I am a white, middle-class British woman, and my privilege is sticking right out as I write this. However, I wish to highlight that even for someone of my privileged status, feminism’s work is not yet done. On International Women’s Day, I send solidarity to my sisters all over the world. I will fight for them wherever I can.
Women in the UK have come a long way. Nominally, we’re equal now. Legally, we’re supposed to be equal now. What women lack is now invisible and counted by many as a gender essentialist ‘this is how things are’. Apparently, any residual inequality exists because men and women are fundamentally different and that women must have chosen differently.
Women are severely under-represented in the sciences and engineering because our brains are better suited to empathy rather than analysis. There’s science to back that up, and everything!* It’s just the way things are.
Sex is something that is sold to women as part of a long game to please a man. Try typing “how to please” into Google. Autocomplete provides “how to please your man”, “how to please your man in bed”, “how to please your man sexually” and so on. Sex still isn’t really for women, or else we’d be sluts. It’s just the way things are.
The end game for sex is to get a ring on your finger. The end game is always marriage, evidenced by countless jokes and supposedly amusing t-shirts. It’s just the way things are.
Walking along a street while appearing female is enough to merit catcalls, overt sexual messages and unwanted touching. It’s supposed to be a compliment, we’re told. It’s just the way things are.
Some of my sisters from other countries in Europe tell me that British men are better. They’re more polite, apparently. There’s less groping and what they say is less sexually aggressive. As women, of course we should expect harassment, and British women are lucky that our brand of harassment is marginally less noxious. It’s just the way things are.
You might think I sound like some kind of angry radical feminist. That would be because I am some kind of angry radical feminist.
I refuse to accept “the way things are”. I want better. I think we women deserve better. I dream of the day where women are not objects, not punchlines, not walking wombs or disembodied tits. I want to bury, once and for all, that “the way things are” is as good as it will ever get. Women deserve better. Women deserve to be treated as people. Just people. Ordinary people who are not in any way different.
Perhaps some of the lack of fight against this status quo, the blind acceptance of “the way things are” lies in the fact that the word “feminist” is seen to be a dirty word: an irrational woman fighting an imaginary battle, when really she just hates men. Surely our work has been done, because we aren’t automatically packed off to the poorhouse if we can’t find a husband?
I don’t think our work is done. Discrimination has taken on a covert form, and we are sold the myth that this is what equality looks like.
That is not what equality looks like.
If you agree, you might just be an angry radical feminist, too.
*The “evidence” for this assertion is completely demolished in this rather fantastic book, which I would thoroughly recommend.