On Feminism

Monday 9 June 2014

Did you know that the female body makes up 96% of the sexualised imagery we are exposed to? Or that 1 in 9 girls worldwide are married before the age of 15? And that two thirds of the world's illiterate population are women?

Over the past few weeks, the news has been continually filled with stories which emphasise how deeply rooted gender inequality is in our global society. It manifests itself in different forms and with different masks in different cultures and on different continents, but it's always there. Lurking beneath the surface. Ready to appear at any given moment. Whether it's two teenage girls being raped, strangled and hung from trees in India last week, hundreds of Nigerian school girls being kidnapped and sold off to be married for daring to get an education, or murderer Elliot Rodger in the USA blaming womankind for his atrocities for having the audacity to not want to sleep with him. During a recent conversation in which I was commenting on the huge gender inequalities we still face today, someone said to me "Why are you like this? So pro women?". Coming from someone who supposedly knows me pretty well, this was like a kick in the guts. While it isn't the first time I've been subjected to a question like that (male friends have asked "but you're not one of those 'proper feminists' are you?" - whatever that means), it really stuck with me. It made me realise I haven't ever written a blog post talking about this, and the fact that I am, unquestionably, a feminist.

It makes me so sad when people misunderstand what feminism is really about. There's a horrible, consistent assumption that if you're a feminist you a) automatically hate men - which is categorically untrue, thanks Shailene Woodley for really helping the cause there, and/or b) you think you're somehow above others, and use your views as a way to sound clever. It genuinely saddens me when I hear people talk like this, because the simple truth of the matter is that feminism, in whatever guise, is about one thing - fighting for equality between men and women. It's not about overpowering men and taking control, or suggesting that women are in some way superior. It's simply about demanding that everyone, no matter their gender (or age, nationality, sexuality... the list goes on and on) be treated with the same level of respect. To be treated as equal. If you believe in equality, whatever your gender, you believe in feminism - it really is that straightforward. What bothers me the most is that there's almost a sense of shame attached to the word 'feminism' - like admitting to being a feminist is something to be embarrassed about. I don't know about you, but speaking out and standing up for equality isn't something I will ever allow anyone to make me feel ashamed of.

The #YesAllWomen hashtag has, I would argue, been a really important moment in contemporary feminism. While, as always, there have been the trolls and the haters, chipping in with their horrendous remarks, and a negative reaction from a lot of men (the #NotAllMen hashtag being a perfect example), it has sparked a passionate, sometimes difficult, but lasting conversation around the gender issues affecting us today. Of course not all men are violent, sexually aggressive or disrespectful. But enough are that it impacts on what it means to be female in this day and age. The stories shared on the #YesAllWomen thread on twitter are a testament to that. It's a cultural problem, and one that we have to keep addressing. The society we have created is warped, and teaches men that traditionally feminine traits are weak and shameful, while teaching women from an early age to compete for the attention of men. This, in turn, leads to the breakdown of female friendships, inequality in the workplace and some serious self-esteem and body image issues for girls and women of all ages. One of the best videos on this subject, in my opinion, was Laci Green's latest upload, which I'll link at the bottom of this post.

I remember when I turned eighteen and started going out on proper nights out in Glasgow - my parents and particularly my gran were always so worried about me being out and about late at night, and the mere thought of me getting a taxi anywhere on my own was enough to send them into meltdown. Outwardly, I always played it cool - "Don't worry!" I'd always say, "I'll be fine!". I still do. I'll be 25 at the end of the month, and it has occurred to me that in the past seven years, I've developed some habits that are, from the looks of the #YesAllWomen tag, all too familiar to other girls.

Heading home from a night out, there are two things I do without question. The last thing I say to my friends if we're getting in separate taxis, or if I get out of the taxi first is "please let me know you get home safe". I can't sleep if I don't hear back from them, and will persistently ring and text them until I get confirmation that they're home safe and sound - and they do the same. The second is that if I am alone in a taxi, or walking anywhere by myself after about 9.30pm, I am always "on the phone". I am now a master of the fake phone conversation - the sad fact is that I now don't even think about it, it's just what I do. I have a few standard rules that I follow. I, without fail, mention exactly where I am (street names and all), and precisely how long it will take me to get home. I mention other friends who have been out that night, and I usually stay on the phone until I am literally paying the driver and getting out of the car. The reality is, most taxi drivers are absolutely lovely, and it sickens me that it's so natural for me and my female friends to feel on edge getting in a taxi or walking anywhere alone. The sad truth, however, is that from an early age, girls are subjected to the uncomfortable stares and catcalling of strangers on the street, the horror stories on the news about women being assaulted and the general rule of "it's better to be safe than sorry". There's an instilled sense of vulnerability which settles in during your preteen and teenage years, and it's so incredibly unfair. It shouldn't be like this. A night out should end with a text that says "Tonight was so much fun!" rather than a genuinely worried "let me know that you're home safe".

It's unfair for women to be constantly afraid for their safety, and it's unfair for men to be collectively feared due to the actions of a twisted segment of society, fuelled by a reluctance of people, both men and women, to speak out when they see these injustices happening. This is why it puzzles me when men get defensive over feminism - rather than getting angry at women for standing up for themselves, get angry at the culture of male violence and the men who go along with it. The men who use their physical strength to intimidate women and create power over them. The men who think women owe them access to their bodies. The men who catcall and harass women on the street. Get angry at them and speak out against them.

I don't ever remember deciding to "become" a feminist. It's just always been how I've felt, particularly since I went to university the first time around. It's incredibly important to me. For me, as a twenty-something year old woman in Scotland, I know that my situation is far better than the world millions of other girls live in today - girls who are sold as child brides at 12, who undergo FGM, who are deprived of an education and are treated as lesser human beings simply for having been born a girl. But I'm still painfully aware of how far we have to go before any corner of the world can claim to be gender equal. I have a huge amount of respect for the women who have fought for our rights in the past, and are continuing to do so today. I love being a woman, and I see no reason in the world why we should be treated as anything but equal to our male counterparts. I am not defined by my feminist views, but I will always speak out with them, and argue my case. I know there are people on my Facebook friends list who are fed up with me posting links to articles about feminist debates, or about violence towards women across all corners of the globe. But until as many people share the links I post to news stories about women being attacked and abused as they do the Buzzfeed lists I post, I will keep sharing them. And for long after that. It's all too easy to shy away from what's happening in the world. People think that simple geography means that what's happening in Sudan, or Pakistan, or America, doesn't affect them - but it does. This month alone there have been at least four reported rapes of women in Glasgow city centre, with an almost 50% increase in calls to Rape Crisis in the past two years; what does that tell us? This culture of women being treated as objects rather than people is being perpetuated every day, and until we all, collectively decide to take a stance against it, nothing will change. To allow people to wear what they want, have as much or as little sex as they want, and not be labelled. To just respect people and their choices, and live and let live. To stop blaming the victim with comments on how much alcohol a woman who was raped had consumed, or how short her skirt was. To stop pressurising teenage boys to value themselves based on how many "notches they have on their bedpost". To stop allowing women to be paid less for doing exactly the same job as a man. To fight back against the sexual objectification of women in advertising. To reach a point where girls and boys, across the world, are offered equal education and equal job opportunities. If I'm ever lucky enough to be a parent, that's the sort of world I'd want to bring any child, girl or boy, into.

To finish this post, I'm going to link a few articles I have read and videos I've watched over the past few weeks which expand on this topic in a really interesting, and important way. I hope you get something out of them:

Laci Green: Elliot Rodger video, Feminism video, Sex Object BS video

"Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds" by Arthur Chu

"#YesAllWomen reveals the constant barrage of sexism that women face" by Jessica Valenti on The Guardian

"After shock rise in rape and assaults Glasgow faces down misogyny" on The Herald, Scotland

Just as I was preparing to publish this blog post, I read this article on the brutal treatment of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Horrific does not begin to describe this - it's not an easy read, but I urge you to finish it; no human being should ever be treated this way.

Let's all agree to work together towards a better future, for everyone. If the news over the past few weeks is anything to go by, time is most certainly of the essence.

Thanks for reading.


  1. I was going to leave a big long comment, but I think you've pretty much summed up my views already! It amazes me that any young, intelligent, educated people (women especially) would consider themselves not to be feminists when it's so obviously an issue that affects so many aspects of daily life.
    It makes me sad that I consider myself "lucky" that the worst thing that's happened to me is catcalling or unwanted groping in nightclubs - luck shouldn't come into it at all, everyone should have the right to feel safe and valued no matter who they are or what the situation is. x

    1. I was just thinking that Gillian! Feeling like you've got off lightly if you just get a couple of crude comments on a night out should not be normal. x

  2. Absolutely fantastic post, Lynsey.
    I am most definitely a feminist too. Is it too much to ask for gender equality? I want any children I may have to grow up with all the same opportunities as the other regardless of their gender. I want the same opportunities as any man so long as I am up to challenge and as capable. I too feel anxious about being out by myself, especially after dark. Suddenly I become suspicious of everyone and I just don't feel safe. I think it is really sad that we are conditioned to feel threatened and unsure of all we meet after dark when really it is just very few.
    I think that the main issue with feminism is that it has so many negative connotations, that it's become a bit of a dirty word. I don't necessarily think that this is the result of feminists in general but rather the poor education of what it actually means. True feminism isn't about hating all men, thinking all men are rapists or thinking that women should be the superior gender. In fact, it's simply about equality and having the right to wear what they want, work in ANY industry they want without slut shaming or anything else.
    Sorry for the mammoth comment! Absolutely brilliant post though (I think I said that already!)
    Debi x

    1. Thanks so muxh lovely! So true, it's awful that a stranger walks past you at night and you automatically fear for your safety - it just shouldn't be like this. x

  3. I love this post! I have also written about issues regarding feminism and in particular the #YesAllWomen hashtag. We share similar views, I would love for you to take a look! X


    1. Thank you! I'll definitely pop over and have a look! x

  4. I honestly wish there was some way to leave a standing ovation for blog posts - I can't really add anything else to what you've said as you've summed up everything so brilliantly and underlines so many of the important points. Well done for an outstanding blog post Lynsey x

  5. I couldn't have said this better myself. The #YesAllWomen trend inspired me to write a post dealing with the absolute basic of sex: consent. Annoyingly although plenty of people are crying out for men to be taught not to rape, no one seems to be suggesting that the ins and outs of consent are taught to us all as soon as our sex education starts.
    Rape is unfortunately still a subject so many people don't want to address and prefer to just brush under the carpet. The fact we can't walk alone in our hometowns without the fear of being sexually assaulted is something everyone should take notice of but I guess it'll be years before we can all feel safe on our own streets. I just hope things get better rather than worse.

    Raise The Waves

    1. You're so right! This is such a huge issue at the moment, I've watched quite a few really good YouTube videos on the subject of consent over the past few months, and I'm so glad more people are starting to talk about it. The more we address these issues, the more we can start to change this unhealthy culture! x

  6. Great article and I agree with all of your points! What saddens me is that I have so many friends, who are girls, and who excuse men by saying things like, "Not all men!" (Battle cry of the men's right activists, right?!) or "I don't think they're being offensive, I think it's flattering," why they get wolf-whistled on the street. While they may find the attention pleasant, I'm pretty sure the intention behind a wolf-whistle is more degrading than a nice compliment. There's definitely a lot of internalised misogyny about, which sucks.

    #yesallwomen was awesome, but then #yesallpeople became a thing (because women can't have something without it revolving around men!) and of course #notallmen as you mentioned. At least people are talking about it a lot more than they used to, and hopefully this discussion will lead to progress!