In recent weeks there has been a spate of articles about how various places (Newcastle,Cambridge etc.) supposedly don't need feminism. As a feminist, it would be easy to throw a tantrum of bad break-up proportions; "FINE! If you tell me you don't need feminism then I'm here to tell you feminism doesn't need you!" However, of course, by its very nature as a movement for women's liberation, feminism does need every woman and I would argue, that every woman needs feminism. In the words of Beyonce, "gender equality is a myth". I often tell women who say they're not feminists to come back to me and say it again when they're being paid 75% of what their male classmates are. Just because you might not have experienced discrimination yet, doesn't mean it's not there.
Every time somebody tells me they're "not a feminist" I get a sinking feeling of disappointment in my stomach, followed by a strong desire to "turn" them. I guess this is what all the "men's rights" campaigners are afraid of; that feminissionaries are preaching and converting helpless -probably beautiful and sexually desirable- women to the dark side, thus preventing them from finding satisfaction in being treated as sexual objects, and taking up time that they would otherwise spend in the kitchen, making men sandwiches (hah!)
It's hard to hear. It's a bit like being a parent, who's made all the sacrifices so that their child can have the opportunities they didn't have, just to watch their apathetic teenager lie on the sofa all day, evidently waiting for a job, a house and a big, red sports car to fall into their lap. Just replace the parent with a feminist crusader and the job, house and car with gender equality.
This is not to say that I think women who reject feminism are immature or childlike; I've spoken to a lot of women who have clearly spent a great deal of time considering why they wouldn't call themselves feminists, and their concerns are valid ones which show the failure of the feminist movement to engage with all those they are supposed to represent. This is also not to say I think feminists are the wise parents; parents get it wrong all the time, and anybody who's tried to get a conference room full of feminists to agree on everything will know it is much like cycling through houmous- exhausting, and ultimately a waste of good snacks.
However, what I think these women don't always appreciate is that you do need feminism. Feminists and women's rights campaigners are out there, breaking down the barriers so that one day your daughters, and your daughters' daughters, will take it for granted that these barriers don't exist anymore. For instance, many of my women friends don't vote. I get angry with them and I shout "WHAT ABOUT EMMELINE PANKHURST? WHAT ABOUT EMILY DAVISON? DON'T YOU CARE THAT THE SUFFRAGETTES WERE ARRESTED, FORCE-FED AND EVEN DIED SO THAT YOU COULD WALK INTO THAT BALLOT BOX?" Most of the time I am met with a shrug, and some sort of mumbled promise to vote next time. You know what? That's fine. Feminists and women's rights campaigners should not be - and from my experience they are not - motivated by the need for recognition. At the same time, a little credit where credit is due would be nice.
What needs to happen, as with any dysfunctional family, is more conversation, and a bit less grumpy-teenager-grunting from both sides. Those women who identify as feminists need to avoid being dismissive of those who don't. It's time to realise that a lack of engagement is often to do with your failures, not theirs. To those women who don't identify as feminists, try to get where feminists are coming from. Feminism is supposed to be for the benefit of all women, yourselves included. Though there are undoubtedly many different experiences and needs to be addressed, it would be much better to have you as part of the conversation even if, as is the case in many families, we all ultimately decide to go our separate ways.