International Women’s Day and Feminism

Mind the gap: how women have to work until today to earn what men did last year

Today is International Women’s Day. Does there need to be a day specifically for women? Maybe, maybe not. It would seem churlish not to mark it in some way though.

I remember growing up with a sense that ‘feminism’ was of the aggressive variety and with the perception that it was about radical women who wanted to be men.  No one I knew identified themselves as ‘feminist’.

I realised over time how wrong I was and how wrong my perceptions had been. Feminism was being defined by those who  felt threatened by it. It was presented (when I was growing up in the time and area I lived)  as something to be embarrassed about. As a girl, I fed into the groupthink that feminism was about ‘man bashing’ or somehow undignified. I went to school and studied alongside boys, there was no reason for me to feel different. We had a female Prime Minister. The ‘battle’ had been won so there was no fighting left to be done. Women and girls were positioned to feel embarrassed about being ‘feminists’ as if striving for equality was some kind of struggle for equivalence.

I was wrong. I was very wrong.

In some ways, when we feel embarrassed by the labels, we are allowing feminism to be defined and marginalised. The word and the label is one to be proud of and not ashamed of. It isn’t about the ‘wanting to be men’ or ‘hating men’, it is about being proud, open and respected as women.

The world is not equal. There are discriminations and prejudices faced by women as there are for many who are marginalised for other reasons but we mustn’t be afraid or embarrassed of wanting to fight and project the need to be proud of who we are and respected as what we are.

I will never be embarrassed about calling myself a feminist. I don’t have to defend my position or pride in being a woman to anyone else. For those who feel that women have reached ‘equal status’ with men, we need only look through an average newspaper on an average day and understand the differences in reporting and tone to know that we still have a long way to go.

‘Women’s issues’ are marginalised and specialist. ‘Women’s jobs’ are lower paid and less respected. There will be exceptions but generally they will be exceptions which prove the rule.

My wish for International Womens’ Day is that we can promote feminism as a positive and inclusive which is about acceptance and understanding of different perspectives rather than using the word as a tool to oppress those who might feel differently.

We must embrace feminism and we must define it ourselves. Some feminists are feminine, some feminists aren’t, some feminists enjoy dressing up and some enjoy dressing down. We can’t  define who can and can’t be a feminist by what they do or say or are. We can all support and be feminists and should be allowed to feel proud of that.

Oppression is when people attempt to define or change  how we define ourselves.

Happy International Women’s Day.

photo: European Parliament/Flickr