I can never pin down the exact moment that I started identifying with feminism. I remember hearing about it as a young girl and not really understanding what the fuss was about. But as I grew up and started to wonder why my friends and I were being catcalled by men in the street and or why I would rarely see that many women playing sport on the TV - it suddenly became clearer to me.
For me, the concept is so simple. And the fact that I know some women who choose not to identify with it baffles me. It’s equality. That’s literally it. It’s not a selfish request; it’s a human right. I think the problem is that many women are familiar with the societal disadvantages imposed upon them, but have become so accustomed to them that they don’t see the point in fighting anymore. And to me that acceptance is really sad.
It’s likely that I won’t make the same amount of money when I’m older as a man doing the exact same job as me, and it angers me, because there is no viable excuse. The fact that in many sexual assault cases, the victim’s clothing and sobriety is questioned, as if it’s an excuse, is disgusting.
But aside from fighting for equality, for me feminism has so much more to offer. Feminism brings with it a sense of empowerment or ‘girl power’. There’s a sense of joy and familiarity in relating to women, whether you know them or not, and bonding over something as simple as a period. Women often do just have a bond. It’s not that men can’t be a part of the movement, it’s just that we can relate to each other on a struggle to struggle level.
The most involvement I have had as an active feminist was going on the Women’s March in London earlier this year. I’d never actually spoken to somebody of political authority or heard what he or she had to say, which is why, when Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, came to talk at a conference at my school, Streatham & Clapham High School GDST, I was so interested to hear what she had to say. I was used to politicians addressing the issue of gender inequality and branding it as something important, saying changes had to be made, and then not really doing anything significant. So I thought the leader with the word ‘women’ in the title of her party might have something more worthwhile to offer.
I’ll admit I was expecting an overwhelming amount of statistics about the gender pay gap; which, while important, often fails to resonate with a younger audience. But we were met with exactly the opposite. Sophie’s confidence in confronting the system was what impressed me the most. Within the first five minutes of her speaking, she stood up and said that the world was designed for men, which is a truth that a lot of older women in power will fail to outright tell younger women.
She started with the bigger picture, which is what young women usually hear in formal talks about feminism, and it all seems quite intimidating. But then surprised me by addressing very small and seemingly insignificant issues, many of which most speakers fail to realise are really what relates to a younger audience. She talked about the fact that there is not an effective painkiller for period pain, something that I have a monthly struggle with, and which nobody but my mum had ever said to me. An issue that I felt for years was a problem with me, was suddenly being addressed on a much larger scale, and it became clear to me that this was something that I shouldn’t be so afraid of talking about casually.
Her boldness in labelling feminism as a ‘civil rights movement’ was the key point in the speech for me. She had no shame in calling out the system; she even seemed angry, which is something that I can relate to. It truly was the most engaging and empowering speech about women I had ever heard, and that was largely just down to Sophie’s honesty. She made no attempt to shy away from the truth, even if she did have to say vagina in front of a crowd of male teachers.
I was extremely impressed to hear Sophie address the issue of intersectional feminism, which is where I think the future of feminism lies. It’s important to understand that women of colour, women of the LGBTQ+ community, disabled women, poorer women, and other minorities face more of a struggle than those of us who are privileged. It is vital to use whatever advantage you have to come together as a movement and for the better of the entire community. Yes, we are all in this together, but women of colour and LGBTQ+ women face more prejudice, and that is something that all women should listen to more and not shy away from. Once everybody is empowered and working together, then the movement really will be unstoppable.
The highlight of my day was talking to Sophie, who to my delight was just as eager to talk to my friends and me. She immediately told us to join the party, showing us how directly involved we could no matter who we are. Sophie, without even knowing who I was, was able to relate to me on a level that most women I know in my life never could.