When I was younger, I don't think I ever really stopped to reflect properly on female equality. I knew that it was something my mum would talk about frequently; I remember her being annoyed by gender specific children's clothes - pink for a girl, blue for a boy! - and not batting an eye when one of my brothers said he wanted to wear nail varnish at three years old. Although, this was just a phase and he soon returned to his daily Tom and Jerry TV binges not long after.
Yet how did I not fully notice female societal hindrances starting to slowly sprout around me even then? When my year one teacher asked everybody what they wanted for Christmas that year, I didn't think twice about raising my hand and confidently replying 'an Action Man' in my unusually husky voice. I just blinked as the tiny heads sitting in the desks in front swivelled back towards me slowly, staring in confusion. As I continued to veer away from the clothes and toys aimed at my sex throughout primary school, nothing about my rejection of this made me feel less 'womanly'. Even now, my love for oversized 'boyfriend' coats doesn't automatically transform me into a twenty-something male with a full beard and short back and sides.
I suppose I have forever felt then, that you can always, always be 'both'. This made the whole question of 'feminism' well, not really a question for me; I liked a lot of the things commercially aimed at men, and similarly knew many men who also liked a lot of 'female orientated' things, whatever that means. This, on top of having two awesomely open minded parents, meant that my answer to this was already buried somewhere innately within me; 'well, yes, aside from the obvious genitalia, we are all just people with thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes, passions and ambitions; we are the same.'
So it saddened me to come across this piece on social media last week. Entitled 'I Am Not A Feminist, And That Is Okay', I knew it would raise some tricky points for me to absorb, but I was curious as to how one could come to that conclusion. The article surmised that, whilst matters such as equal pay were important, the feminist agenda was ultimately too demanding. What followed were some highly concerning theories regarding a woman submitting to her husband, a man being the leading figurehead within the family and, sadly, an outright rejection of the same 'power' that men possess. The real tragedy here for me does not solely lay within these sentiments, but rather with the author's belief that motherhood/marriage and equal rights are mutually exclusive.
The rampant feminist label is one that women are all too familiar with and unfortunately for some, this view of us as bra burning, no-leg-shaving, dogmatic she-beasts still sticks. Whilst there are women who are more vocal than others about the feminist cause, it is regressive to categorise them as a separate female entity. A person who believes in true gender equality does not discriminate against any woman regarding her life choices. Feminism is about women having the same freedom men have, to have the choice to live whatever life they wish. To reiterate, you can always, always be both. And so, with this in mind, if and when a woman decides to marry and/or have children there should be no change in her plight for female independence.
If the article's arguments against this notion weren't bad enough, most women are already highly aware of the still prevalent societal pressures on their married and perhaps child laden counterparts. When my boyfriend's mother was raising him at home, tiring of the frequently asked questions regarding her career, she started to declare that she was a 'domestic manager'. This authoritative title, she said, soon shut people up. Just because a woman was born with the tools necessary for reproduction, does not mean she has to use them. Just as man born with higher testosterone levels does not have to immediately run to the nearest forest and begin chopping wood for his very 'manly' cabin he will begin to build later.
If we continue to subconsciously segregate like this amongst our genders, our future generation will most definitely suffer for it. If you believe in basic human rights, then you believe in feminism. Whether you are commuting daily for your demanding nine to five job, changing your newborn for the countless time that day or leading a march through Westminster, we are all part of the same movement. And it should no longer be an option for anyone to reject feminism. It is not a burden to bear, rather a duty we owe our suffragette ancestors before us; they did not tie themselves to railings for beliefs such as this to still be upheld.