The beauty of feminism is that it operates as a constant conversation rather than a tight-fit ideology. For some, it matches the heartbeat of the unease they have always felt concerning the treatment of women. For others it is more of a process, culminating in the realisation that women are not treated equally to men. As neat and pleasing as it would be to offer a unified definition of feminism to which everyone adheres, it would also be misleading; there just isn't one. As such, I can only speak for my feminism: an exercise which I hope is helpful rather than self-indulgent.
To me, feminism is the belief that all human beings are created equal and that women are human beings. Anyone who signs up to this principle, realises that it is not currently in play and thinks there's something not right about that can count themselves a feminist.
As I've said, feminism comes as a revelation to some people. That is okay. Thinking things through is to be encouraged. Debate is to be encouraged. What is far worse than hesitancy is the line of thought which cheerfully retreats back into "but we're all equal now anyway, aren't we!" The lack of question mark is deliberate. These people do not ask, they assert. We're all equal now. So stop questioning. Sit down.
The belief that we don't need feminism requires the constant closing of eyes and ears to the attitudes that saturate our society. We live in a culture that treats the female body as something to be used by men. Enormous attention is given to the wrongs of Page 3, and rightly so, but the problem exists at the Saatchi & Saatchi end of visual culture as well. Any given advert will have a woman in her bra and pants wincing around the product with a face like she's just stood on a piece of Lego. It takes an astounding level of naivety to think that a teenage boy whose main contact with women is watching increasingly nasty, violent porn will be able to separate those degraded, passive women from his peers. What we normalise visually becomes normal in our thoughts and then our words and actions. Virtual reality poisons real life.
The normalisation of objectification is also in play at the level of language. As a culture we think "make me a sandwich" and rape jokes are sort of okay. We call high-jacking someone's Facebook account a "frape" without batting an eyelid. We call women sluts, bitches and whores when they step outside the boundaries of accepted social and sexual behaviour. These words propagate violence against women because if someone can be dismissed by a word then they can also be dismissed by the back of your hand. If women are reduced to the curves that they pour into their dresses then what they have to say becomes irrelevant. They exist only to be looked at. This is not harmless. We internalise that attitude and it starts to seep into our encounters with women. It boils down to the belief that "Men do. Women are."
This is a very basic approach to feminism. The problems facing women are complicated and we need to let them be complicated. However, it is these problems that will catch the minds of the everyman. They are why I am a feminist.
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