Another International Women’s Day has come and gone and – spoiler alert – not very much has changed. Well, that’s technically untrue – a couple of bars in Cairo have marked the occasion with ‘special’ female performers and corporate brands and social media users have been expressing just how amazing they think women are, while the florist on the corner made a killing.
In the interests of total transparency, I have to admit that, as a feminist, I hate International Women’s Day with a passion that I only usually reserve for those who commit acts of animal cruelty and waking up early on weekends. Let’s not kid ourselves; there’s nothing ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ about appreciating or acknowledging the problems of half your population for one day out of 365. To me, it seems like a very hollow gesture that does very little beyond alleviate collective guilt at doing nothing to combat gender inequality.
That approach has stuffed the term feminism with all manner of nonsense. A common, and face-palm inducing, conversation-starter in the discussions and coverage of IWD2015, and women’s issues in general, is a very defensive, “I’m not a feminist, but…”
But what? Do you believe that women should be socially, economically and politically equal to men? Do you believe in equal pay for equal work? Do you believe that a woman’s body is her own and it is not for anybody else to dictate what she can and cannot do with it?
If you answered YES to these questions, congratulations – you’re a feminist! You will be receiving your ID in the mail very soon and we look forward to seeing you at our weekly man-hating meetings (this week’s topic of discussion is the pros and cons of armpit-shaving).
It’s really a lot simpler than people would like to believe. Feminism, first and foremost, is the simple belief that women should be treated equally to men. That being a woman doesn’t mean that you’re ‘less’. It comes from acknowledging that, internationally and at home, women are facing inequality on the basis of gender every single day.
It comes from believing that things like the pay-gap, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, early & forced marriages, ‘slut-shaming’, higher rates of female illiteracy, domestic abuse, rape (and then victim-blaming), honour killings, inaccessibility of contraception, judicial & legislative misogyny and a whole host of other disasters are not ok. Did you know that of the 1.1 billion people living in poverty, globally, 68% of them are women? Did you know that there are still countries where women are not allowed to vote? Where marital rape is legal?
Posters as part of a UN ad campaign that uses real Google autocomplete search phrases.
Feminism is not about hating men, or believing that women are superior. Some of us shave our legs; some of us don’t. Some of us believe in marriage and want to have kids; some of us don’t. Feminism is about doing what you want, to hell with societal expectations and the patriarchy, regardless of gender.
Every man and woman who thinks there is an issue with the systemic oppression and mistreatment of women is a feminist. To people who still believe that feminism is somehow problematic…well, I dedicate this rant to you.