Recently my sister and her boyfriend came to visit me, and whilst out in the evening they started asking me questions about feminism, and whether I consider myself a feminist. I said of course I do, I want gender equality after all. My sister mentioned she had recently started thinking about feminism, and when I asked her boyfriend if he would consider himself a feminist he seemed scared to answer me. This surprised me: the two are intelligent, reasonable beings who I would have thought to be feminist without question. But as I thought about it, why would it surprise me? Many people are nervous to consider themselves a feminist, for fear of being considered as the college liberal meme, as a promoter of misandry, or just as being crazy.
To put it simply: it is a bloody shame. Why do musicians such as Lana Del Rey, who writes beautiful lyrics about the dangers of love, recently say she is not interested in feminism? Why do our own female friends make jokes about finding a man who can do everything for us? Why does anyone feel that feminism is a dangerous concept that makes women hate men and restricts them to a short list of options that are approved by previous feminists (never marry, never become a housewife etc)- the exact opposite of what it really is?
To me feminism should be, and is, about creating equal opportunities for men and women worldwide. For women to be able to walk alone at night feeling safe. For men to not feel pressured into being the breadwinner of the family: if they want to stay at home with the children, that’s okay. And this is only scratching the surface, there are so many issues faced by many that range from human rights violations to just wanting respect. To explain all this to someone in one evening, or on one post is impossible. I can only be general. But I want to talk about why I think feminism is a brilliant thing. It should be used as an empowerment for both genders to liberate them from any pressures of stereotypes, or of gender assigned roles that do not suit modern society. To give girls the confidence that they do not need the figure of a supermodel or have the facial perfections of a doll. For women to never feel like they owe a man anything- that a drink is not equivalent to the value of their own body.
Feminism should also not exist as a set of orders to follow, and that if you choose otherwise you are a hindrance to womankind. That wanting a family is limiting your own potential as a career woman. If I have kids at any point in my life and I decide to give up my career to raise them, I should do that with pride because they are me, and I will protect them until my last breath. However if I decide that I could never be a mother, that my life’s fulfilment is in a career, I am not an abnormal woman, nor will I have rejected what ‘nature designed for me to do’. Either option, or anything in between, is perfect as long as it makes me happy.
Maybe feminism scares people because it is so unclear. Am I supposed to be like a man? To run the world? To inspire the future generation? To do the school run with perfect hair? To flaunt short skirts or trousers?
Or maybe, just maybe, I am supposed to have the freedom to do what I damn well please.