It’s International Women’s Day and I’ve heard a few people say ‘Why can’t we have International Men’s Day??” Well the whole point of today is to is to raise political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide, and to examine them in a hopeful manner. It’s like asking for a ‘Hetrosexual Pride Day’ or a ‘White History Month’, in a way we have these EVERYDAY. Of course as a straight white male lucky enough to be born in a rich liberal democratic developed country I am fully aware of my privilege in life, and you could say that that’s why I seek to fight injustice.
Although Conservapedia probably defines Feminism as a ‘A man-hating communist plot to force us all to have a sex change that will bring about world destruction’, the actual definition is ‘The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’ (Oxford English Dictionary). (1)
Therefore I am a feminist. But opponents of feminism would seek to distract you from the gender inequalities in the world today by claiming that feminism would result in ‘ripping apart the family unit’ and the marginalisation of men in society. But that is bollocks. Feminism strives for male liberation too- by allowing women the freedom to choose their paths in life without any preconditioning based on their gender, men will have the same liberty.
For instance, men are not allowed to assume certain gender roles- laws on maternity leave are not equal in the UK. Fathers are not allowed to be with their children to the same extent as mothers. This is an example of sexist gender roles, which feminism strives against.
Some people claim that men cannot be feminists, but to my mind excluding half the population of society, saying ‘No you can’t join us’ is counterproductive, and of course how can you possibly change society without changing the attitudes of men? The fact is you don’t have to be a woman to dislike the fact that women are underpaid, undervalued and exploited.
Despite massive advances in the status of women, no one can deny patriarchy once you learn the facts & statistics of gender inequality in the world today. There are people that will tell you it only happens in ‘foreign lands’ but that is far from the truth:
Forty years after the Equal Pay Act, women working full time in the UK are still paid on average 14.9% less per hour than men. (2)
Women are banned from becoming bishops in the Church of England (despite the head of the church being a woman). (3)
In the UK, Men outnumber women in parliament 4 to 1, and just 4 of the 23 cabinet members are women. (4)
And across the world, Women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, earn 10% of the income and own 1% of the property. Just 16 of the world’s 188 directly elected leaders are women, and less than 19% of the world’s MPs are women. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. (4)
Aside from statistics, the way society shames women for having one or more sexual partners by using pejorative terms whilst men are praised is disgraceful. Thankfully we have moved on from believing that the only acceptable expression of female sexuality is through marriage, but there is still one rule for men and another for women. If men are promiscuous, they are lauded by their peers, whereas women are labelled ‘sluts’. Women can even be given this label just for wearing what society deems ‘provocative clothing’.
As this article was meant to be purely an introduction to feminism, there is of course a lot more examples of gender inequality & a lot more to feminism than the basics I have outlined here. I intend to cover these issues more in depth in further articles for Politics UK.
Why not now ask yourself ‘Am I feminist?’ and may I also ask you to add your name to stop violence against women in Afghanistan: