Be honest, when you hear the word “feminism,” what images spring to mind? Let me guess, “butch” lesbian women with hairy legs and an outspoken hatred of men? Germaine Greer?
When you think of feminism you might see the now infamous “You can do it” poster (despite the fact that this poster was designed to boost the morale of factory workers during the second world war) but what you should be confronted with is not an image but an idea.
Feminism by definition is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and when I refer to myself as a feminist, this is what I mean.
I don’t hate men, I believe that men and women should be equal.
I believe in equal pay for equal work.
I believe I should be afforded the same opportunities as men in work and education.
I also believe that feminism is about the freedom of choice, so if a woman chooses to be a housewife, that’s fine, as long as it’s her choice. If another woman chooses not to have children, that’s fine too.
A lot of people feel that there is no longer a need for feminism, we can vote, we have female leaders, paid maternity leave, what more could we possibly want?
Working in IT, a field generally dominated by men, has proved to me that there is still a need for feminism. When I call up certain manufacturers for support for their products they will often assume that I am a secretary or speak to me as if I am stupid. I have called up to try and organise a repair only to be asked “have you plugged the computer in?”
It’s not just in the professional sector I come across these problems. As a consumer, when I am buying something from an electronics store I find I usually need to take my Dad or another adult male with me just so I can get service. We will then be served by a man who will speak only to the man with me. If I ask a question, the response will be directed to my male counterpart. I don’t know if this is because they think he will have all the money or if it’s because they just don’t want to overload me with technical details and confuse my pretty little head. Generally, I think it’s the latter based on when I bought a laptop the one time the guy did talk to me was to tell me that “this one comes in pink.” (If you are wondering, no, I did not buy my laptop from there.)
With Julia Gillard as Prime Minister of Australia there is the feeling that, “this is it.” We made it. We broke the glass ceiling. Just one look at the shit Julia Gillard has to put up with proves this is not the case. I am not a supporter of Gillard’s but I do believe that she gets more abuse than she deserves purely because she is a woman. Not just a woman, but an unmarried, atheist woman. She has been called “barren” by members of the opposition because she doesn’t have children. These things have nothing to do with how she leads the country, yet they keep being bought up. (I am aware of the irony of me bringing it up to prove my point so no need to point that out to me.)
Then you have Beyonce, arguably one of the most powerful women in the world, who calls herself a feminist. That’s great. I just wish she had done it while wearing clothes and not on a men’s magazine. I stand by Beyonce’s choice and right to pose in underwear if she wants to, I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is saying you’re a feminist whilst posing in a sexually suggestive manner for a men’s magazine which you know will objectify you. It kind of defeats the purpose.
I don’t believe we need an entirely new feminist movement but we do need to keep working. It’s something that needs to stay in public discussion. Germaine Greer and Beyonce do not speak for me. I speak for myself and I think all women should.