A few months ago, I wrote a philosophy essay discussing whether one could justifiably be morally opposed to prostitution. It was one of the first I had actually really enjoyed researching and writing, perhaps because it was on a topic I could identify with, as opposed to some metaphysical mumbo jumbo that makes my head hurt for days after the lectures. But when I went to talk it over with my tutor, and he asked if it was a feminist essay, I quickly insisted it wasn't; that it was just a general moral discussion of how we cannot be any more morally opposed to it than wives sold into marital, and consequentially sexual, slavery.
But after I left his office, I felt rather embarrassed about my reaction, and began to question my reluctance to call myself a feminist. I certainly had always openly supported the equal rights cause, getting into a heated debate in my first year with someone who deemed sexism to be an inconsequential social matter (and in fact several of my housemates whilst writing this article). If it wasn't the beliefs I was struggling to come round to, then, there was only one thing it could be - the label.
There is something terribly socially stigmatic about feminism that invokes images of bra-less, hairy armpitted women prancing around campfires in forests and denouncing the male species. But the reality of it all is that feminists are essentially me or you or anyone else with a shred of common sense who doesn't believe it's fair to pay women 70% of what men earn in the same jobs. I'd even go as far as to say, perhaps naively, that the majority of us are feminists, we're just scared to use the label.
Thankfully, slivers of gender equality hope have begun to slip through the mainstream, feminist hating cracks. This week, Stylist magazine started calling for #fairgame to start trending on Twitter in support of women's football. Having written an article for my student paper on how sportswomen are overlooked in favour of their male counterparts just months before, it's great to see this cause getting some acknowledgement on a wider platform.
I also wrote a blog for fun feminist site Vagenda Magazine decrying Miss Travel, a new dating project that allows young beauties to holiday with generous benefactors for free. Vagenda is a firm two fingered salute at the glossy mags that tell women what ornate shape to craft their pubic hair into, and celebrates the fact that women can be funny and sexy and all of the necessary adjectives and still care about women's rights.
What really might change perceptions would be for men's mags to follow suit. I appreciate a picture of a pair of knockers might be more interesting to certain readers, but I don't think it would hurt for more widespread inclusion of the witty pieces women are quite clearly capable of writing.
Something still needs to click for the general public that makes them realise that feminism isn't some kind of lost cause for ugly women who have been jilted by a million ex-boyfriends, but rather a simple idea that shouldn't be treated with the disdain it still is. I stumbled across a quote several years ago when reading Woolf's A Room of One's Own that, for me at least, encapsulates the very essence of being pro equal rights for women. Rebecca West wrote, "I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute." And I think that says it all.