Think feminism is for man-haters? Not sure it is still relevant here in the UK today? Or maybe you are man or boy and have never identified with the word. If you can spare me a minute or two there’s something important I’d like to share with you.
I don’t usually get political here, but I have always considered the Women’s Rights Movement to be something to be grateful for and proud of. Feminism or “the goal of achieving equal rights for men and women socially, economically and politically” is something my mother and grandmother and later my school teachers invited me to respect and believe in from an early age. I have always considered myself to be a feminist and have paid greater attention to women’s issues in recent years than ever before as I’ve negotiated the minefield that is being a working parent.
When I left school, I felt privileged for an eighteen year old girl and probably somewhat complacent:
- I had received a world-class education and achieved a place at a world-class university
- I was always encouraged to achieve financial independence
- I lived in the UK, a country I was proud to consider a safe harbour for women and girls, somewhere we could break barriers, smash glass ceilings and achieve equality – we had laws to protect us after all.
But that was almost a quarter of a century ago – a few generations of time – and since then, it has been too easy to think that feminism as a concept of “equal” rights has let us all down, leaving many women and men disappointed, even angry and frustrated that we haven’t come as far as we might have hoped:
- The word feminism has sadly become synonymous with misandry (being a man-hater) which is every bit as horrid as misogyny (being a woman-hater), something feminism has long battled. Too often we see the word and misguidedly, the ideas behind it, as aggressive and unpleasant, and many women who believe in the idea fail to identify with it.
- Women of my generation have known boys and men unable to express their emotions for fear others think them less manly. Men and boys being as conned by the media as young girls into thinking they must have a certain kind of body, dress or behave a certain way to be considered “masculine”
- Employers, politicians and schools have failed in equal measure to embrace the fact that equal rights means equal treatment and opportunities for BOTH genders, meaning girls still don’t get invited to play soccer at school and boys still get laughed at for choosing ballet, while women of childbearing age still miss out on promotion and job security and fathers feel they can’t take up flexible working opportunities for fear of being treated the same way.
- Too many of us feel naïve and let down for believing the “feminist” myth that women could “have it all” (i.e. a family and a career) when it turned out that we are no more able to than men. Really we should have just asked our own fathers how easy they found it to leave work at 5 o’clock to get home to put us to bed or to finish early on Thursday afternoons to come watch our Sports Day!
As mothers are beginning to invite fathers to get on board for “parents” with initiatives like CityFathers to complement CityMothers, so it makes sense for women and girls to invite men and boys to join the fight for equal rights.
There is still more we can achieve in the UK but what excites me right now is that finally women are speaking up and admitting to the world that we can’t achieve this on our own. Specifically, the #HeForShe movement.
Actress and recently appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the UN, Emma Watson (who is fast morphing from her role as feisty teenage witch, Hermione Granger in Harry Potter into a new national treasure and global champion of women’s rights), gave the opening address as co-host of this UN Women special event.
#HeForShe aims to involve men as advocates for change so gender equality can be achieved in every country in the world (yes, every country including the UK). Specifically, they want to engage 100,000 influential men around the world within the next year to start the ball rolling on a brighter future for everyone around the world.
Emma Watson’s opening speech has taken the world’s media by storm. She has already achieved enough attention to merit the unfortunate attention of misogynists who claim to have hacked her to obtain nude photos which they are now threatening to publish, so she must be doing something right!
Personally, I thought she was compelling and impassioned on a subject close to my heart. She was articulate. She was compassionate. She made it personal. She was convincing. Her words made me want to do something with them. So this is it.
Will she convince you too? Please watch, listen and share what she has to say.
Invite the inadvertent feminists in your life to join the campaign.
“If not me, who? If not now, when?”
Together we are stronger.