THE fight for feminism in a PATRIARCHAL world
What the term 'feminism' means to me and why I think it's vital to continue the fight for equality in contemporary society
By Amie Tyrer
Illustration by Freya Sprong
There’s been a lot of debate recently over what the term feminism really means
I've overhead numerous conversations in the workplace, on the tube and even had these conversations with my friends about whether we really need feminism anymore. Many people are pondering the seemingly obvious question - Why do they call it fem-inism if the aim is for gender equality. Surely this alienates men and leaves them feeling segregated? Why don’t we call the movement a humanist movement? Or even better, call it equalism...
I’d like to explain why I will never call the fight for gender equality a humanist movement (which already exists as something else entirely) or an 'equalist' movement, and why I don't think you should either.
It may feel like women are finally claiming their voice but there is still a profound amount of gender inequality that exists in the world today.
The long standing issue of the Gender Pay Gap (GPG) is just one example of the gender inequality that is extremely prevalent in today’s society. Despite it becoming a legal obligation for businesses to disclose their GPG in the UK and many other parts of the world last year, we have seen little to no change. Right here in the UK our GPG is an astonishing 14.8%, in America it is roughly 18.2%. In Estonia we see an outrageous gap of 28.3% and finally 34.6% in Korea. In general, women in full time working jobs earn around 77% of their male counterparts wage for doing exactly. the. same. job.
Not only are we undervalued in the workplace, we are often undervalued in our own homes. Every year, an estimated 15 million girls under 18 are married worldwide, with little to no say in the matter. These girls are walked down the aisle whilst their brothers walk into schools, universities and jobs. In many countries the education of daughters is not considered a priority or even a possibility, as women are still expected to stay at home, clean, cook and raise children. A recent study included in the Women’s World report found that two thirds of all illiterate adults were women, highlighting the burden that limited educational opportunities are having on females. The lack of recognition that is given to a female’s mind power is in many ways mirrored in the lack of respect that is placed on the female body.
Artwork by María María Acha-Kutscher
In 2017, it was estimated that in England and Wales alone roughly 4.3 million women aged 16-59 had experienced domestic abuse. It is predicated that 1 in 3 women will experience rape or sexual assault in their lifetime, conversely it is estimated 1 in 71 men will experience rape or sexual assault. It was similarly reported last year that 91% of reported rape victims in the US were women. My point here is not to say that domestic abuse or sexual assaults are gendered acts solely impacting women, but to just emphasise why it is important that we place our attentions more so on supporting women in their plight for respect and ownership of their bodies.
For many years, women’s bodies have been seen as a plaything for men to grab and grope at whenever and wherever they please. So much so that this has become an influence on cultural practices. It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). There is no medical or health benefit of FGM. The procedure involves removing or damaging healthy female tissue in and around the genitalia simply to preserve virginity and marriageability. The vulva and clitoris are removed (often with an unclean tools in an unclean environment), the wound is stitched back up, leaving only a hole to urinate and menstruate out of, in the hope that when she is eventually married, her husband will know she is a virgin.
Just this year we have seen women's autonomy stripped back even further still in 'the land of the free', the USA. On the 14th of May 2019, Alabama legislators passed one of the most extreme anti-abortion bills in America which includes women being deprived of their right to an abortion, even if they are pregnant due to rape or incest. In fact, if you are successful in having an abortion following rape, your doctor will receive a longer prison sentence than your rapist, if charged. We are now living in a world where those in power deem it fair for young girls to be forced to endure a 9 month pregnancy and give birth to a child that has come from a violent, unwanted, mentally scarring sexual attack. Doesn't that scream equal rights ladies!
A law that forces women to be pregnant and then birth an unwanted child is as heinous a crime as rape itself. It strips women of any control of their own choices and their own bodies. It allows a man to invade her private parts against her will. The legislators and campaigners of 'pro-life' will argue that life begins at conception, that is murder to abort a cellular foetus (despite the fact if the pregnancy is successful, they may end up in care for the rest of their lives or be severely disabled). What these people are is pro-cellular life, you categorically cannot call yourself 'pro-life', if you take away freedom of choice in such a consequential moment in a women's life.
Some women that become pregnant due to unforeseen or unwanted circumstances, will chose to keep the pregnancy, but that's exactly it, they had a CHOICE. If you are pro-cellular life and anti-abortion, that is fine, that is your choice, you do not ever have to have an abortion. But, you cannot take away a woman's rights to safe reproductive healthcare and think that is ok. The rising wave of extreme restrictions on women's rights to abortion in numerous states in America (and the fact that abortion has never been legalised in many areas of the world, including Northern Ireland) is just another link in the universal chain of misogyny that has nothing to do with saving lives, and everything to do with restricting women.
We need a platform to call out these unjustifiable prejudices upon women in order to have an ounce of hope of reaching total gender equality. The term equalism ignores the apparent reality that is all around us. It ignores the customs that have been engrained forcibly into our culture and society for thousands of years. It is imperative that we do not ignore the fact that women are the subordinate gender. To ignore the suffrage of women in society, is to eradicate history. It is to forget all we have fought for. It is to insult the women who marched, starved and died in the fight for women’s rights.
In order to gain gender equality, we must empower and raise our women UP in society so that they can reach parity to men - and that my friends is why we need feminism.
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