Firstly, I would like you all to take a quick test: Are you a feminist?
Congratulations! Welcome to the feminist club!
Whilst the quiz is very simplistic, it serves to highlight the main idea: Women are people who are deserving of equality.
A lot of people see feminism as a dirty word, outdated and unnecessary in today’s society. Many regarded the plight of women’s rights over when we won the vote, or again when we saw the first female Prime Minister take charge. Even worse, some still regard women as undeserving of the top jobs or men as responsible for the equal care of children.
I am a firm believer in promoting women’s rights. This encompasses everything from correct sex education (that discusses more than just using condoms) to educating men on their role in perpetuating the divide and how they can work to improve the situation. Girls out perform boys at every stage of the education system, yet the pay gap widened in 2013 with women earning an average of £5,000 less than men. The number of women in politics is disgustingly low, with the number of female MPs standing at 22%. The overarching patriarchy that prevents women from viewing their opinions as valid or necessary in society is enforced and perpetuated by the lack of female representation in politics and in the most competitive jobs.
I think it is important to realise that equality for women is still a long way off. It is a far away concept in the sense of equal pay and political representation. Inequality is also rife in the everyday lives of women. It is present in the catcalls in the street and in the pop song that blurs the line between consent and sexual assault. You only have to scroll down your facebook news feed to see examples of blatant sexism. Articles such as ‘10 Reasons Not to Give Him a Blow Job’ grace our screens and reinforce the idea that, for women, ‘no’ is simply not a correct response to sexual advances. We must instead weave an intricate web of lies, including our unfortunate ‘mouth fungus’ to get out of giving oral sex. There is a disparity between how men and women view sex. I am constantly shocked by the number of friends who can admit to things like being non-consensually choked during sex, or being asked to perform anal on the first date. Poor sex education and easy access to porn has created this disparity, where young men have unrealistic expectations of what sex is like.
My own experience of sexism shocked me into realising that some people do not regard women as equal, or their issues as important. When I attended a competitive, all-boys Grammar school I was shocked at the misogynistic attitudes of some of the students (and teachers). The ‘lad’ behaviour was sickening, with Year 13 boys placing a wager on who could sleep with one of the new Year 12 girls first, along with delightful recounts of their latest ‘conquests’ in the common room. What shocked me the most was a hilarious, end-of-year facebook debate discussing whether or not “Most likely to beat their wife/child” should be included in our year book. What probably started off as a distasteful joke became and argument about attitudes to women, and how we couldn’t ‘take a joke‘. These boys attended the ‘best sixth form in the country’ and defended their right to make jokes about domestic violence.
The Everyday Sexism Project aims to highlight the experiences of women on a day to day basis and provides a window into the oppression that women experience every single day. Feminism should not be a ‘dirty word’, it does not mean unshaven armpits or burnt bras (unless, of course, that is your choice). Feminism is about promoting choice and equality for women. It is about educating everyone on rape culture and safe, consensual sex. It is about promoting choice to girls so that they do pursue careers in politics or engineering. It is about teaching boys that ‘jokes’ about domestic violence are not okay. Feminism should be a subject everyone is familiar with and is discussed everywhere.