To some, a barrier exists to surround feminism. It’s a fence which shuts out half of the human population, protecting and serving only one of the genders; the females among us. It’s a dirty word, applicable exclusively to the struggles and strains faced by women, and never should be approached by men-kind. Or so you think…
This has long been the perception of many. And of course, one can hardly lambast them for this; ‘feminism’ – the clue is in the name. The reason for the continued connotations of feminism being, well, so feminine, is due to its roots in womens’ struggle for rights. Most notably the Suffregettes’ direct action and protest which eventually forced the state to concede to them the right to vote. The right to vote! Such a simple, insignificant cog in our modern day lives to which women were denied the right until 1918. One which we seldom contemplate.
This is what feminism came to represent. The right of women to exercise the freedoms that men enjoy themselves. Today, this is still extremely relevant to our national conversation, as women are still without certain freedoms which men are granted. As Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism Project exposed, a woman’s right to privacy is often flouted. Bates’ project documented tales of women walking along the pavements of our urban centres after dark, endlessly endeavouring to escape cat calling and slurs about legs which salaciously follower her from close behind. And so, feminism in a contemporary context is necessary in damming the torrent of sexist, objectifying remarks which woman are too frequently overwhelmed with.
But has feminism really become a segregating fence? Shutting out men and stigmatising it among male circles? The answer is, no. Some believe this to be true, yet in the twenty-first century, feminism has adapted, and does not seek only to represent the hardships of women in society. It has become a broader movement reflecting the inequalities of both genders. It is simply an umberalla under which those affected by gender related prejudices and discrimination can gather. And fight for their right to equality.
Girls are shy. Boys fight. Men don’t cry. Women are promiscuous. (But not too promiscuous of course as that would make you a slut*). Is there not a symmetrical unfairness in forcing gender roles upon men and women throughout their lives, to which they must comply and accept without any deviation? Endless advertisements displaying muscle packed/paper thin, toned/tanned and spotless bodies that reinforce ‘the perfect’ body are the mediums through which we are told how to live and look in our genders. Those that watch with eager eyes often turn to ones of dismay as this idealist conception of gender forced upon them fails to materialise in their own bodies. The indoctrination that they are too this, too that, too girly, too manly, and not good enough, prevails in the form of mental health issues and growing suicide rates among males in particular.
This is another shocking reality that gender roles have created. Men are discouraged for revealing there feelings. Men with depression, hollowed out and wholly unfilled with emotion are often told to ‘man up’. And the result is escalating numbers of men who take their own lives in desperate attempts to escape the social and emotional blight of gender roles which often grants only criticism and judgement instead of support and assistance.
Ultimately, only feminism can free men and women from gender roles. Rather than being reserved for one half of our species, feminism today speaks for both. Don’t be fooled into believing feminism can’t be for you. If you suffer under the regime of gender roles, believe in feminism. It’s not a dirty word – it’s a fundamental step to a more equal society for all of us.
*I hope the tone of sarcasm in this line is obvious.