Feminism: Is it only for females?

In Commentary, HOME, LIFE by Sam Prance

Saturday the 8th of March was International Women’s Day. Steak and Blowjob Day was the 14th. I’m not sure about you, but only the latter managed to drum up interest on my Twitter and Facebook feeds. I would also really like to hope that my college at uni serving steak for dinner on this date (two years running) is a pure coincidence and yet, surprisingly, I just can’t. How is it that Steak and Blowjob Day is an acceptable day of celebration and International Women’s Day is still considered a taboo?

And this is the crux of the problem: ‘Lad’ culture continues to suffocate attempts by the women’s rights movement – and other equality campaigners – to gain credibility because there’s so much societal pressure to conform.

womensdayIt’s a shame that we need a Black History Month, it’s a shame that we need an International Women’s Day, and it’s a shame that International Men’s Day is overlooked because of some misplaced notion that every day is men’s day. I’m not recommending any of their abolitions. It’s clearly a massive benefit if occasions such as IWD and Black History Month can raise awareness of gender and race based issues – but the period of time that these days are deemed to be important is fleeting, whilst the issues of which they make us aware remain stagnant within our culture.

Feminism is simply put the belief that women’s rights are equal to those of men and so celebrities who embrace female empowerment but shun feminism are our own worst enemies. The fact remains that feminism basically has to look normal, everyday and anything other than radical in order to be understood as a basic desire for equality and we need it to be seen as such by our role models. Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry (to name a few) are arguably strong women who champion a lot of great causes, but they refuse to identify with feminism and, as a result, the movement is thwarted.

Beyoncé’s recent celebration of feminism and celebrity hosted organisations, such as Chime for Change and Miss Representation, are the way forward. Role models have the power to change any false stigma attached to feminism today.

And what is that stigma? Well – feminism is not just for women. It’s not just for students looking for a cause to feel passionate about. It’s for everyone; it’s for men, women, people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes; those who believe in equality and those who believe in human rights for everyone. I’m pretty sure that most people believe in those principles, but they can’t quite put into words what that is or means. It’s feminism.

This week the Newcastle Tab published a very confused piece, which you can find here, about why feminism is irrelevant in this day and age. It perfectly illustrates the negative connotations that feminism has for many – the word scares them. They’re scared of being judged as men-hating, women-hating, cynical, crazy and confrontational nutjobs. But if uni ‘isn’t the time we’re going to sit around with a cuppa and discuss gender politics‘ then when are we? Why is it something that there has to be a specific time and place for? Unless we break through the stigma, we’re all going to be disadvantaged by it.

So, let’s look a little bit more at macho-culture because that’s a feminist issue too. Boys are convinced, coached, have it drilled into them from no age, that to be a real man they’ve got to keep up a certain persona. It’s a culture that might respect women to their faces, but doesn’t stop crude jokes at the boys club or the treatment of women as sex objects. Boys and men are being pushed into moulds that nobody ever said that they wanted to fit into and the cycle is perpetuated year after year after year. Girls wear pink, boys wear blue – girls play house, boys kill each other on Xboxes – girls study arts degrees and boys do science. And God forbid if you don’t fit in.

Again, IWD is almost counter-productive as it makes men feel out of place or vilified in a feminist world. So what do we need? We probably need a few more series of ‘Girls’ so that Lena Dunham can show women that it’s okay to be secure and insecure and everything inbetween all at once. We need a curriculum that is diverse and reflective of a fair society – I can say with certainty that my Learning for Life and Work classes would have been better spent if I was being educated on individuality and not the emotions displayed by cartoons. Give Upworthy free reign and marvel at the results.

Essentially, what we need is for it to be okay to be yourself.

Jane Markey

Jane Markey is a law student at Durham University and she’s a bit more interested in those laws which affect people than those for businesses to be honest. She likes travelling, thinking about the future and living in the present. She’s also from Belfast so her accent’s a bit dodgy, but she’s great craic all the same. PTL can confirm Jane is ‘great craic’.

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(Images sourced from: www.fastcompany.com, www.google.com)