Today is November 10th and it’s Equal Pay Day. Which means on average with the gender pay gap, most women will be working for free from this date until the end of the year. So, it felt particularly fitting to write this post today. Now, before you roll your eyes and sigh, don’t. And read on. Because feminism is so often misconstrued and it’s time for those that don’t fully understand it, or have a stereotype in their head to be educated. So, here are the top 10 things I learnt along my feminism journey:
1. Feminism is about equality, not female superiority
Too often people assume that feminists want women to be superior to men, that it’s about expressing hatred or resentment for men. Let me shut that down right now. We don’t want superiority, or to be treated specially, we want equality. The chance to receive the same opportunities as our male counterparts. And that includes all aspects that come alongside it; pay, respect, not be sexualised etc. It really is that simple. To be considered as equals, both in and out of the work place. Not to be seen as a piece of meat for men to ogle at, not to have to “smile” on cue, or have to feel “flattered” when someone hits on us, not to be labelled “bossy” or “emotional” etc. Words that would never be used to describe a male counterpart.
2. Feminism is every bit as beneficial to men as it is to women
Suicide is one of the biggest killers in men between the ages of 25-44 in the UK. With such an ingrained image of what masculinity is today’s modern society, young men are suffering with mental health, addiction and debt amongst many other issues in silence. Advocating an equal world will change the perception of gender stereotypes and what a “real man” should be, one where men are not considered “failures” if they cannot or do not want to achieve great financial success, one where men don’t have to be afraid to ask for help when they are fighting depression in fear of what it might look like, one where a man that chooses to his family instead of building a career can be considered just as noble as any other profession. Men don’t have equality either. This movement is for all of us.
3. “I am a feminist” is not a dirty phrase
Some people are so afraid to use these words. There is this stigma attached to the label of “feminist” that is completely unwarranted. As I mentioned in Point #1, we are not the male-hating, bra burning, hairy, non-make-up-wearing lesbians that some assume we must all be in order to be a feminist. As Emma Watson said when she was asked not to use the word “feminism” in her #HeForShe campaign speech; “If women are terrified of the word, how on Earth are men supposed to start using it?”. Couldn’t have said it better myself. So, start saying it. Loud and proud.
4. Feminism is about the freedom of choice, without judgement
Whether you want to be a high power CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, or a stay at home mum, feminism is about giving women the ability to choose what they want to do with their lives. It’s about living a life without boundaries, limits and judgement. But, it’s also beyond which career path you choose to walk down. It’s about what you choose to wear, how much body hair you choose to let grow, who you sleep with, how often you sleep with them and every other decision you make in your life. Freedom of choice. Free of judgement.
5. You can embrace femininity and be a feminist
There’s seems to be some confusion between how much of a feminist a woman can be if you possess feminine qualities: you wear high heels, pretty dresses, dye your hair, get your nails done etc. Hell, it’s even down to the way we walk, the way we talk and the general perception of how the world chooses to see us. Support for feminine qualities alongside feminist values is something that still needs a long way to go, because these qualities too often are valued at such a lower rate in modern society. Women are instead labelled with words such as “vain”, “bimbo”, “tart”, “slut” based on simply how they look. It’s time to advocate femininity, whichever gender it appears in.
6. Sexual harassment and assault are very real and we need to speak up now
With so many cases against Harvey Weinstein coming to light recently, alongside so many other powerful men, people are slowly waking up to how many people are being affected by sexual harassment and assault on a global scale. Most women I know have been sexually harassed or assaulted at one time or another in their lives and as a result of the #MeToo campaign going viral, so many men have spoken up about not realising how severe the situation was. They are vowing to change their ways to help put an end to this behaviour. This is a wonderful leap forward, but it’s also incredibly heartbreaking to know that the majority of these incidents are not reported in fear that no one will believe us; that the blame will fall on ourselves; being branded or shamed as “damaged goods” or similar, as well as a thousand other reasons. But, it is time to speak up and not be afraid. Because you are not alone. Silence means these people (because all genders can be guilty) will take comfort in the fact that there are no consequences to their disgusting actions.
Over the years, I have been catcalled, leered at, had men say the most obscenely perverted things to me (both face to face and through messages online) and even been touched inappropriately on the London Underground. Most of the time, I am sad to say that the shock and the fear made me do and say nothing. No more. I stand with the guys that have vowed to speak up, to call out those that behave in this way, to not put it down to “banter”, or “just having a laugh”, or “you should be flattered”. We have voices, it’s time we start using them to protect ourselves and others.
7. We’ve come a long way, but there is still a long way to go
Yes, we have the vote. Yes, we can drive. Yes, we can go to university. Yes, we can have a career. Yes, we can venture outside without a male chaperon. Great progress right? Yes, but also it’s not enough. We’re not “greedy” as some call us, we just want to be fighting the fight on the same level. It’s easy for men to feel like they’re being treated unfairly when they’ve been privileged for countless generations, and have never had to give anything up before. When things start to change for those that have been oppressed, those that have always had the upper hand now suddenly feel at a disadvantage. But, the aim is not to make anyone feel at a disadvantage. Instead, it’s about ensuring that the young female graduate going into an entry level job is not doubting her intelligence, her creativity, her diligence, her work ethic, her talent and most importantly, her self worth because she is getting paid less than her male counterpart. It’s about empowering a generation entering the work force, motivating them all to keep the world running from day to day.
8. Chivalry doesn’t have to be dead. It can just take on a new form
Holding the door open. Giving up your seat on the train to someone less able. Helping someone when their shopping bag has broken and their groceries roll across the floor. Aren’t all these things just good manners and being a good person? I’ve had a male friend talk to me before about being afraid to offer their seat to pregnant women on the tube because they’re worried it will offend them. So, what’s the alternative? To be the inconsiderate a**hole that sits there and sees people less able standing and refuse to give up your seat anyway? This has actually happened more times than I can count, but I’ve never been one to be shy about asking someone politely whether they would mind letting someone in need for a seat if they can sit down. Good manners cost nothing. And being chivalrous has nothing to do with being a knight in shining armour. These days, most damsels can rescue themselves. Being kind and considerate to others isn’t limited to one specific gender.
9. Women need to lift each other up for us all to succeed
A friend once said to me that she didn’t believe that women really wanted other women to succeed. That jealousy and competitive fear embodies them, so they don’t want to help up-and-coming talent in their fields. I completely disagree with this. I have been incredibly fortunate to have worked with so many amazing women that have paved the way for a fairer industry for us all. They have nurtured me, encouraged me, taught me and empowered me. They understand and respect that preparing the next generation can only mean that the possibilities are widened, talents and skills can be expanded and the industry can continue to grow and thrive. I’ve never felt a sense of competition or resentment from other women.
I have gotten my first job in Assistant Editing because of one of these incredible women: someone who didn’t know me, hadn’t worked with me before, but felt a connection and intrigue when we first met, whom I had made an impression on. I have her to thank for my first broadcast credit and I will never forget her support and kindness. And I in turn pay it forward to other talent looking to come into the industry. As I hope you will do as well. Keep paying it forward and help each other climb that mountain, it’s a hell of a lot easier than stepping on each other and risk falling all that way down.
10. Believe in your own potential and start jumping those hurdles
Encourage yourself to believe in your own potential, because you won’t always be encouraged by others. Know that it is such a waste of talent to leave all that promise undiscovered because you fear rejection/ridicule/failure/inequality etc. The world won’t always work in your favour and there will be hurdles for you to jump that your male colleagues won’t even have in their way. But, don’t let any of that discourage you. Instead, allow it to fuel the determination to jump that much higher. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you cannot do something, be something, become something because of what genital is lying between your legs. Be whatever you want to be. Be you. There’s no one else than can do you better than you.
Keep fighting the good fight! And never stop exploring.