The F Word
Women are equal now.
That’s what someone told me in Melbourne last year. Women are equal now, and in fact pay is equal across the globe.
Women in the UK earn 18% less than men
A woman is raped every 6-7 minutes in the UK
Over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year in the UK
Let’s also remember that these figures of assault are only the reported ones. They’re only from the women who were brave enough to speak out about it.
Whilst growing up I was lucky to have a number of strong women in my life to look up to. My Mum went back to running her company only a couple of weeks after having me and has always been a huge inspiration to me. She taught me to work hard and that I could be or do whatever I wanted. So for me, sexism wasn’t always something I noticed or understood, or thought was a problem. There have been a few instances however that have stuck with me. My Cub Scout leader for instance, dividing up the boys and girls, explaining that the girls would rather do flower arranging than football. We weren’t allowed to play in the games with the boys, we had to sit at the side and draw or have the boys and the leaders make fun of us. I remember telling my Mum at home and it wasn’t until I saw her reaction of disgust that I realised my Scout leader wasn’t joking, he was being cruelly sexist to a group of 10 year old girls.
Whilst we were in Sydney over Christmas we went out to a club one night and I was groped by a man at the bar. It was a promo night aimed at travellers. He was probably the same age as my parents and for what I could tell, on his own. There was no reason for him to be there. Whilst I was waiting in line at the bar he insisted I go in front of him, for what I would later find out would be so that he could grab me from behind and push me against the bar so that I couldn’t get out. He whispered horrible things into my ear and scared me so much that I eventually got out and ran over to my boyfriend crying. He insisted I tell a security guard of this, but I didn’t want to make a fuss. In the UK I was kicked out and barred from a club once when I made a fuss about my best friend being grabbed in the toilets by a bouncer.
We’ve been taught not to make a fuss. We’ve been told to learn how to take a compliment and to have a sense of humour. When the rugby boys at University put their hands down your top on Pryzm’s dance floor you’re told that you’re “up tight” if you push them off.
Lucky enough for me, the security guards were on my side and in one message into an ear piece it felt like every security guard in Sydney was surrounding me. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to make a scene. The head of security took me aside and said I have a wife, daughters, a Mum and a sister, I am not letting any man treat any woman in that way. And then I turned around and low and behold he had walked into his own fate. He had been following me the whole time and even had the cheek to introduce himself. He was taken out, proclaiming he did nothing wrong and the security guards waited outside with him until the Police arrived. Thankfully the security guards reacted in a favourable way that I'm not used to in England, and prevented what could have been a different story.
Sexual assault is illegal in the UK. Sexual assault is when someone touches a part of your body, perhaps sexually, that you have not given consent for. But so many people brush this over. It wasn’t until I watched Laura Bates’ Everyday Feminism talk that I realised how normalised sexism is. Girls are taught to aspire to marriage, we take our husband’s name, we’re cleaners, we’re hosts, we’re mothers, we’re cooks, we’re sales assistants, we’re nanny’s. And feminists are anti-bra, cat loving unshaven man-haters. Or so we’re told.
Our ideas of gender are not evolving with us. A large part of feminism isn’t even about equality. It’s about stopping the cat calling and the extortionate tampon tax. Why should a woman’s success threaten a man? Why are women bossy and men a good leader? We also need to look at redefining masculinity. Using “man up” or “you’re such a girl” aren’t helpful pieces of advice.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote in her article about FeminismLite "I live among, many people who easily acknowledge race injustice but not gender injustice"
She described Feminism as “A man or a woman who says yes there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it we must do better”. I invite you to look around you at the processes and experiences you are and have been involved in. Because, unlike what my ill-informed old lodger once told me, women are not equal. Equal pay is not a thing, yet. There are still men deciding whether it’s okay for us to have an abortion or not. We’re still told to prove sexism. Women are still blamed for inviting rape by the clothes they wear.
We had the Suffragettes and we’ve got the women’s marches. We’ve got women like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Caitlin Moran. And most of us do have a voice that we can use to raise awareness and to stand up for women. Feminism has always been a thing. It’s not what many perceive to be a movement to eradicate men. It’s a movement to change the way the world thinks and works. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that feminism is for everyone. Men and women, boys and girls. And if you don't already consider yourself a feminist, I'd recommend taking a look at the sources below that are bound to make you question the way society works and what we've been raised to believe.
Laura Bates' website Everyday Sexism Project reveals the scary truth of sexism through hand written posts from men and women all around the world.