These days, there is a lot of controversy over the word ‘feminism’. For some, it means a fight for the attainment of equality of the sexes, whilst others view it as a vehicle to man-hating.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines feminism as ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’, which refers to the fact that women have by no means achieved equal rights, and feminists exist today for this fact. There is of course a question as to whether male and female can ever be equal, as we are fundamentally and biologically different, yet with the advance in technology and access to information in today’s age, it is easy to question such an unbalance between the sexes.
Emma Ehrenberg, University of Nottingham’s Women’s Officer, told us her view on the matter: “most critics of feminism do not bother with understanding the real meaning of the word”. She continued by saying that people believe that feminism is “outdated”, only “needed in the age of the Suffragettes”, yet “equality on paper is not equality in practice”. Indeed, we can see this issue today in Britain, when Andy Burnham promised earlier this year that the Shadow Cabinet would be gender equal, and in practice this figure was made up of women dominating the junior positions.
“Most critics of feminism do not bother with understanding the real meaning of the word”
When thinking about the Suffragettes of the early 20th Century, what usually comes to mind is a struggle for the attainment of the vote. It is important to consider what the vote meant for these women: being able to choose better working conditions, both in environment, hours and pay, as expressed by Selina Cooper, a Suffragette. These are struggles women face today, with a still-existent pay gap of 10% between male and female employees, as well as missing out on promotions due to pregnancy. Furthermore, the simple idea of an equal vote, what is now viewed as a fundamental human right in most areas of the world, is still not a universally grasped concept, as women are persistently unrecognised in Saudi Arabia and the Vatican City in terms of suffrage.
“Women fought hard for equality and have still not achieved it”
This was brought to light in the recent film, ‘Suffragette’. Though of course it can be criticised for various elements, the main message is clear, that women fought hard for equality and have still not achieved it. It is a reminder that the issue is still relevant today, and that we should not shut out the fight for equality just as men imprisoned suffragettes in the early 1900s. Being released a century later, we can recognise the resonating importance of female ambition and sacrifice, as Emily Davison’s surrender shocks the viewer into realising how human these women were.
Just because women have the right to vote today in the UK, it does not mean we have achieved gender equality. Women being sold into marriages, girls missing out on education in LEDCs, the practice of Female Genital Mutilation, domestic violence, rape, and the unbalance of childcare are all real issues. The majority of people would agree that these truths are unjust, and the majority of people believe that women deserve the vote as much as men. What must be realised then, is that the majority of people are feminists.
Image: Leonard Bentley via Flickr