world where women fear walking down the street after a night out. Their heart beats faster and they start to panic when a man walks behind them in the dark. They get even more scared when that man approaches them, and he may only be asking her the time or for a lighter, but she has accepted in her head ‘this man is going to hurt me’. Why, why in 2017 is this even still possible? Why are women still living in fear? This is why I need feminism
I rejected a boy today. I was honest, I told him I didn’t have feeling for him and that I was attracted to someone else. He seemed fine about this at first, but suddenly his messages started getting meaner, he started picking at my past relationships, slut shaming me because I have talked about sex and stated I enjoyed it, I am not ashamed of that fact. Yet, he tried to make me feel like I shouldn’t talk about it openly, fuck him I thought.
So, what I took from this was, a boy who was told weeks ago of my feelings for another boy used verbal abuse to try an intimate me because he was mad at me for liking another boy or because, he wanted to make me feel bad about not liking him. It didn’t work. Neither of those reasons are okay. I respected that he may be upset but that does not mean I deserve any kind of verbal abuse for stating I did not like him, in the kindest way I could.
If I ignore a boys advances or messages, I start getting hate for it. I’ve been called a snob for ignoring a message on Instagram from someone I didn’t even know. I’ve been called a prude for not messaging back someone who sent me a nude at 1am on a Tuesday, waking me up. I have had people message me telling me I am showing a little too much of my body in pictures on Facebook. Apparently its okay for lads to pose in a mirror, flexing with no top on and caption it ‘finished my workout’ but not for a girl to post a picture in shorts and bralett captioned ‘feeling good today’. It’s the same f***ing thing!
Sexual Harassment isn’t just unwanted touching or advances. It’s all of those things I have mentioned and trust me, there are many more ways in which people are sexually harassed. It’s disgusting, we have come so far already, but we are nowhere near finished fighting for rights, for protection, for justice.