A lot of positive changes have happened for women over the years. We are no longer regarded as nothing other than the wife to a man or the mother of a child. Women now have further educational, career and life choices they can make for themselves.
Women can choose to never marry or to not have children; women can define everything about their own lives in a way that they never could before. Women have more freedom and choice than ever before in history, though this is not true for all women and girls around the world. This is why feminism is needed and it is a strong and powerful movement.
Yet many people, even those in Hollywood who have influence, will claim that they want equality but that they are not feminists. The word is seen to have negative, combative connotations. Far from the image of the man-hating stereotype, what feminists actually want is equality of the sexes (I mean, do none of these people listen to Beyoncé?).
Women do not want to be more important than men in society; they just want to be represented as equal. Feminism needs to be taught to and learned by children, they need to grow up knowing that it means equality and that it is not a negative term. If more people identified as feminists in a positive way then the term may get the incredible recognition it deserves. On a positive note, there are many celebrities who are proud to announce their feminist status and spread the message to the world.
Beyoncé often incorporates her feminist messages into her music, apparent in the catchy hit ‘Run the World (Girls)’. Her song ‘Partition’ contains a verse entirely in French, part of which translates to ‘men think that feminists hate sex, but it’s a very stimulating and natural activity that women love’. In her song ‘Flawless’, Beyoncé samples parts of writer and novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk about feminism. The sample talks about how women should not be too ambitious or successful in case they threaten men, and ends with ‘We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes’. As one of the most popular musical artists of our generation, Beyoncé is a queen at spreading powerful feminist messages through her mainstream material.
Lena Dunham has always been a supporter of feminism, detailing this in the essays of her book ‘Not That Kind of Girl’ and her ‘Lenny Letter’ newsletter. She is the star, producer, director and writer of her own TV series, determined to be taken seriously in an industry run by men and has been incredibly successful in doing so. This is positive, as it means that young girls can look up to their idols and learn more about a term they may not have heard before.
Malala Yousafzai is an inspirational girl who opposed the Taliban by standing up for the right for girls to have an education and was ultimately shot for her activism. She won a Nobel Peace Prize for her campaigns to help promote education equality, and is incredibly brave to stand up for her cause and is an inspiration for women everywhere. Yet she recently admitted that until she heard Emma Watson’s UN Speech, she did not call herself a feminist, despite knowing that equality was everything that she stood for. This is an example of how awareness of a term can lead to it being embraced and used more readily.
The UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson recently launched a #HeForShe campaign which encourages men to support feminism. Many male celebrities such as John Legend, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe are openly male feminists, meaning that boys can learn that feminism is for men too. Encouraging men to help the feminist cause can make a real change, as a problem in history is that not enough men wanted to help women change society to make it equal. If both genders do not want the same thing for society then it is unlikely that the change can ever happen fully.
Other feminist hashtag campaigns that have taken place this year are #FreeTheNipple, which addresses the issue over men being able to display their nipples in public whilst women are punished for doing so. This protest encourages women to literally free their nipples to stop the unnecessary sexualisation of women’s bodies and the control and punishment of this sexuality. Women, and the society and world we live in, should be able to accept women’s bodies exactly the way they are.
#IWD2015 refers to International Women’s Day which takes place on the 8th March. This day celebrates all the achievements of women and the struggle they have been through to get to where we are today. It celebrates women throughout history who did great things, feminist icons and looks forward to a future where women can achieve even more.
For feminism to truly achieve what it aims to, for the world to be completely equal for men and women, then the word feminist and everything that it stands for need to be understood and supported. Women need to help women, we all need to stand together to try and make a change in the world.
If as many women and as many men can get on board with the cause and become proud to call themselves feminists then the movement can do so much more than it already has done. So join in with the positive hashtags, watch Emma Watson’s UN talks and Malala’s documentary, and listen to some Beyoncé (always great advice) and learn about what it truly means to be a feminist.
So much has already been done, and so much more can be done in the future. A lot could be done this year alone.
I cannot wait for #IWD2016.
Words by Ally Mclaren