We are defined by what we do. As a 22-year-old struggling graduate, that drifts between being unemployed and freelance opportunities it is a particularly uncertain time for me; it has been especially difficult to identify 'who I am'. However, I have always defined myself as a feminist, so I recently took the decision to become 'certified.'
I grew up with a deep-rooted sense of independence and the belief my gender has no limitations. I attended an all girls Secondary school that had a profound influence on my character, for the sake of avoiding any speculation, not all girls who attend single sex schools leave as feminists.I cannot pinpoint the moment I identified myself as a feminist or the exact moments that encouraged me to become one. Perhaps it was when I was a teenager and my boyfriend's fath er at the time was shocked at the fact I was a female who was unable to cook, or whether it was when a man masturbated in my direction on public transport, or finding out my friend had a similar experience, or when a young man shouted "suck my dick" in my face at a train station, or it could be the constant undermining and degradation I have experienced since I was a teenage girl. These experiences are not unique to me, and the overwhelming contribution to the Everyday Sexism project is evidence of this. Everyday Sexism catalogues gender based harassment experienced by women, submitted through the website or twitter. It aims to lift the taboo surrounding the sexual harassment and workplace sexism ordinary women face on a day-to-day basis.
So I am a feminist, because I believe women and girls should be respected and treated equally. I can speak to my peers about it, I can criticise radio presenters on twitter, and I can be included in the statistics of women who think feminism is still relevant; but so what? What affect is this having? It was through this recent revelation that I decided I would volunteer for women's organisations, write for feminist magazines, run workshops, sign petitions, start campaigns and apply for a Masters in Gender Studies.
I want to be part of a movement that encourages society to realise the importance of feminism, that it is not some dated 1970's radical movement by women who hate men and burn their bras; ironically I run a website dedicated to putting women in bras. Sexism is not just a women's issue; it is a social issue. Two women a week die in the UK from domestic violence, the organisation End Violence Against Women revealed one in three girls are 'groped' at school and sexual harassment is routine, and according to the organisation Stop Street Harassment, more than 80% of women worldwide will experience some form of street harassment in their lifetime. At the other end of these statistics are the men and boys who sexually harass and murder; contrary to popular belief, sexism is affecting both men and women both domestically and internationally.
In our education system feminism is resided to history books. ELLE magazine UK as part of their 'Rebranding Feminism' project, reported that only one in seven women identity themselves as feminists. We need to create a feminist community that is inclusive, and one where we are not going over the same debates and repetitive dialogues. I am of the understanding that my opinion may not reflect how some people feel feminism should be represented, due to the fact I run a lingerie website, or how I advocate sexualisation without mentioning censorship, but I believe my opinions also represents a part of my generation. It is because of this belief that I have taken the decision to work towards becoming a legitimate voice for contemporary feminism.
I am from the county in which the suffragette Emily Davison ran in front of the King's horse in 1913. Hundred years on and the activist and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez who fought to get a woman on the ten-pound note had to battle against a vicious online attack. Everyday women battled against sexism, and the ignorance towards feminism will only allow sexism to progress. To simply declare "I am a feminist" is not enough, I know many who would like to think it is, but we have to do more. We have to strive for change, for education, question the integration of sexism and tell your peers, whether male or female when they cross a line. I may have only taken my first steps towards making a change and you may think 'who is she?' to offer an opinion on this subject, well I am a feminist and I am defined by the changes I make.