A scantily clad Beyoncé standing in front of a brightly lit sign that reads feminist at the recent MTV awards. Chanel’s spring/summer 2015 collection presented amongst banner-waving models shouting feminist slogans. Were these two acts meant to further the feminist cause? Or were they PR stunts staged for personal gain? I’m inclined to believe the latter for they reek of token feminism to me.
Still feminism has become the buzzword du jour. Everyone seems to need to have a stance on it and as such I find myself wondering if I am a feminist? I can honestly say I have never thought about it before. As someone who was born in the 70s I grew up familiar with the works of Simone de Beauvoir, Maya Angelou and Gloria Steinem, for a time when I was at school Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister of India and Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. I think because I stand on the shoulders of these women and countless other people, who have challenged stereotypes and worked tirelessly for me to live the privileged life I do – I take my liberties for granted. I don’t know what it is like to not be able to vote or have access to an education nor was I ever in any danger of having to experience FGM but I am acutely aware that there is much inequality in the world we live in today.
A memory comes to mind of when I was about ten years old. I’m out running with my dad and at some point trying to race him. He beats me of course but instead of feeling defeated I say something to the effect of ‘I will beat you one day.’ In that moment and for a long time afterwards I truly believed that I lost because I was little. I didn’t have the foggiest that it could also be down to the fact that men and women are different. And we are different. So while I absolutely do believe in equal rights for men and women on all levels, where I would hesitate on calling myself a feminist is that a part of me thinks women are different to men and we should celebrate these differences.
♀ Do I think a woman should change her last name after she is married? Only if she wants to.
♀ Would I watch a movie where the male lead is a superhero and the only significant female character is desperate and needy, can’t do anything for herself and who incidentally happens to have her chest plopping out of her shirt? Yes, if it was a movie that was of interest to me.
♀Do I mind participating in traditionally female tasks at home? No.
♀Would I like to see more female leaders in politics and in the workplace? Yes but only if they are best candidates for the job.
♀Do I like dressing sexy for my man? Yes.
♀Would I pay to watch a female comedian perform? Mostly likely no, I’m one of the lucky ones I reached the zenith in comedy when I saw the genius that was Robin Williams live and I doubt anyone will top that for me.
♀Is it disappointing that in this celebrity culture world we live in, when the word feminist is mentioned actual heroes like Arundhati Roy, Sheryl Sandberg, Emma Thompson, Hilary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, Annie Lennox, (or the many others who actually walk the talk) are bypassed as examples for a more popular Beyoncé? Yes.
♀Are gender roles important to society? I think traditional gender roles are more or less defunct but as mentioned before men and women are different and sometimes it is appropriate to embrace this difference so to me the concept of gender roles is still relevant just in a less black and white way.
♀Does every single women deserve equal pay, equal rights, same access to education and healthcare as their male counterparts? Absolutely yes.
♀Is there more work to be done globally to change general stereotypes, government policies, restrictions on reproductive rights and to end FGM? Unfortunately yes.
♀Am I a feminist? As one of my heroes Maya Angelou so eloquently said ‘I am a feminist. I’ve been female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side,’ and who am I argue with that.