It’s the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day today! I’m feeling a bit emotional about it. In fact, I think I might like International Women’s Day more than I like Christmas day.
The women and girls of my generation often enjoy the achievements of feminism without really giving any credit to the women who fought for it. There are those who actively reject feminists of old, and those who tell me feminism is no longer relevant. They’re wrong.
I wrote this for IWD 2010 in the midst of my feminist awakening. Up until then I’d felt something strange was going on, sensed some injustice, but the concept of feminism was completely alien to me. The closest I’d ever come to it was girl power- false empowerment wrapped up in a capitalist bow.
It’s funny that just a year ago I was only vaguely dipping my toes into the ocean of activism that I soon discovered exists. Feminism is such a huge part of my life now that I couldn’t imagine me without it.
So, I’m going to dedicate this post to saying thanks to feminism.
Thanks, feminism- if it wasn’t for feminism, I wouldn’t be at university.
Thank you, first wave feminists, for fighting for my right to vote.
Thank you, second wave feminists, for freeing my generation from that restrictive, singular career choice of wife and mother. Thanks to feminism I am not consigned to a life of domesticity. And If I chose to be, that would be ok, because it would be my informed choice, not one thrust upon me.
If I choose to get married and my husband views my body as his instead of mine, I can report him to the police. Thanks for that, feminism.
Thank you feminism for fighting for me and every other little girl of my generation to have options past fulfilling and supporting men. Thanks for letting me know that it’s ok to be my own person and have my own dreams, that I don’t have to consign my life to the male gaze, and that marriage isn’t my only destiny. Thanks for assuring me that I can have and own sexual feelings without having to feel dirty or wrong.
Thank you feminism, for handing me control over my own uterus.
Thanks feminism, and your consequential activism, for introducing me to some rather awesome people this year.
Thanks to feminism I’m a lucky, lucky girl. When I speak to older feminists I hear horrific stories of blatant and overt discrimination, 20, 30, 40 years ago, based entirely on their gender, and for black feminists, also their race. It makes me sad. It makes me angry. But just because that misogyny isn’t as overt today (sweeping generalisation, it often is, and is disguised as ‘banter’ or justified with blind and dogged misogyny) doesn’t mean it’s disappeared. Misogyny is clever, it’s sophisticated and manipulative. Misogyny is in those images of impossible ideals marketed to young women that eventually makes impressionable minds ill. It’s in that anti-wrinkle cream that promises eternal youth and advocates that warped message that older women are no longer sexually attractive and therefore invisible. It lingers upon page three of The Sun and in those lads mags that make you feel uncomfortable when you pop into your local newsagents. It’s rife in porn, which seems to be serving increasingly as sex education and somehow dictating just how far women’s bodies can be brutalised, and just how much men can do to them.
So I’m eternally grateful to the feminists and womanists and women-who-didn’t-define-as-feminists-but-still-fought-for-equality of the past. I’m a 21 year old woman enjoying the achievements of their efforts, but despite this I still understand that there’s work to be done. Because as long as women’s bodies are still seen as public space, still used as insults, still used as a synonym for weak and pathetic, as long as women are beaten by their husbands; and as long as women and girls across the globe are denied access to education, equal pay or just any work at all, as long as governments see fit to control women’s bodies, and as long as women are bought and sold in the name of objectification, as long as women’s genitals are sliced and stitched and mutilated for fake notions of chastity; as long as women have to suffer sexual shame, as long as single mothers are blamed for the ills of society, as long as a woman’s work is never done, and as long as women and girls are blamed for sexual assault and rape, as long as women internationally are confined to lives of domesticity and servitude, as long as women’s bodies are oiled up and dissected in music videos, as long as the female form is used to sell things, and as long as women are seen as subordinate to men;
That’s how long I’ll keep fighting the feminist cause. Solidarity.