Growing up, the word ‘feminism’ has always been a source of unease for me. Like many, I thought the women’s movement was a thing of the past, something that had been fought and won. Now was the time to reap the benefits, and we could smile smugly to ourselves, congratulating ourselves on how enlightened we are, compared to our unfortunate ancestors. To continue to be a feminist was to be deliberately awkward, to desire a childish form of anti-boy “girl power”, which I was keen to avoid.
At first glance, it’s easy to see why one might get complacent. More women than ever before are graduating from university, entering the workforce, and playing a part in politics. Female authors no longer need to use male pseudonyms to be published, and a female doctor no longer causes a stir. Laws have been rewritten, policies have been realigned…what is there to hold women back now?
But as I grew older, I couldn’t help but feel that something wasn’t right. They were little things at first, familial things. Like how my brother was encouraged to join a martial arts class (he hated it), while I, who had always expressed an interest, was discouraged. Or my dad’s well-meaning advice to me about marriage, claiming that the life and destiny of a woman hinged on the man she married, whereas a wife had a much smaller effect on a man’s path in life. Or the endless bombardment from society to be ‘pure’, to ‘save ourselves’ for our husbands, as though a woman who wasn’t a virgin was somehow second-hand, damaged goods, while the man had ‘gained something’ from her. As my intellect and insight developed I started fighting back, but it was in vain, for the argument, “That’s the way society is,” or “Men and women are made for different things” would come up again and again, and while I was heard, I wasn’t listened to.
My rising indignation led me to look deeper into the feminist movement today, ‘third wave feminism’, if you like. My feelings were mixed – I felt vindicated (yes, my feelings of unfairness ARE valid), shocked and upset (things are worse than I thought), but also hopeful.
We can do something about it. It doesn’t have to always be this way.
Hence this blog. To me, the search for gender equality isn’t just about law-changing or quotas or anything like that. What is needed now is a huge cultural realignment, a shift in the way we view men and women. We need to step away from our gut reactions and really think about how we see the world, what we expect, and what we believe. This post is merely an introduction; subsequent entries will start looking a little more closely at the sexism and anti-femaleness, deliberate or not, that is prevalent throughout the world as we know it.
Why have we assumed that equality has reached its natural limit? Those resistant to change 50 years ago were saying strikingly similar things, and look how far we’ve come. Gender equality has not yet been reached, and progress will continue.
I may be but a lone, small voice in the immense blogosphere, but by perhaps making some rethink their values, I, together with all the other courageous fighters out there, can bring about real change in the world.