radical

Say It Lots And Say It Loud: I’m A Feminist And Proud

People love to hate feminism. Its core values have been to promote equality between the sexes; political, social and economical. By definition, one could assume that all women would like equality and therefore all women must be feminists. Sadly, this is not true. Feminism has been given a different meaning, one that has been distorted to mean oppression rather than freedom.

I was once told by a feminist that “real feminists do not have to announce they are feminists”. I was left feeling like feminist was a dirty word that we must disassociate ourselves from. It was ok to feel like a feminist and act like a feminist but you couldn’t tell anyone you were one. I encountered a negative response any time I uttered the words “I am a feminist”. People knew about my work, they knew I believed in equal rights and whilst we spoke of these things in the context of social impact and global development of women, it was fine. Most people agreed, most people do hope for a better future for their daughters. Without the dreaded feminist word.

“Feminism has had its day, it’s time to move on as its less about gender and more about education and equality for all then just for women… Injustice is just that injustice. It doesn’t pick a gender, race or creed, people do. This is why I hate feminism, it detracts from the fact that there are many people, men and women, who are unjustly treated, beaten and abused.”

So says a dear friend of mine, who was himself abused by a woman.  I like to think everyone has a friend who they can argue with till they’re blue in the face, it’s going to end in fisticuffs until one suddenly lets up that they were just playing advocate. This is the relationship I have with this friend. He’s a feminist but doesn’t know it. The response he had from the police was an example of best practice. He was offered advice around his options, sympathetic and methodical. Although I do not have much experience of men accessing domestic abuse services, this one example was dealt with efficiently and empathically. Until we achieve equality in authorities dealings with victims, 1 in 5 men and 1 in 10 women will continue to believe domestic violence against women is acceptable. Speaking to my colleagues, there is a perception that male victims of DV are much more likely to be believed by the police simply because they are men.

More worryingly, it is when women take issue with it that I have to question why feminism has left some women estranged from the cause.

“ABSURD ‘feminists’ label all men who don’t roll over and comply as rapists.’Feminists’ do all women a disservice.”

This in response to men should take more responsibility when attempting to sleep with an inebriated partner. Decency dictates that if either partner is in such a state that they might not remember, it’s probably best to leave it. We live in a society where women feel it their duty to protect themselves from attack. Don’t get so drunk you cannot consent. Whilst men are free to get as drunk as they like without a perceived threat to their sex. If a group of men got drunk and one of their party chose to have stick it into another whilst he was too drunk to consent, that would be rape. No questions asked. He wouldn’t be asked whether his clothing was too revealing. We wouldn’t dream of saying he had lured the rapist into his bed with his provocative behaviour. We wouldn’t suggest it would not have happened had he been sober.

The more I try to understand the role of woman in society, the more I struggle to remain focused on equality. How can I accept that “feminism has had its day” when we are further from equality than we were 2 years ago? The global war on women has reached dizzying heights of violation. Our wombs are up for debate, both sides of the Atlantic. I have never witnessed such a fixation on the reproductive rights of women, misinformation around abortion and toxic shaming of those who make the choice to abort. I cannot think of a more gross violation of an individual’s human rights and the right to privacy than the pro-lifers camping outside abortion clinics. Their actions are forceful and coercive. How can they be allowed to protest when protest for the masses is being criminalised? An on such a deeply private matter.

They’re turning the clock back to their 70s by withdrawing crucial funding. Right now, we must accelerate our feminist activities, spread our arms and become more inclusive. Otherwise we’ll hear more news like this:

“Pavan Amara interviewed 38 working class women from across the country for her report that was published on the F-Word website last week. She found that working class women had effectively been excluded by a movement that was failing to reach the people who really needed it. It was only when the class divide was crossed that the problem became evident.”

(http://www.islingtontribune.com/reviews/cinema/2012/mar/feminism-failing-are-working-class-women-being-excluded-movement)

Coming from a working class background, 2nd generation Asian, I would say there is some truth to this statement. I didn’t notice one day I was part of the movement; I was born this way. I actively sought it and initially struggled to find my part in it. There is a divide between white middle class feminists and the rest of us. I found my experiences a hindrance to my work. Somehow because of what I was going through and in some way, still experiencing, I felt my contribution was not as valid as someone who had done a degree in Gender Studies and a Masters in Women’s Rights. Surely the people best placed to help people overcome abuse are those who have been there and felt it themselves? Isn’t that where true empathy comes from?

As with an ideology, there will be sections and subsections sprouting from wherever it can be extended. For my part, I cannot understand the Transphobia emanating from some radicals on the feminist spectrum. The root meaning of the word for me is equality. And I do believe we can achieve equality together, female and male feminists working together to smash patriarchy.

Feminists of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your shackles. 

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