Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Feminism; where do I stand?

If I’m honest I never really thought about the word ‘feminism’ or what it was to be a feminist before reading ELLE’s ‘Rebranding Feminism’ debate November last year. But when I think back to school PE days I realise it has always been something that I’m silently questioning.

It was the dreaded ‘Bleep Test’; a test of endurance and speed. Whilst still in mixed PE classes, the boys were all on board for the test, challenging each other, spurring each other on. Take one look at the girls and you could see that the interest was limited. The test begins, slowly the bleeps get quicker and you must run faster to reach the line before each bleep. By the sixth bleep most of the girls are out (mostly by choice and lack of effort) and sitting at the side of the hall, watching the boys and giggling. Far more interested in admiring these young athletes in the making rather than challenging themselves and their own strengths.
Down to the remaining few, the ratio of boys to girls approximately 3:1, maybe three of us girls still going, amongst the supposedly far stronger and more competitive boys. It wasn’t that I wanted to beat the boys, it was that I wanted to take part and I wanted to compete with the class; both boys and girls. I didn’t see the difference, why shouldn't the girls fight against the boys in a test of strength and endurance? I think if you were to ask the other girls running with me they would agree that we were competing to beat ourselves, each other and the boys, all in one fair swoop. Not trying to create a divide between the sexes. So why as we move up the school years are we segregated into Football for the boys and Netball for the girls? Why separate two sports by gender? To me it created a stereotype for sports - netball for girls, football for boys; prompting a generalisation of:“Let’s not ask the boys to play netball because that’s far to ‘girly’ for them to play”; “Oh the girls won’t play football because they don’t want to get muddy”; I'm sure the school system had it's reasons behind class distribution but I do wonder - Did anyone think to actually stop and ask what we wanted?
Flash forward to my years at University. A clear time of ‘labels’ and achievements. If a man has a successful night with various women he is applauded by his peers, branded a ‘Lad’ (which apparently they see as a positive status) and receives high-fives. Now what happens if a woman brags about her rendezvous? She receives a ship-full of negative comments, vicious stereotypes and labels that brand her as tainted and unwomanly. Or in some cases the phrase “trying to be one of the boys” is voiced, as though our actions are to fit in with the boys and not to fulfil our own desires and passions. It’s a very childish reaction and to me it just showcases the different platforms that women and men are put on, they’re not equal, if both sexes are doing the same thing they should receive the same reaction.

I could probably continue recollecting about what I have witnessed in gender equality in my life so far but I don’t want to keep looking back at what was. It is time to look forward at what is to come. I want to applaud ELLE for their fantastic December ‘The Feminism Issue’, which includes powerful and inspiring women as well as intelligent and thoughtful men. Because we do love men, we do want them in our lives, we want them to be a part of our world as much as we’re a part of ‘The Mans’ world’. We want one world where no-one questions your sex or sexuality on a form or questionnaire. Together is the way forward, there’s no need to ‘man-bash’ we all need to nurture one another and tell each other what we need and why. For men to be emotional and passionate and women to be strong and determined. Let’s get rid of the gender inequality!
My last note is to Emma Watson and her work for #HeForShe. Her speech at UN Headquarters in September was powerful, filled with emotion, informative, honest and captivating. She is a role model to me, with her beauty on the inside and out, her confidence is something that I want to achieve. To believe in something and to stand up for it and fight. Whether it’s for personal dreams or for a bigger cause. I will have a voice and I will always be the best I can be, in high heels or bare feet.

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