It’s the little things. The clenching of keys in your hand as you walk down the street. The angry expression you wear in order to create this perception that you’re tough, just so you can avoid a man’s gaze. You make pretend phone calls to make it seem like you aren’t by yourself so that group of men you just passed won’t follow you. You take the long way home as it gets dark, just to avoid being harassed if you turn into the wrong alleyway. You pull your skirt down when you see that old man turn his head as you pass by. All these little precautions that women make just to avoid being abused, harassed or raped. Every. Single. Day.
This is no attack on men. I do not hate men. The fact that I have to make that loud and clear proves the level of patriarchy in our society. Everyone has this preconceived idea that when I say I am a feminist, I must fit into this negatively constructed stereotype. A man-hating, non-shaving, extremely intense and masculine girl who has nothing more to do with her life but make problems out of thin air. Being called a feminist has unfortunately become an insult to many women. The word has lost its meaning and I think it’s time we reclaimed it (not Australia, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms).
Much like my favourite author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I tend to make the mistake of thinking that something that is clear and evident to me is just as clear to others. Truth be told, I am not even sure how I got around to writing all this down considering all the frustration and anger I have towards all the misogyny and lack of understanding that exists. Yet again, anger has a pretty good record of fuelling positive change. It is fairly obvious that there are differences between women and men, hence why I like to think of feminism as fighting for equity rather than equality.
Men and women have biological differences and capabilities, such as men don’t have the ability for their non-existent uteruses to expand to 500 times its size in order to house a child. Think of it this way, you have three people watching a game of soccer. One is tall, another medium height and the third short. Now, the tallest can see over the fence and watch the game, the medium sized person can just see the game whereas the short individual cannot at all. For all three of these individuals to be equal, you give them all the same sized stool to stand on and watch the game. Whereas, if it is equity that we want to achieve with these individuals, you give the shortest person a larger stool to stand on, and the smallest stool to the tallest person. This results in everyone being able to see the game.
I may only have just entered the world of adulthood but I have had my share of deeply frustrating conversations with males, and unfortunately females, about why feminism is still relevant. I may only be 18, but I have lost count of the catcalling, the glaring and the honking I receive on a daily basis just by walking 10m up the main road. We‘ve been taught to take precautions, to change how we act, to alter our personalities, to become this second class being that caters to the ego of the man.
I can’t grasp onto the idea of people not calling themselves feminists. What part don’t you support? What about having equity or equality of the sexes is so abhorrent? What part of the freedom to make your own decisions without having to ask permission of your ‘man’ is so degrading? When you say that feminism is unnecessary in the 21st century, you dismiss the issues that women and girls face. You dismiss the girl who was just forced into marriage. You dismiss the genital mutilation that just occurred. You justify the honour killing of that little girl. You justify the acid being thrown at her because she simply had no interest in him.
If in the past 25 years we have seen such rapid and life changing advancements in technology and the way our society communicates, how are we still not fully recognising the fundamental human rights of 51% of the world’s population? We have the power to observe the microscopic units of life and we manage to send people into space, yet we can’t even manage to achieve equal pay. I don’t find your rape or violent jokes funny because there is nothing humorous about demeaning and hurting someone for your own pleasure and lack of self-confidence. There is nothing funny about 1 in every 3 women experiencing domestic violence or the one million girls under 15 giving birth every year. It is a chain effect, you educate a girl, they stay in school, marriage is prolonged, childbirth prolonged, leading to longer lives and positives all round for them, their families, their communities and the world.
Feminism may be unnecessary for you because you are a person of privilege and privilege is invisible to those who have it. I need feminism because I can’t go on late night runs alone. I need feminism because people question my sexuality when I am calling others out on their misogyny. Because our worth and value as human beings is based so heavily on our domestic abilities and physical looks.
So next time, check your privilege before you check out my ass.
Words by Hafiza Garipov
Image by Meg Bielby