Do we need feminism? Real notions of feminism in the world today.Blog by Natalie Brown

feminism

In a seemingly progressive society of equality in the West, where women are long-liberated from the old stereotypes of the soft and gentle homemaker and caregiver and freed from the private sphere of life and into the public, entering into modern society as doctors, lawyers, teachers as fully-fledged members of the ‘real’ world, we hear the question silently echoed all around; ‘do we really need feminism today?’
The media could argue for us that gender equality has reached its peak in today’s society: transsexuals such as Ri – ri Paul and Panti Bliss launch themselves into the public eye to champion the liberation of transgender and transsexual identity, expanding and freeing our notions of what gender means. Feminists such as Caitlyn Moran demonstrate modern day feminism to a public audience, celebrating the strength of feminism in today’s society. Public figures such as Emma Watson stand up for young people in a bid to achieve equality for women and for men, from a platform as large as the UN to do so. The representation of feminism in context of modern society certainly seems strong.
And yet there still seems to exist some age-old myths surrounding what people understand by the term feminism, and even in today’s society the word still attracts an element of controversy. The term is still a ‘dirty’ word to some, perhaps building on the past stereotype of man-hating women in unattractive, baggy clothing, whom men fear and women refuse to identify with. The Woman’s Liberation Movement answer to this, and are a group of women whose beliefs are rooted in defining themselves outside of the identities of motherhood, wives and daughters, giving women economic independence and political equality in order to discover who they truly are. This could be misconstrued as being anti-men, their desire to want to live in a space that is not occupied by men, but is really an anti-patriarchy, attempting to create a way in which all people can live together harmoniously and equally.
Which brings the question; why is there still a need to achieve equality when seemingly, women have access to, and operate within all the domains men do, as well as become homemakers and child rearers if they choose?
We see activism everywhere: The Million Women Rise brings large numbers of women together in a bid for women’s right to live free from violence and the fear of being attacked, reminding us that this issue is on-going in the UK, with one in four women experiencing domestic violence in her life. The Young British Women’s organisations’ ‘Reclaim the F-Word’ shows contemporary feminists fighting back against the media speaking out negatively against feminism, and claim they are being motivated by the fact it is still ‘highly necessary’ in today’s society.
The fact that women still identify with feminism, fighting causes that speak out for the need for equality in all aspects, still shows the need for feminism in the world today. In an ever-changing and expanding world where we are re-learning our notions of what gender means, and still discovering issues of inequality, one could argue the voice of feminism is still very much needed today, by all.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Salma AlTabari on December 4, 2015 at 1:47 am

    Society definitely needs Feminism, however, I think the general approach could be better. On some level, “fighting for women’s rights” places emphasis on the idea that women are marginalised groups that need saving, while on the other hand men’s rights and equality with women do not need to be advocated for. It would be more effective to practically implement things within daily life that enforce gender equality, without setting a special tone in favour of the woman.
    For example, advertising is a public medium that can strongly set a subconscious tone for each individual’s perception of gender equality. A practical way of manipulating it might be to present both genders in equal roles, for example; I recently saw a butter TV advert where two women were having a cake baking competition and the judge who determined the winning cake was a man. It is a very subtle scenario, but the effect something like this might have on a young viewer can be very deep. It is rather odd that two women are baking, and a young man walks in wearing a clean suit – without any apparent baking skill – and determines which woman is the better baker. It might be more effective if the argument on this issue evolved around presenting a more gender equal approach, rather than stressing over how women are misrepresented.

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  2. Posted by Lukas on December 4, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    When one compares the negative attitudes towards the suffragette movement, for instance the thought that women only became suffragettes because they were to ugly to find a husband, and compare them to very similar attitudes of anti-feminists today, one finds that attitudes have not changed very much.
    The way our society looks down on femininity is very apparent in language: You could take any verb and add ‘like a man’ to it for it to become a compliment (e. g. ‘to swim like a man’), whereas if one adds ‘like a woman’ instead it becomes an insult (‘you punch like a woman’).

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  3. Posted by Christie on December 7, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    I find that your summary of the confusion in society’s interpretation of ‘feminism’ as ‘anti-men’ as opposed to ‘anti-patriarchy’ sums up those who refuse to identify as ‘feminist’. I have experienced conversations with friends and family in which people will laugh at the fact that I identify as a ‘feminist’. However, when I ask them if they believe men and women should have equal rights and be treated the same, they answer yes. I think the question, then, as to whether or not our society still needs feminism is an interesting one, as it seems that the vast majority of the public still don’t understand what to be a ‘feminist’ actually means, even if they are in fact, themselves ‘feminists’.

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  4. Posted by Eliza on December 7, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    I really agree with your statement that ‘there still seems to exist some age-old myths surrounding what people understand by the term feminism’ – I think the ‘myths’ that have been propounded following the professional, legal and personal gains made by women in the last century are absolutely significant.

    I read a book called ‘Backlash’ by Susan Faludi a few years ago specifically about the damaging myths circulated about feminism following times where women have really thrived. Faludi, writing in the 1990s, describes backlash as ‘remarket[ing] old myths about women as new facts and ignor[ing] all appeals to reason. Cornered, it denies its own existence, points an accusatory finger at feminism, and burrows deeper underground.’ As you point out, even with the high profile advocates for feminism that have been coming forward in recent times, the word ‘feminism’ is still treated with distaste by many – perhaps we’re all victims to a kind of backlash too.

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  5. Posted by Eva on December 9, 2015 at 9:38 am

    The misconception of feminists as being anti-men I think is one of the main problems when it comes to feminism today. The fact that someone came up with the term meninism I think clearly show that feminism is generally understood as a women’s movement only, and not simply gender equality. The Swedish Women’s Lobby has launched an initiative to give a copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ to every 16-year-old in Sweden. This initiative I think demonstrates one of the important issues in today’s society – making people aware that feminism is still highly necessary and it concerns us all.

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  6. I think there is definitely a need for feminism in 2015 – I always cringe a little when relatives or acquaintances try to belittle modern feminism, almost always in contrast to the feminism of Emmeline Pankhurst. As you mention in this blog, trans issues are one of the biggest challenges to this way of thinking; how could we not need feminism when there is still so much violence in many people’s way of thinking (even in many feminist spaces), on trans issues and even on seeing trans people as people.

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  7. Posted by Phoebe Deans on December 10, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    I find your question: ‘why is there still a need to achieve equality when seemingly, women have access to, and operate within all the domains men do..?’ really interesting, for why, in 2015, should we not expect equality for all? As you have mentioned, the media has seen a rise in famous feminists utilising their celebrity status to educate, young girls specifically, on feminist issues. Founded by Parks and Recreation actress Amy Poehler, ‘Smart Girls’ is an organisation dedicated to empowering women and young girls to ‘change the world by being themselves’. Their #smartgirlsask campaign recently took to the Emmy Awards red carpet to encourage girls to ask #smartquestions, such as ‘what qualities should young girls be looking for in their role models’, allowing famous women to answer them. As a proud feminist, I ask all sceptical friends if they believe in gender equality, to prove they too are a feminist, even signing up one house mate to receive weekly emails from Lena Dunham’s ‘Lenny Letters’.

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  8. Posted by Wafaa on December 12, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    As a lot of people tend to misinterpret Feminism as some thing negative it usually ends up being a taboo topic to have a conversation about, therefore ends up being ignored and for the most part forgotten. For myself I used to find the word feminism or feminist a very ambiguous and abstract idea that I couldn’t quite pin-point. However once having found that a clearer definition that was inspired by the video of Emma Watson’s speech, I hoped that there would be more people willing to face these challenges and wouldn’t ignore the major issues that concern both gender’s as we all are humans, who want to be treated with respect ultimately.

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  9. There is a negative stigma attached to feminism and this negative misconception of what it means to be a feminist is not helped by the various ‘anti-feminist’ campaigns that have cropped up over recent years. Feminism is about equality and that is all it has ever been about. We do still live in a patriarchal society – on average women earn less than men is almost every occupation and it is still assumed that a woman will take the man’s name when they marry.Whilst a lot of women do feel they have equal opportunities to men not every woman does, and until that is n no longer the case there is a need for feminism.

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