Sometimes, I get really tired of being a feminist.
I’m not feeling tired in a defeated, “I’m giving in” kind of way. Just a general “I’m so tired of the same fights over and over” kind of way.
Awareness doesn’t seem to have translated into action.
Here in Australia, feminist issues are right at the fore of national discussions. We are more aware than ever of the issues that women are facing here, like the appalling levels of male violence against women- primarily at the hands of current and former partners, the Gender Wage Gap, the under representation of women in positions of power, discrimination, everyday sexism, victim blaming and so much more. As far as awareness goes, we are probably more aware than we have ever been. And yet- very little has changed.
The latest Gender Wage Gap report shows that we are still hovering around a national average gap of about 17%– same as we were 3 years ago when the first report came out. Women are still being murdered (mostly by men they know) every week. Female victims of crime are still routinely scrutinised to determine how they contributed to their own attacks. Despite the government pledging money, refuges are still struggling and we are yet to see real change for the better. Women are still discriminated against and subjected to everyday sexism.
The Minister for Women and the “label”.
To top it all off, our Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash, the person who is supposed to represent these issues on a national level, still refuses to call herself a feminist, despite reaffirming her commitment to everything it stands for.
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) March 7, 2016
She says she refuses to “label” herself. That’s a line I hear pretty often when it comes to feminism. Everyone wants to distance themselves from the “label”. But why? What difference does it make to call a spade a spade? If you are the senator given the portfolio of women’s issues, you are labelled “Minister for Women”. To be an effective Minister for Women, you must know that we have not achieved equality and be willing to work towards it. That makes you a feminist.
What Feminism is.
It bothers me that people reject the term. I don’t actually know anyone in real life who believes that men and women should not have equal rights. The inequality is evident and it needs to be addressed. We may disagree on exactly how we should get there, but the core belief is the same.
Feminism is not a homogeneous hive-mind where everyone thinks and acts in the same way. Feminism is a basic belief in the fact that women deserve the same rights and opportunities that men have. Being a feminist can be as simple as that.
You don’t have to be Germaine Greer. You don’t have to agree with everything Germaine Greer says. Hell, you don’t even have to like Germaine Greer.
It’s not a belief that excludes men; in fact it benefits them in many ways. It just doesn’t place their needs, their concerns or their stories above women’s needs, concerns and stories.
It’s not an ideal that preaches hatred or violence to men or to anyone else.
What feminists are accused of.
Yet to say publicly that you are a feminist opens you up to many accusations. You don’t care about men (wrong), you only want to tell half the story (nope), you think women should be superior (haha, no!), you think men don’t have any problems (I’m sure they do!), you hate men because feminism is sexist (yeah, no), your concerns are invalid because the wage gap is a myth (it’s not) , almost as many men are adversely effected by violent female partners (they aren’t) , it’s not about gender in hiring- it’s about skills, merit and qualifications (not true), women are already equal (nope), you’re just attention seeking (because feminism brings heaps of wonderful attention), you’re using “feminism” as an excuse to sleep around (what?) and you deserve to be threatened for speaking up about equality.
All of these accusations and more are leveled at feminists, especially online, where the normal rules of a civil society don’t seem to apply.
The F Word.
I’m so tired of feminism being a dirty word. I’m over having to constantly defend the idea. I am tired of women and men who wholly believe that women deserve to be equal to men yet draw the line at calling themselves feminists. The word “feminist” has been hijacked by anti-feminists for long enough and it’s time we all stopped letting such people own the term.
The reason it is feminism and not “equalism” or “egalitarianism” is because it’s important to note that it’s women who are disadvantaged in the current status quo. It’s women earning less, it’s women facing more routine discrimination, it’s women who are blamed when they are victims of crime, it’s women who are not being represented in positions of power and it is women, WOMEN, who are being murdered each week by current or former partners. And that’s just here in Australia, from my position as a relatively privileged white woman. Indigenous women for example, face a whole other set of challenges.
Why does it bother me? Why does it bother YOU?
If you called feminism something else, those same people who want to keep women exactly where they are (if not in a worse position) would simply hijack that term, as well. Egalitarianism, for example, would be the new feminism- reviled and mocked and derailed at every opportunity. Rejecting the word feminism plays exactly into the hands of groups that don’t want equality. That don’t want things to improve for women. Groups that embrace the patriarchy and are terrified at losing the perceived benefits that it offers them.
This is why I’m tired of being a feminist. I’m tired of the abuse and rhetoric slung my way and fired at vocal feminists with much larger platforms that mine. But most of all, I’m tired of fighting against allies over semantics. If you believe that women deserve the same rights and opportunities as men, you are a feminist, by definition. If that bothers you, have a think about why that might be. I can almost guarantee you it’s because of the way it’s been presented to you, perhaps many times over, by people who have a vested interest in making sure equality is never achieved. If it’s because of how one feminist represented their views to you and you didn’t like the way it was done, then I can’t stress enough that feminism hasn’t got a single set of rules adhered to be everyone.
Feminism simply recognises that women are not equal to men in many ways and feminists seek to change that.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has the right idea. Just keep using the word until it’s not a big deal any more. Keep saying it until those that have hijacked it get bored and move on.
I hope that one day soon, feminism is a quaint, historical term that referred to the people fighting, in various ways, a battle that was won a long time ago. I hope it’s something my grandkids shake their heads at, marveling that it was ever necessary. But I can see that it’s a long way off. I might be tired, but I’m not giving up.
#IBOT @ Essentially Jess.