The F Word

When I tell people that I’m a feminist, I know that an image has already formed in their minds; a macho, probably lesbian, psyco bitch who likes to complain a lot, who has really short hair, wears pants, and who probably doesn’t shave her legs… ever. This article is here to educate you on what it means to be a feminist. I know most people just turn off whenever anyone mentions the ‘f’ word. Right now, I bet you feel like you know exactly what this article is all about… women deserve better, women are underrepresented in the workplace, women are still underpaid blah blah blah. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. But the thing is, women ARE still underpaid, women ARE still underrepresented in high profile positions, and women DO deserve better. Did you know that women who graduate from university are getting 3% less pay on average in comparison to men with the same degree, and that this data is relevant for 2010? The truth is I can throw as many statistics at you as I like, but I’d prefer to cut to the chase. Women still have a problem on their hands, and it’s not going to go away just by talking about the extent of the issue; we need to discuss how we’re going to tackle it.

My school house motto was ‘deeds, not words’. A very noble phrase that needs to be applied in the area of women’s rights in order for us to move forward. It is my personal belief is that if every woman on this world was a feminist, we wouldn’t have a problem. Men aren’t alone in being sexist; many a women have let their fellow females down, probably without even realising it. The supposed ‘inferiority’ of women is a deep, dark scar on human evolution. There has been no evidence of any culture at any point in human development where women have reigned socially or politically over men in a generalised way. But there’s always a first for everything, right? Not that feminists are looking for a world where women are superior to men necessarily, but it is a fundamental goal for feminism that women have respect for what they are.

Now to a big question that needs to be answered – what is a feminist? There are many alternative definitions, but the one that most applies to my own agenda is: someone who advocates social, political and all other rights of women equal to those of men. What does a feminist look like? A feminist can be anyone, male or female. Feminists come in all shapes and sizes and cannot be characterised exclusively by any particular characteristics. Take me for example. I like to wear my workout gear, I like to wear hoodies, and I like to wear high heels; although, probably not all at the same time. I like to paint my nails cool colours, and I can tell you now that I shave my legs on a routine basis. Yet, the next feminist could be more into ballet flats and cute summer dresses, or trainers and t-shirts. Being a feminist is about believing in the freedom for women to be whatever they want to be, and for people to respect all women for what they are, for whatever that may be. Confusing? Yep. As a woman, I should be able to dress in and do whatever I like without criticism or even a second thought from anyone else. We need to stop the dualism of characteristics we apply to men and women. In fact, ‘men’ and ‘women’ themselves are considered opposites of each other. Why? Why have men traditionally been considered stronger and more able than women? Personally, I know I have always been stronger than any man I’ve ever dated; both physically and emotionally. But perhaps that is more due to my own bad taste.

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.

– Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler

Feminism needs to spread from being radical to being the social norm. Feminism still has a very important role in today’s society, and defining the idea as ‘radical’ just shows how much further there is to go. I find I am quite comfortable talking about feminist issues with friends and relatives, but I rarely raise these issues with those of the male persuasion. Whenever I attend UQ Women’s Collective meetings (every Wednesday in the UQ Womens Room at 1pm by the way – mark the date) I’ve found that this trend seems to follow with my peers. We need to broaden our horizons. We should discuss feminism among all audiences, it shouldn’t be considered a taboo topic of conversation. Not everyone in the world is going to be female, nor is everyone in the world necessarily going to be a feminist. In order to get the ball rolling, we need to arrange a set of achievable and clear goals. I think the most important social goal for me is to achieve uniform respect for women across all sexes, all ages and all cultures. Feminism is relevant in all areas of society and should not be constrained just to those who choose not to shave their legs. The ‘f’ word; a profanity, an idea, a revolution.

Spread the word.

An opiniated article by Izzy Manfield.