The Plight of the Feminist: Keeping the Momentum in 2019
While subconsciously scrolling through a heavily meme-filled and ad-laden Facebook feed, I came across a status which read: ‘This feminist shit’s hilarious, changing the traffic lights to gender signs in London, get a life you cretins’. This was amusing for a number of reasons (firstly, cretin), but primarily the fact that the author failed to realise that the green man becoming filters of same-sex couples and gender signs was in celebration of the LGBTQ community ahead of London Pride, and in fact had nothing to do with ‘feminist shit’. Upon wading through the ill-informed tripe which comprised the below comments, one thing caught my eye. Still on the Feminism warpath, the Facebook user claimed there were ‘better things to worry about in this day and age’. Oh how I wish this were true. Forgive me if this traffic light unionist was referring to the godforsaken never-ending wormhole that is Brexit, world famine, global warming-induced natural disasters and the cataclysmic upheaval of thousands of innocent civilians seeking European refuge. In that case, he’d have a fair point, but I have an inkling he wasn’t. Gender equality still stands prominently on today’s agenda. It is the basic building block of society’s growth; the stability that will evoke calm and progression in a tumultuous world.
Despite its resurgence in 2018, the term ‘feminism’ is continuously misinterpreted as ‘women’s fight for superiority’ rather than ‘gender equality’. Yes, the patriarchy must be fought, it doesn’t mean we stab voodoo dolls of men in suits whilst uttering curses before we go to bed each night (or do we?). Regardless, feminism achieved some monumental feats this year. The #MeToo movement of 2017 was ingenious as it bravely shone light on unacceptable behaviours of male counterparts within the entertainment industry, filtering down in 2018 to highlight the casual sexism women in all sectors face on a daily basis.
Whilst media campaigns are invaluable in clarifying and promoting the meaning of equal rights, their limited time in the hot seat makes it hard to assess their true impact. Bringing inequality to the forefront of the political agenda in this way is powerful, but momentum must be gained before it is swiftly swept under the carpet until the next multi-million dollar event. #MeToo left a somewhat awkward silence in the televised feminism dialogue. Thankfully, this was filled throughout the year by the noise of social media activists who continued the conversation surrounding the patriarchy’s abuse of power.
In more joyous news, Northern Ireland celebrated the repeal of the Eighth Amendment back in May, which simply, but imperatively, restored women’s ownership and control over their own bodies. Following this, thanks to Gina Martin, ‘Upskirting’ was made illegal; punishable by up to two years in prison and a spot on the Sex Offenders’ Register. Recognition of this being an invasive and degrading act and holding perpetrators accountable for such objectification is huge. Martin’s campaign demonstrated that passion, rather than fame, is a criterion one needs to bring about change and further signals a promising future for amendments within current legislation concerning women’s rights.
For feminism as a movement to evoke further action, its meaning must be clarified to those who misunderstand and the man-hating stereotype erased. The difference between right and wrong must be outlined and men called out for their misconduct, dismissing statements like ‘that’s just how he acts’ or ‘he’s old, he doesn’t know any better’, because is that even relevant? The September trial of Brett Kavanaugh highlighted the importance of trust. Dr Christine Blasey Ford boldly relayed her experience to the world, as well as a row of 17 male senators, only for Kavanaugh to be voted to the US Supreme Court 50-48. We must believe women, not doubt the authenticity of their trauma. It’s unfathomable that Dr Ford would have put herself through such an excruciating recollection of her assault for any other reason but justice.
Furthermore, it must be realised that inequality doesn’t just echo in sexual assault, but takes many forms. To say the stats published in this year’s Gender Pay Gap report are disappointing and, quite frankly, embarrassing, would be a massive understatement. When all eligible British companies reported their pay gaps in April, it revealed that out of 10,016 companies, 7,795 paid women less than men who were in the same, or similar, role. In spite of this being illegal according to the Equal Pay Act of the 70s, there are no plans to penalize companies with a wide pay gap. Instead, it is expected that female employees will rise up and put pressure on the powers that be, risking their positions and working relations by asking for something that shouldn’t need to be asked for. Fair, it is our problem after all.
On a more basic, but no less shocking, level, young girls around the world face limited access to education because, obviously, they are girls. In 2013, UNESCO estimated that globally, 31 million girls are out of school and that of these, 17 million are expected to never enter into education. Living in a developed country, this may seem far removed, but it’s a basic human right, which, in its absence, is perpetuating poverty down the bloodline. Girls who do attend school are commonly pushed towards subjects that align with the female stereotype, which only serves to limit their potential and contribution to society.
So before we leap into 2019, ready to stockpile coffee and set up allotments in the wake of a no-deal Brexit, consider what you can do to aid the plight of the feminist. Hopefully, one day, there will actually be better things to worry about.