Feminism is the notion that women and men should have equal rights under the law and under society. It’s a dirty word, surrounded by stigma to the point where people will refuse the name strictly because of the connotation that follows it.
Some claim they do not consider themselves a feminist, they just believe in equal rights. But at the core, that is feminism. If you believe people should be equal regardless of sex and gender, you have to subscribe to some type of feminism.
I often hear people say that they perceive feminists as if they believe they are above men or are “man haters” and that every feminist subscribes to this radical approach. However, as a feminist, I and every other feminist I know subscribe to the controversial idea that all people despite sex and gender deserve to be equal.
Another common rhetoric to oppose feminism is that we do not need it anymore. Women have the right to vote, we can get a credit card without our husbands’ signature, we can work, and we can wear pants, so we are done — feminism has done its job. I am not only a feminist for myself. I am a feminist for everyone.
Feminism was, at one time, only for white women. Women of colour were given these rights much later. The last province to give women the right to vote was Quebec in 1940, but the right to vote did not come until 1960 for Indigenous women. In my 20-year life span, I have not lost the right to vote as a woman, birth control has been legal in Canada and I have had the right to work. The same cannot be said for the women who came before us and the same cannot be said for women now who live in other countries.
Although my basic rights have always been rights for me, there is a lot of work to do. I am grateful for those who fought for those rights and gave them to me, but I want to reinvent feminism.
Feminism is nothing if it is not intersectional. This is not just about the white women in this country, it is about everyone. It is about women of colour and transgender women. It is about every person (including men) being able to talk about their feelings. To me, it is primarily about breaking down barriers: people who identify as male can wear makeup, all children’s toys are unisex and gender stereotypes are thrown out.
Katherine Whipple, a third-year contemporary studies and psychology student at the University of King’s College says she needs feminism because “as a woman I still get followed around in public by men during the day and at night. They see me as a sex object and they have the idea that it is OK for them to do it.”
Hayley Frail, a third-year BA student at Dalhousie University, has her own reasons for needing feminism, saying, “I am a feminist because when I work as a photographer at different music shows I am almost always the only female on the frontlines taking pictures up close. Most women don’t feel like they belong there because it is male dominated.”
The truth is that we still need feminism because women are 60 per cent less likely than men to move up from middle management to executive positions and because one in four North American women are going to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
Feminism is about supporting and empowering people. It is about birth control access, gender-based violence, people with disabilities and other marginalized people. It is about the overwhelming statistic that women are 50 per cent more likely to get misdiagnosed by a doctor than men are, because women are often seen as dramatic or hysterical when describing symptoms.
So do we still need feminism? The answer in short is that while I don’t hate men, I hate the society that sets up toxic masculinity. I hate how that can leak into our daily lives and how it has become a fundamental structure in the legal system and society. We still need feminism because women are still being killed, sexually assaulted, misdiagnosed, given limited access to specialized healthcare and glossed over in jobs with a male dominated team because they are women.