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Lucy Sherriff Headshot

It's a Man's World

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As much as I hate to admit, this is still a man's world. But I don't think feminism is going to change it.

Mention the f-word to many men, and indeed a fair few females, and watch their eyes roll. It's no longer a dirty word, it's the punchline of a joke.

That's not to say women are taken as a joke, I don't think we are. I simply happen to think the bra-burning image has stuck to feminism and won't be shaken off. Try as they might, the self-proclaimed feminists who march, or shout rallying cries to fellow women to fight for their rights, just aren't taken seriously.

Even Emmeline Pankhurst's great-granddaughter couldn't rally more than a 500-word piece on page five in the Evening Standard. And considering she's supposed to be fighting for half the British population, that's really not something to write home about.

If I'm honest, I don't take feminists seriously. Unfortunately I feel these protests don't do much for women. Certainly, they create a sense of solidarity among those who take part, but beneficial? I'm not so sure.

I wonder how many men read the Everyday Sexism project? Yes, it highlights the atrocious way women are treated by men, but highlights to who? I think, rightly or wrongly, it is more a vehicle to reassure ourselves we're not alone in being treated this way, rather than propelling a momentum for change.

Unfortunately I have had more than my fair share of unpleasant experiences with men, and I know for a fact politics won't, and can't, change this. Nearly every time I venture on a night out I am groped by a leering male. I don't think this is sexism. I think it's rude, immature males who don't know how to behave around women. I have also done my bit towards trying to end this sort of behaviour; getting the horrendous "rape isn't rape if you shout 'surprise'" UniLad magazine suspended for one.

But if we class this sort of behaviour as sexism, then surely we are diminishing what sexism actually is? Surely would have to say sexism didn't exist among the Victorian upper classes, where a woman's integrity was a thing to be cherished and treated with respect?

I was asked recently what I did. After I replied I was a journalist, the man retorted with a sneer: "Oh, so you're one of those feminists then."

I don't like being called a feminist. I'm a woman. That's it. Just because I believe women should be equal doesn't mean I want to pick up a placard and protest. In fact, I'm not alone. I hadn't ever considered whether I was or wasn't a feminist until an English Literature lecture in my second year of university. My (female, feminist) lecturer asked the 200-strong, mostly-female audience to raise their hands if they considered themselves a feminist. Two people did: the lecturer, and the annoying in-your-face feminist student.

If that many young women didn't think they were feminists, why is this label always forced upon us? I'm told by other women: "Do you think we should have the vote? Then you're a feminist."

But honestly? Ditch the f-word. It's not doing us any favours.

Nor is alienating ourselves from men, which is only what these feminist protests seem to do.

We need to stop calling for action to limit the impact of austerity measures on women (yes you, Helen Pankhurst), and start calling for action to limit the impact of austerity measures on everyone.

Yes, it's statistically "wrong" only a quarter of women are MPs. But the public elect MPs. It's our choice to elect men over women. And yes, I don't like women in the boardroom are few and far between. So fight for it. Stop saying there's obstacles in the way, because even if there's just one woman in that boardroom, she has shown us it can be done.

But more importantly, feminists need to stop saying they're speaking for women. You're not, you're speaking for yourselves. We don't all agree with you.

I'm certainly not denying the importance of the suffragette movement but times have changed and so should we.

And, before anyone asks, I'm not speaking for you either, I'm speaking for myself. Because I want to. And, more importantly, because I can. And that's what I think being a woman is about.

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