The F-Word

There are a lot of things that confuse me in this world – the popularity of Crocs, people who think UKIP have intelligent and well thought-out policies, and defenders of the Second Amendment, to name just a few – but one of the things which makes no sense to me at all is the cultural condemnation of the feminist movement.

I’m a feminist. And if you read that and rolled your eyes, or your cursor drifted over to that little ‘x’ at the top of your screen, then I have a question for you: do you actually know what feminism is? I understand that there might be some confusion over the definition, but a simple Google search could have told you all you needed to know.

In the interests of saving time, though, let me lay it out for you:

According to Merriam-Webster, feminism simply means “the theory of the political, social and economic equality of the sexes.” Not explicit enough? Then let’s try the Oxford English Dictionary – “[feminism is the] advocacy of equality of the sexes and the establishment of the political, social, and economic rights of the female sex; the movement associated with this.” 

Now, you wouldn’t think that this is a particularly revolutionary theory.

And yet.

This week alone, Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist particularly know for speaking out against misogyny in video games, was forced to cancel a lecture she had planned to give at Utah State University, after someone claiming to be an USU student sent an email threatening the “deadliest school shooting in American history” if she spoke. This is far from the first violent threat Sarkeesian has received, but it is the first one that has prevented her from doing what she does – namely, promoting feminism. The author of the email wrote “feminists have ruined my life, and I will have my revenge” – an eerily similar sentiment to that expressed by Elliot Rodger before he went on his spree in California, killing six people.

What is it, then, that makes feminism so hard-to-swallow in our society? Patriarchy. The fact is, we live in a world in which men – largely rich, white men – dominate practically every level of society, from the familial to the political. Across the globe, the default face of humanity is male, despite the fact that women make up half the population. In the Houses of Parliament in this country, less than 25% of the MPs are women. In America’s congress, it’s even less – under 20%. The thing is, it is in the best interests of a capitalist patriarchy like ours to perpetuate itself by defaming any ideology challenges it – socialism, feminism, you name it.

Patriarchy is a political system that perpetuates acts of violence against women on a daily basis; rape, murder, abuse, whichever – living as a woman in a global patriarchy, there is a 30% chance that you will suffer sexual or physical violence from a male partner, according to a WHO study last year. But it’s not just women who suffer under patriarchy – as Emma Watson said in her UN speech the other week, “men don’t have the benefits of equality, either.”

The values that patriarchy enforces are harmful to everybody, regardless of gender. Masculinity is just as harmful a stereotype as femininity, it just acts in different ways. When we talk about feminism, men like to bring up the fact that there are cases of male rape and domestic abuse, too, but what they don’t realise is that feminists, by trying to dismantle the patriarchy, are attempting to combat that. Likewise, when discussions of child custody arise, or when young boys are bullied for not being ‘manly’ enough, it is patriarchy which is overwhelmingly at fault.

This is an article which could go on for pages and pages, but I think I’ve said what I needed to. All that remains now is the question of whether or not we as a society can, in good conscience, continue to support such a backwards and damaging system.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

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