When I was about 17 years old, I was sitting with a group of friends watching some mindless television show where a character said jokingly, ‘We all have that crazy, feminist friend!’ All eyes in the room, boys and girls alike, turned to me and laughed. I can’t remember if I laughed with them. How strange it is to think back to that moment and consider that all the girls in that room went on to finish high school (some with particularly high HSC results) and are now pursuing careers in everything from media to medicine. As for the boys, they have never once expected anything less of us. Despite a joking debate of why boys are better than girls (and vice versa) none of us has ever truly believed that they are not equal to the other. It is likely that we will still not feel a real difference for another couple of years when we join the work force in pursuit of successful careers.
All eyes in the room, boys and girls alike, turned to me and laughed
I have been passionately considering and writing about feminism since I can remember. In primary school, when faced with an argument on which gender is better I replied: “I can wear skirts and shorts. I can wear pink and blue. I can play netball and soccer. I can grow a baby inside me. Can you?” Of course, the real answer to three out of four of those questions is probably YES. But at that age, with the boys I knew, it was a definite no. In defending my tormentor/s I was being a little sexist in my own way, but I think we can all agree that this is a deep-stemmed passion of mine (feminism, not sexism, just so we’re clear).
At high school, each year in English we were required to write and give a public speech. Every year, without realizing it, I wrote a feminist speech. Never did I say, unless jokingly, that women are better than men, I just passionately highlighted the wonderful, often overlooked, attributes that the female gender possessed.
One year I wrote about how wonderful men were and how, given the feminist waves, sometimes we neglected to recognize this. I am pro-humans, basically.
I am pro-humans, basically
Needless to say, it really grinds my gears when individuals blatantly belittle women as being less than men. Not to point fingers, but I’ve seen a pattern among the ageing, white-haired, male politicians in America who seem to believe that women are not as smart, not as strong, not as important, as they are. I would like to smack them in the face—I mean, I would like to politely ask them to provide evidence to suggest that women are not as capable as they are at being human. Much like I feel anger at those who believe that a certain shade of skin or sexuality seems to remove a person from the ‘human’ category.
So you could imagine my absolute shock upon reading Shailene Woodley’s comments earlier this year regarding the matter: “…I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance”
My dearest girl, I too love men and believe in balance. In fact, I love balance so much that I just looked it up in the thesaurus which told me that ‘equalize’ was its synonym. Just for fun, I Googled 'equalize' and it turns out that feminists (you know those crazy, lesbian man-haters?) aim to equalize the opportunities and success of all genders, therefore creating balance between them. I’m sorry, what was that you were you saying?
My dearest girl, I too love men and believe in balance.
Sarcasm aside, I do not mean to be negative. To quote one of my favourite feminists, Tina Fey, who once quoted some other feminist (just so many of those weirdos!) “There’s a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.” Or maybe that was Taylor Swift (ironically, another non-feminist-female) who said that? I don’t know. My point, and I do have one, is that I thought I would let you know what a feminist really is and why, despite what you think, you are one of them.
Feminism began when women grew tired of men speaking, thinking and deciding for them. Upon realizing their own strength, women spoke up for themselves and fought over years and through actual torture, to ensure that they were heard. When women found their voices, they then found independent thought and educated themselves, opening up opportunities that have lead to discoveries and contributions that changed the world socially, scientifically, environmentally etc. Their voices have since grown louder, despite the constant threat of being drowned out by their deeper counterparts. Today, it is perhaps the loudest they have ever been because basically, everyone in the western world (other than those creepy politicians discussed above) have joined them, are acknowledging them as, oh I don’t know, independent human beings? If you think about it, the history of women portrays what some might call a social divergence (my puns will never cease to entertain me).
Today, it is perhaps the loudest they have ever been
It is to your own downfall that, at the time of that interview, you were not aware of the definition of a feminist. Given the frenzy that the internet went into afterwards, I am confident that you now have a better understanding that without feminism, your movie roles would be made up of silly, giggling girls who swoon for the handsome hero, as opposed to the strong, heroine who holds her own.
Please don’t let your pride get in the way of correcting your misunderstanding of the ‘F Word’. You are not alone in shying away from the word. My suggestion is that perhaps as we ride this third wave of feminism (oh yes, it is happening) that we label it something else. If it is the connotations to the word that you fear, perhaps referring to it as ‘equalism’ or ‘common-sensism’, would get you, and other young women who are too detached from the reality of our history, on board. There is a place for women in this world, there is a place for feminists, and that place is standing side-by-side our men. As fucking equals.
This article was first published in 2016 and originally appeared in Orenda 3.