Feminism is defined as a movement and ideology that works towards a common goal: to achieve equal political, economic, cultural and social rights for all women, resulting in gender equality. Whilst this movement may seem straight forward, there are aspects of society both online and in the real world which deem “feminism” as a dirty word that threatens the balance of mankind. The feminism movement is not new and can be tracked back as far as the late 1800’s. Prolific writers and philosophers at the time defended the rights of women. An example is Jeremy Bentham who spoke out for gender equality including suffrage. He recognised how society placed standards on gender as it was thought women were intellectually inferior to men and only had a place in birthing babies. In the 19th, women were expected to reflect the image of the “proper” women meaning they were restricted to duties that were deemed fit only for women including homemaking and serving their husbands. As the century went on, the idea of feminism and its ideals struck a cord in women, making them realise that being born with a vagina didn’t mean they were destined to live a life inferior to men. Today, through the internet and its social media, women and men from all over the world are able to voice their opinions and experiences of gender equality, thus bringing more awareness to the cause feminists from centuries ago fought hard for. However, with that came an attack on feminism in which some men and some women thought was based on “man hating” and the oppression of men, effectively the opposite of what feminism stands for – the equality of all genders. If one were looking to get information about the feminist movement and conducted a quick search through the feminist tags on twitter and tumblr, they would step away with one of two stances:
- All over the globe, females are oppressed by the patriarchy and are having basic rights violated
- There is no need for feminism. There is clearly no gender gap and all women all over the world are treated equally to males. Women just want attention with the intention to oppress men.
It is highly worrying that the later is a prevalent view. Those who have deemed themselves “anti-feminist” have misconstrued the true meaning of feminism and have turned it into a war against males. Women have taken to social media to share what it is like to be a female in the 21st century and how widespread sexism and misogyny is in the world. The twitter hashtag #YesAllMen sparked a discussion about the issue of sexism both off and online. A quick scroll through the tag and it was easy to gather that women are truly oppressed, even in the most developed of countries. Tweets ranged from the uncomfortableness of being cat called on the street, to being called a slut for uploaded a picture of themselves, to a rape victim’s rapist not being charged because it would damage his life and his football career prospects. It became clear that most women experienced sexism at some point in their lives and that it was widespread.
At an early age girls are told that their gender is inferior to boys. Their gender is used as an insult such as “you throw like a girl” which effectively makes girls and boys think that being feminine is a sign of weakness and something to strive not to be. This plays into the workforce with careers in science, engineering and construction being deemed as jobs for males, making it hard for females to get into these fields due to the limited support and gender pressures. We live in a world that is male-dominated and male-orientated with male-dominated sports broadcast on television; protagonists in every Hollywood blockbuster a cliché gun-firing, fast car driving, promiscuous male; with male government leaders around the world deciding how a woman should use her body in regards to abortion laws and in countries such as India and Saudi Arabia* where the victims of rape are often punished rather than their attackers. It becomes clear why woman want feminism when every aspect of their lives is affected by the patriarchy.
A growing and disturbing group called “meninists” has gained ground online. Rather than working for gender equality it is a mockery of the feminist movement with followers believing that feminism is oppressing men and is a threat to their masculinity. By being a part of this group, followers are basically stating that women do not face inequality in their everyday lives and focus should be put on the men that are being “affected” by female empowerment. The meninist movement goes against what feminists fight for, thus attempting to justify rape & slut-shaming, deny the wage gap and oppose women in positions of prominence. A good example of meninism and sexism in action was recently when a second Ghostbusters film was announced but this time starring an all female cast. Whilst many were excited at the prospect of a female driven film, many others thought the prospect of an all female Ghostbusters cast was in some way a personal attack on men and just pandering to feminists as explored in this Buzzfeed article.
We as a society have a long way to go before we can safely say men and women are on the same playing field. For now, there is clearly an attitude in society that deems the fairer sex as the lesser sex and that’s not going to change unless people who are fighting for gender rights are able to be heard without being attacked and mocked.
It just requires a little bit of understanding and a little bit of empathy.