A couple of years ago, Vini asked if I was a feminist. At the time, I hadn't even asked the question of myself, and so was a little taken aback by it - because it forced me to think, and consider my views on the topic, and how I wanted to label myself. It's a question that forced be to define my beliefs, and it's something I've been thinking about ever since. (I'm sure Vini thought it was a harmless question I already had the answer to, considering the strong views I voiced in the aforementioned blog post, but really it's a question I've been mulling over for two years now!)
Honestly? I was reluctant to call myself a feminist, I felt it was extreme and not a set of beliefs I fully subscribed to - because, let's face it, at that stage I was woefully ignornant of what it meant to be a feminist. I knew only the grossly exaggerated and misinterpreted media stereotypes, and Bitch magazine had lead me to believe that to the feminist criteria was: lesbian, man-hating, alternative, mainstream-rejecting, (now I love Bitch magazine and continue to read it out of interest, but damn if they're not extreme feminists!) and outspoken. Mainly though I lacked the confidence to declare myself a feminist.
But over time, as I read The First Stone, by Helen Garner, and talked more with my friends from college - N, E and S - not to mention my wonderful (and delightfully opinionated) TAD/OT friend G (whose knowledge of everything inspires equal parts awe and envy - our dinner dates often descend into passionate raging against the patriarchy, Republicans and Tony Abbott), and watched Made in Dagenham, and started seeing debates on whether there should be quotas for women on corporate boards, I realised that dammit, I am a feminist, and proud of it (really, you might as guessed as much from this post. I'm very subtle about it).
Scratch most feminists and underneath there is a woman who longs to be a sex object. The difference is that is not all she wants to be.- Betty Rollin
As the comic above so wittily depicts, being a feminst does not mean you hate men; it means you're pro-women. It means you believe that women are equal to men, and should therefore receive the same rights. By this simple definition, more women are feminists than they may think because - as I alluded to two years ago - the image of a feminist has been horribly transfigured to the point of scaring women aware from the label rather than embracing it, creating infuriating, inaccurate, frustrating, extremist, fear-mongering but no doubt influential and iconic characteristics like this:
I listen to feminist and all these radical gals - most of them are failures. They've blown it. Some of them have married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them wheat time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they're made at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men - that's their problem.Jerry Falwell
[Feminism is] a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.Pat Robertson
OK, yes, admittedly these are two of the most radical anti-feminist men I could find but you see my point: feminists became the butt of all jokes in society about man-hating lesbians.
I had a discussion with A about this last year, in which I declared myself a feminist, and she said she wouldn't, because she didn't think she needed it; she didn't the rights of women needed to be advanced further, and she felt we'd reached a fairly equal point in society. Granted, we've come a long way, but I will not be satisfied until women earn the same as men (I believe they currently only earn about 75% to the dollar of what a man earns); until there are as many women on corporate boards as there are men; until they allow women to fight on the front line (and I'm happy for them to have to meet the same requirements as men); until rape is an issue that blames and condemns the culprit, not the victim; until forced prostitution is a thing of the past; until girls around the world are recognised for the power and value they can contribute to society. "How good does a female athlete have to be before we just call her an athlete?"
After all, "feminism is the radical notion that women are people" - Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler.