IWD2018: What is Feminism?
By Jenni Block (FES President, UCSU Mature and Part-time Student Officer, 3rd year English Literature and Media Studies)
There are many interpretations of what constitutes feminism in the 21st century, the meaning has evolved over time and the precise definition is personal to every individual. To me, feminism is intersectional; it allows everyone to have a space to grow, learn, and thrive; and it creates an equal platform for all by raising up the marginalised.
Feminism is, in the modern age, about choice, allowing women autonomy over their lives and the choices they make. It is about supporting individuals if they want to climb to corporate ladder or if they decide to stay at home; if they decide to have children or to live alone; if they wear makeup and heels or bare faced with jeans. Supporting and championing women, allowing them to exist free of judgement, and misperception, trusting them with their decisions, is fundamental to the ethos of feminism.
Feminism isn’t just about women, it is about establishing a society in which an individual is seen as more than their gender. Where things aren’t pink for girls and blue for boys, where it isn’t seen as unmanly to show emotions and housework isn’t seen as women’s work. Toxic masculinity and gender stereotypes are hugely damaging to society.
Feminism is about so much more than just the modern British individual. To support full equality, feminism needs to be intersectional; it needs to recognise that an individual is so much more than their gender, and their experiences vary dependent on many more factors – including but not limited to race, religion, sexual orientation, economic status, and education. The issues a woman of colour faces vary from the issues faced by myself, a white woman. It is my responsibility as a feminist to recognise that I have privileges that other women may not experience.
Feminism isn’t just about recognising and fighting for equality for myself and the women I know, there are countries across the world where women’s inequality is far behind that of the western world. There are countries where women are still fighting for the right to vote, for financial independence, for the right to own property, and I feel that feminists have a responsibility to raise awareness of these issues and support the unequal across the globe.
Fundamentally, for me, any individual who believes in the equality of individuals is a feminist, and should not be ashamed to describe themselves as such. Feminism isn’t a dirty word. I am a feminist, and I am proud.
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