I don't know what connotations the word brings to your head, but to me, it brings forth only one. A person, not a woman, but a person, who is a believer that there should be the social, economic and political equality of the sexes. Apparently, said person will strive to live their life in such a way that calls and fights for this equality in everything that they do. Sounds nice doesn't it?
It's pretty straightforward. So unless you identify as a sexist, everyone should be a feminist. Or so it would seem.
So why do people, who don't identify as sexists, have a strong reluctance to identify as a feminist? Many women across the world in fact refuse to identify as feminists. They sometimes take to twitter with oddly edited photos of themselves holding up little pieces of paper explaining why they don't believe in equal rights for men and women. These 'protest placards' have appeared with varying motifs. They range to expressing a love for men holding doors open, and strange anecdotes of why they, as women, actually ENJOY 'being in the kitchen'. Because if you weren't already aware, women live in kitchens. It is universal knowledge that all women EVERYWHERE, just LOVE kitchens. Unless you are a feminist, in which case you're actually allergic to kitchens. I once went to IKEA with my mum to look at sofas. As I was admiring the plant pots and other manly items, I accidentally wandered into the kitchen section, and immediately collapsed. One look at a spatula and my body was reduced to a withered shell covered in exploding pustules. It was awful... The worst bit was that a male assistant tried to help me up. At this point out of fear that I would be shot by Emma Watson for even looking at a Y chromosome, I took the difficult decision to swallow my cyanide capsule. (All feminists carry a cyanide capsule in case a man touches them.) (Or they get locked in a kitchen). Except it was in fact just a green fruit pastel and he ended up having to perform the heimlich manoeuvre on me in front of about 60 people. It was a bad afternoon.
Anyway, back to my point about anti-feminist placards... I remember coming across one lady in particular who had stated she was not a feminist, because she in fact "liked taking care of her husband"... Two weeks later I had to explain to my landlord why there was a head shaped dent in my wall.
The 21st century is a weird place for women in the UK. We're some of the most liberal women in the world. I mean liberal in the sense that we're allowed to drive and vote, and not expected just to push out thousands of children all whilst cooking a lamb hotpot at the same time. But head to your local newsagents and I guarantee you will see at least 3 pairs of tits on the shelf. No, not page 3, I am of course talking about the cover of top gear magazine. Log on to any form of social media, and there will be some prime sexism to feast your eyes on. Our own prime minister refused to say he was a feminist. Even though the Canadian prime minister didn't just say he was a feminist, he actually set fire to his girlfriend's (Yes you heard right. Girlfriend. He doesn't believe in marriage.) bra in front of his entire parliament (which is coincidentally 50% female) and waved it around in nothing but a pair of dungarees whilst clutching a copy of Caitlin Moran's 'How to be a Woman' to his chest.
But seriously, these gargantuan, round, smooth looking, perfect nipple owning tits to me, are a metaphor for casual sexism. They epitomise it. However much you try to avoid it, it's still there, lurking, waiting to jump on you as you attempt to buy a pint of milk. Even if you can avoid it for that occasion, as soon as you step outside, they're everywhere. Plastered on adverts, replicated in the clothes you try and fail to fit into to. Because you don't have the waist of a six year old and the bust of Pamela Anderson. Some ladies even own a pair themselves, and will thrust them upon you at every opportunity as if to say "LOOK HOW MUCH BETTER I AM THAN YOU. LOOK HOW MANY PERVY MEN ARE LEERING AT ME... oh." Well at least I hope that's the realisation they come to. But sadly it is rarely the case. "But what relevance does this have for feminists in the UK?" you may ask. Or "I really don't see how a well rounded pair of boobs is restricting me and my rights as a lady?". Well, it's a complex one. So hear me out. As UK feminists, we might not be fighting the direct effects of FGM, or child marriage, but we are still battling a patriarchal system that is intent on oppressing women. Even through the use of tits. Our own bloody breasts are being used against us to oppress us! Nobody can hold my breasts against me! Not even you, IKEA sales assistant! Literally or metaphorically. People are telling you your mammary glands need to look a certain way in order to be attractive to men. Which is odd as last time I checked boobs were made to feed small babies. And be entertaining in the shower. But whatever you're into... When I see young women in the UK basically saying that there is NO NEED for feminism any more, I want to scoop my eyes out with a rusty spoon. The need for feminists in the UK is still as pressing as it was in 1968 when us feminists were burning bras. (This is why people think we're bra burners by the way. Because on ONE protest some women threatened to burn their bras. But that's typical isn't it. You do a load of important stuff like win women the vote or stop them getting sacked for getting pregnant and all you get credit for is burning a bra. The worst bit is that they didn't even get to burn their bras. They ended up binning them. But 'Bra Binners' just doesn't have quite the same ring to it though, does it?)
As a 19 year old, I get a mixed bag of reactions when I proclaim my feminist ways. Women my age usually have one of two reactions. The first, is a slightly awkward look followed by "oh right, so what does that actually mean then?" . Then when I proceed to explain, I see her running, screaming into the kitchen about how I don't shave my armpits. I would follow her, and prove that I do shave my armpits, but she's in the kitchen, obviously, and we all know I can't go in there. Plus that would also be a bit weird. Me charging into a kitchen waving my hairless armpits around like some kind of pissed up Boudecia in a Veet advert. Even if I wasn't allergic to kitchens, Emmeline Pankhurst would probably resurrect herself in front of the doorway and strike me down on the spot... Fucking feminists.
The other reaction is usually far less exciting. It consists of a nod in agreement and is swiftly followed by a discussion about Bridget Christie's 'A Bic for her' or the tampon tax. These women usually end up being my mates. So it's all rather pleasant. But the latter encounter always leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth.
There is a serious issue with young women in the UK being fearful of the term 'feminist'. Whether it's not wanting to identify as a feminist out of the fear of rejection by men (if you're straight that is) or being fearful of feminists in general, ladies my age just don't want the label. Like last season's mini skirt/thong, it's spoilt goods. There is a sense that women retreat to the 'safety' of men by rejecting feminism in order to make themselves more appealing to men. It's an odd concept to grasp. Essentially they would rather join the men in their bashing of women, in order to not get bashed themselves. That's how I view those women, who do the 'I'm not a feminist' thing on twitter. Instead of tackling the ideology that makes them fear rejection by men, they go and join it. They try and take down feminists in order to get the man's attention like "Look at me! I'm humiliating women as well! (Pleasehavesexwithme)". It's not nice to feel like i'm reducing these women to only be interested in the sexual affections of men, because of course they are so much more than that, but more often than not, it is the case. These are the kind of women that write in magazines about why men will/won't fancy you if you wear this mascara/push up bra/new pair of tits and eyebrows from your surgeon. The kind of women that won't laugh at your joke or in fact acknowledge your presence, but when the man next to them tells it again a minute later, they'll laugh hysterically and flutter their eyelids. Those kinds of girls even, when you are the ripe old age of 11, mock you so mercilessly in front of a group of boys for having hairy legs, you spend the whole night in tears trying to trim them with your mums nail scissors and end up slicing your skin. So whilst it is a quite funny memory, the scar runs a bit deeper than my left calf, and the feeling is still with me nearly 10 years later. It's the same feeling I got when a girl asked if the modelling shoot I was doing was for 'bigger girls' because I am a size 10. Or the feeling I got when somebody sexually assaulted me in a nightclub then called me a slut when I confronted him. It's all the same ideology. Big or small. These feelings are amongst thousands of young women. This is what I take issue with. Apart from being plain irritating and unnecessarily cruel, it's irreversibly damaging. Women like this will smugly state why they are not feminists, but in my experience, they're nearly always only ever doing it because they're scared men won't fancy them any more. Especially if they start reading Mary Wollstonecroft and wearing doc martens. Or you know, demanding equal pay.
To be fair to them it's psychological. Women have been socially conditioned to strive for the affections of men for thousands of years. We are even encouraged to take down other women in the contest for said affection. Ever heard of Beauty Pageants? Whether that's physically or emotionally. And in the case of America's next top model, both. Either way, it hurts like a bitch. It also leaves consequences, like girls who are forever marred with the idea that they aren't good enough for men, and sadly, this is mostly enforced by other women. For a long time, most of the stuff I did was to impress men. Then I had an epiphany and realised that I couldn't give a fuck any more.
It was a good day for me.
By the way please don't think that as a feminist, I am only spending my time ranting about other women. Because I rant about lots of things, like the price of tampons and stuff. I just think this is an important issue that needs addressing.
The world needs feminists granted. But the UK is desperate for them. Young women should not be afraid to stand up for their rights out of fear they will be labelled as a hairy armpit owning, bra burning lesbian. Although, let me make it clear it is absolutely fine to be any of those three things. Especially all at the same time (shout out to my mother). We should be able to live in a world where men will still find you attractive even if you are a champion of your sex. These men do exist, and the only way to eradicate the other type is to simply NOT HAVE SEX WITH THEM. The best way to stop these kind of men from perpetuating this ideal is to stop interacting with them! If a man tells you you're not worthy of his below average size penis because you happen to support women's rights then do both yourselves a favour and TELL HIM TO FUCK OFF. Imagine if every woman in the world, instead of rejecting feminism, rejected sexism instead. Don't be the one who is rejected, BE THE REJECTOR. TAKE CHARGE! I promise you, if a man decides he doesn't want you because you stick up for yourself then it is not your loss. Ideas die out girls. So will sexists. Yet it's the feminists who are dying out, and over what, might I ask? The fear of some jumped up prick not finding your vagina clean shaven enough? I don't think so girls, we're better than that. Your vagina is better than that.
I'm not saying that you have to be a feminist. (Although I really would like you to be). At the end of the day, it is a personal choice. But perhaps think about your real motives for not being a feminist. The day women truly join together, and fight together, is the day a sexists' opinion will no longer matter. The day you stop caring what a sexist thinks, is the day their opinion no longer matters. People can think what they want about you. The only person that should be affecting your decisions about yourself is you. Which is why nobody is going to force you to be a feminist. But I guarantee somewhere out there, someone will force you to live by some sexists rule, one way or the other... And no matter how many twitter placard lady bashing photos you post, that isn't going to change.
Ladies. There is no better time to throw away your brazillian wax strips, wonderbra and copy of the daily mail. In fact better still. Set your wonderbra on fire. You know you want to.
I, the women of the world, and your lighter are waiting...