The Dirty F Word

The dirty, dirty F word that has so many shivering in their timbers and quaking in their boots: Feminism. If I got a dollar every time I heard someone start a sentence defending women’s rights by saying, “I’m not a feminist, but…” I reckon I’d have a pretty little pile of shiny by now.

I am passionate about women’s rights, but the very fact that women’s rights is something to be ‘passionate’ about is baffling. Surely as one half of the human race the value of our very existence can’t be a point of contention, yet here we are.

What is sad is the perpetual undercurrent of fear among both women and men to be labelled a ‘feminist’; a fear which seems to be born out of being ridiculed or ostracised by those around them, and which seems to be propelled by a lack of understanding of what feminism actually is. What many of us don’t realise is that the rejection of a person who stands up and speaks- whether in defence of women’s issues, or even just of their experience of being or knowing a woman- can only be delivered by those who on some level believe in gender inequality themselves. Believe it or not, by rejecting the concept of feminism because you fear the ‘label’ of feminism, you are inadvertently perpetuating the very need for feminism in the first place!

There have been times where I have heard some people proclaim, “I’m not a feminist, I’m an equalist”. Yeah, that’s the same thing.

We tend to fear what we don’t understand and sadly feminism is greatly misunderstood, but understand this: at the very core of it, if you believe in gender equality, you are a feminist.

Slut-shaming, victim-blaming, rape jokes, sexual objectification and entitlement to women and their bodies are unacceptable, but they are so engrained in our culture that saying it’s unacceptable feels kind of unacceptable. Wait, what?

We live in a culture where we teach our daughters not to ‘get raped’ rather than teaching our sons not to rape. We live in a place where we can be chastised, assaulted or murdered if we choose to be sexual, and chastised, assaulted or murdered if we refuse; it doesn’t matter who we are, what we look like, what we are wearing or where we are. In this world, if I am a woman, I am both a liability and a threat. And in this world, if I choose to speak because I do not agree with the above, if I dare to own and exercise my strength as a woman- as a person- I am dismissed, rejected and put in my place because in this world, it would seem, I have no voice.

The dirty, dirty F word gives me that voice, that choice and that strength.

As an aside, to anyone who may still be wondering: #YesAllWomen know that #NotAllMen “are like that.” Although this is not the crux of the is, I am addressing it because this comment almost always comes up in any discussion of women’s issues, and I think no one has said it better than Phil Plait as he explores why a comment like that is unhelpful:

Fourth—and this is important, so listen carefully—when a woman is walking down the street, or on a blind date, or, yes, in an elevator alone, she doesn’t know which group you’re in. You might be the potential best guy ever in the history of history, but there’s no way for her to know that. A fraction of men out there are most definitely not in that group. Which are you? Inside your head you know, but outside your head it’s impossible to.

– Phil Plait, Not All Men: How Not to Derail Discussions of Women’s Issues.

Feminism is not about ‘man-hating,’ or fighting for dominance. It isn’t about dictating what women should or shouldn’t wear, or should or shouldn’t do. It isn’t about favouring a ‘career-woman’ over a ‘stay-at-home mum’, or a single person over a married one, or vice versa. Feminism in part is the advocation of freedom and equality from all dictates, and giving that power to you as a woman to make the choices that YOU want, and asking to be given the same rights and respect as a living, breathing, feeling human being to exercise that choice.

This voice can only repel those who do not have the self-assurance and strength needed to- at the very least- try and understand the experience and plight of being a woman. To embrace, respect and celebrate strong women- all women- is a testament to your own security and strength.


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