TALKIN’ ‘BOUT MY GENERATION
IF ANTI-FEMINISM IS A NEW TREND, IT’S A DANGEROUS CONCEPT, SAYS MEL EVANS
I’m not one to get on a soapbox – I’m a feminist, but you won’t hear me telling anyone without first being asked the question, “Are you a feminist, Mel?” And yet I feel the need to speak out, because the Tumblr blog Women Against Feminism (WAF) has left me scratching my head. Not because I haven’t washed my hair in protest against men stereotyping the female of the species as ‘good for nothing more than being pretty’, but because I’m literally “WTF-ing” all over the shop. I think it’s safe to say that Generation Y doesn’t ‘get’ feminism. And it’s my generation.
Millennial women are wary of the possible stigma associated with feminism. The F word has copped a bad rap over the last, oh, hundred years. Many of my generational comrades still see it all as radical-1970s-man-hating-bra-burning-hairy-armpits. But an its core, feminism is the belief that women and men should share social, political and economic equality. Simple.
Women Against Feminism describes itself as a voice against the “toxic” culture of modern feminism, and members post photos of themselves holdings handwritten signs proclaiming why they don’t need such an ideology. Those vary from the true-but-beside-the-point “not all men rape” to the laughable “I believe in equality, not women’s superiority.” So, um you’re a feminist?
Another WAF argument is that women and men aren’t the same. That’s true, but this isn’t about being the same – it’s about being equal. A pro-women stance doesn’t necessarily mean you’re anti-men. (Those radical feminists who made you believe such tripe grind my gears, too.)
If you’re unsure as to whether you’re on board HMS Feminism, I quote Arthur Caitlin Moran’s quick way of working it out (In How To Be A Woman): “Put your hand in your pants. A) Do you have a vagina? And b) Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said ‘yes’ to both questions, then congratulations! You’re a feminist.”
It’s not just an exclusive collective saved for the females of planet earth, however; men can (and should) be feminists. Protagonist in a lot of my daydreams, the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt says he’s “absolutely” a feminist and, “It’s worth paying attention to the roles dictated to us and that we don’t have to fit into those roles.” And Gen Y didn’t create the meme ‘Feminist Ryan Gosling’ for nothing. Honestly, we need more men to back us up. (A lot of them already don’t shave their pits – it’s a perfect fit. Wait….)
Historically, there have been different waves of feminism. The first campaigned for suffrage, the second argued for women’s lib and social and legal equality, and the third built upon those platforms while challenging traditional ideas of femininity and sexuality. Whether you agree with any or all of these waves, listened to Bikini Kill or whatever, it comes down to two words: equality and choice.
Women against feminism, you can choose not to be a feminist, but the fact you even have that choice is because of feminism. In the words of Star War’s Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!” I jest; it’s not. If you choose to be a stay-at-home mum, you’ve made a choice. Alternatively, if you decide you want to go back to work and your husband/wife/partner leaves the workforce to look after the kids, that’s choice and equality, too – and music to a feminist’s ears. To reiterate Gordon-Levitt’s point, no one has fit into any role dictated to them if they don’t want to.
It’s dangerous that Gen Y women are actively flying the (flag) piece of paper for ‘anti-feminism’. Please don’t’ undo centuries of hard work in abolishing coverture, securing the right to vote and own property, and the free choice of whether you want a box gap or not. I’m not saying you have to shout your allegiance from the rooftops. But what’s so bad about standing up for having the choice to be and do what we want?
Women in developing countries aren’t complaining about feminism, because they’re too busy having their basic human rights taken away from them. They’re being raped, mutilated and murdered simply for having body parts that are different to men’s. In Saudi Arabia, they’re not even allowed to drive, and women’s rights campaigners have been killed in fight for equality.
Do you now understand how being anti-feminist is much more damaging than being a feminist could ever be?
Some may say it’s redundant for me – a young woman born in Australia – to argue about women’s rights, but even in this country I still earn 18.2 per cent less than a man would in the same role. Plus, a recent report by the Australian Human Rights Commission found that one in two women experiences workplace discrimination because of family obligations.
One more time for the cheap seats in the back: equality. All feminism is underpinned by the belief that women should not be discriminated against.
We’ve all seen Mary Poppings. Remember that catchy tune Winifred Banks sang about suffragettes and the female right to vote? Well, Mrs Banks was a homemaker and a women’s rights activist. Thanks to that fictional character (perhaps less her, more the work of aforementioned non-fictional feminists throughout the ages), we had the chance, in 2010, to vote in Australia’s first female prime minister.
Women against feminism, you say you’re against feminism because you love chivalry (actual submission to WAF)? You go, Glen Coco – so do I. If a guy wants to buy the first round of frosty milkshakes, I’m not going to tell him otherwise because I’m a feminist. Until the pay gap ceases to exist, if I can save on one round, we’re both going to be happy.
Still, women feel they don’t need feminism, and I quote, “because I love masculine men like Christian Grey :P”. (Yes, another WAF submission, emotion included.)
Forget grey; it seems there are 50 shades of feminism. But odds are, if you stripped back the hyped-up versions you’ve been presented with by society, and looked at the core ideals, you’d put down that piece of paper and support the cause for equality and choice.
We’ve taught ourselves over time that modern feminists are men-haters and ‘victims’. So, in turn, we can relearn the true meaning of feminism. Or, at the very least, that it isn’t something to be “anti”. In the wise words of Captain Planet, “the Power is yours!”