What do you think of when you hear the word ‘feminism’? A modern career woman, a hairy-legged hippy...? FV1’s Cara Priestley reckons it needs a little more understanding
‘The f-word’ might not be something you’d normally associate with positivity, optimism and freedom. And that’s fair enough. However, there’s one ‘f-word’ that’s become overwhelmingly stigmatised ever since it was first coined in the 1880s. Feminism.
Over time, this word and everything it stands for has been dirtied by those who don’t understand it and this has given it an unfavourable reputation. All too often feminists are given the stereotypical label of an angry, unattractive, man-hating woman. Usually with hairy armpits.
However, if you break down the actual meaning of the term, a ‘feminist’ is simply a person who supports the idea that women’s rights should be equal to men’s. So, surely we’re all feminists? But perhaps we first need to set the record straight about what feminism actually is in order to break through the negativity that people have towards it.
The history of the struggle for the equality of the sexes is broken down into three categories, called ‘waves’. First wave feminism came about in the 1800s and 1900s and focused on unequal laws. Second wave feminism, which occurred in the 1960s and 70s, addressed a wider range of issues, such as family, the workplace and birth control. Then third wave feminism, which began in the 1980s and is still on the rise today, challenges the capitalist state that we live in and the negative effect that has on women.
Certainly the emergence of modern day feminism is highlighted fantastically by movements such as the ‘SlutWalks’ that have taken place all over the world. These protests initially came about in retaliation to a comment made by a policeman in Toronto, who claimed that, ‘Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.’ This is like saying, ‘Don’t get raped,’ rather than ‘Don’t rape.’ What kind of message does this give to women? That we should stay locked up indoors?
Fortunately, the feminist message is still being passed on in all kinds of other ways too. In fact, each of us can further the feminist cause in the most simple of ways. Just becoming aware of our tendency to use language that puts women down, whether it be by using ‘girly’ as an insult or the use of gender specific swear words, we can reduce everyday terms which subconsciously suppress women. And even doing something seemingly small, such as refusing to join misogynistic Facebook groups, can make a huge impact.
At the end of the day, being a feminist is about believing in equality. Nothing more, nothing less. So what’s stopping you?