Is feminism a dirty word?

It’s International Women’s Day on March 8th. With this in mind, perhaps it’s important to address the taboo of feminism amongst our generation. Why are so many young people reluctant to declare themselves as feminists? You’d think it would be common place in this day and age, given the extensive protests, essays, literature and general awareness we’ve witnessed from feminist movements over the past 100 years. But there’s a stereotype surrounding the word- one that conjures up images of angry, man hating, bra burning, dungaree clad women with hairy armpits. Singer-songwriter Marina Diamandis, also known as Marina and The Diamonds, summed it up when she recently tweeted:

“I like how women wrinkle their noses when asked ‘Would you call yourself a feminist?’…
It’s more fashionable to be sexually empowered than “intellectually” empowered, it seems.”

It could be said that the feminist battle has already been won. Women have the right to a university education, access to high power jobs, the right to vote… the list goes on. But it would be absurd to suggest women and men are now equal. What isn’t absurd is to suggest that we still live in a patriarchal society. A society where young women are indoctrinated with digitally enhanced and airbrushed celebrities, told they’re not good enough, and advised to spend as much money as possible to achieve perfection. A society that finds its young women overtly sexualised from an uncomfortably young age, and judged, first and foremost, on their physical appearance. If that’s not patriarchal, I don’t know what is.  A government funded report recently attracted a lot of attention from the press, earning comments from Gordon Brown and David Cameron. Both agreed that the sexualisation of children must stop. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that this immense peer pressure on girls and women to look attractive in order to gain approval from their peers is down to the constant, aggressive barrage of images we’re all subjected to through popular culture- in particular, the celebrities we admire. Sure, these celebs are very talented, but looking perfect is top of their list of priorities. The unobtainable look has become the norm, and any female in the industry slightly left of beautiful is an anomalous phenomenon. Susan Boyle proves this.

Take a step back and asses the situation. What’s happened to common sense? As children we were warned never to judge a book by its cover. Good looks do not equal a good person. When did beauty become an accurate measure of self worth?

In a lot of ways, this is a boring, tired old argument, one that’s been debated time and time again. But doesn’t the fact that the issue won’t go away confirm how big a problem it is? Feminism has always been about empowering and equipping females with the opportunities and education to better themselves.

In reality, there is no stereotype that can define a feminist. Feminists definitely aren’t ‘anti man’. If you believe in equality, you believe in feminism. It’s as simple as that.

For more information, visit www.thefword.org.uk or http://www.internationalwomensday.com/

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