Over the past few weeks, my Facebook seems to have been flooded with angry status updates about #Women against feminism… Like my most friends, I’m angry that we’ve come to a point where so many women misunderstand a movement which has sought to empower them. But not only does this make me angry, it also makes me incredibly sad to think that so many women of my generation have misinterpreted the struggles and issues that I care so much about.
Like the #Women against feminism, I love being a woman. And like the #Women Against Feminism, I like men, a lot. I also like babies, baking cakes and cooking for the people I love. I paint my nails, shave my legs, and wear dresses most of the time. But these things have very little to do with my decision to identify as a feminist.
There are many reasons why I NEED feminism. I could talk about the women I’ve met in countries where they still lack basic access to contraception. Those who have such little autonomy over their bodies, they are unable to decide when and how they become pregnant… I could offer a nod to the estimated one million women and children who are trafficked for the purposes of Sexual Exploitation each year… I could describe the feeling I had in the pit of my stomach when I encountered a woman in India who had been almost fatally maimed by an acid attack.
Furthermore, I could contextualise these thoughts by talking about my belief in interconnectedness, that my liberation is linked to that of others.
But the #Women against feminism seem to have based their rational upon their own experiences, without taking time to consider women of the global south. So as a white woman in the ‘First world’ I thought I might do the same.
When I was 8, a bunch of boys chased me around the school so that they could look up my skirt, understandably I was terrified. The teacher who intervened scolded the boys and me too. To this day, I’ll never forget his words; ‘you seemed to be enjoying it.’
When I was 15, I went to the train station, wearing a short skirt. A drunken man leered at me, and when I ignored his advances, he angrily called me a ‘snobby little bitch’ and suggested I should ‘feel privileged.’
When I was 19, a man followed me through the streets in Paris, saying that I belonged to him now and had to go home with him. When someone finally helped me the man became angry saying he ‘had to have’ a woman. When I told the police the next day, they suggested that people had ignored my requests for help because they must have thought the man was my partner.
These experiences are just a few of many that sit within me, once making me feel small and without worth. Every single one of my female friends has also had experiences like these, and I can almost without a doubt say that the women who ‘don’t need feminism’ have too. And if by some bizarre miracle, they haven’t, perhaps they should have more empathy for those of us who have.
To me, being a feminist is about saying no to a world where women and girls have to accept and internalise their abuses.
I need feminism because I believe that women’s lives can be better, and more importantly SHOULD be better. I need feminism because I hope that my daughter and her peers will not have the experiences my female friends and I have had… And to the women who don’t need feminism, I’ll keep on needing it for you until you come to your senses.