Feminism, and why it matters

I first called myself a feminist when I was 14 years old. I don’t think there was ever a time when I didn’t feel like a feminist in some way: I just didn’t have a word to describe what I was feeling.

I was being bullied at school at the time: but that was nothing new. I was nerdy, socially awkward, always too keen in class. I had friends, of course: but I spent many break times hiding in the school library, praying for the end of the school day.

The internet is a friend to lonely, bullied kids the world over, and I was no exception. I spent a lot of time on my computer as a young girl: and most of that time was spent reading feminist websites. In them, I found a source of empowerment. Of course, it didn’t solve the bullying problem, but it helped with my self-esteem. It helped to have an explanation of why I felt so embarrassed of the dark hair on my legs during PE lessons. It helped to explain why I was mocked for my lack of understanding of makeup or fashion. It explained the day a boy behind me in the lunch queue grabbed my developing chest and then laughed uproariously with his friends, while I stood there blushing crimson.

My feminism has grown and developed as I have. My opinions have changed, my eyes have been opened to the world beyond my small town. It has been a tool, a comfort and a mentor over the years. I read the words of great women – Beauvoir, Olympe de Gouges, Wollstonecraft, Plath – and I am comforted that I am not alone. Feminism has helped me to understand the world around me, and my place within it. It shapes how I view the world. I cannot imagine myself without it.

Why is feminism still important? I could spout statistics here. I could tell you that 25% of UK women will be subject to domestic abuse in their lifetime. I could tell you that the conviction rate for rape in the UK is at around 6%, and that close to 90% of rapes are not reported at all. I could tell you of the stubborn gender pay gap, or the street harassment that becomes second nature, or the lack of political representation, or being told to “write like a man” in Cambridge supervisions.

But if you’re the kind of person who needs to hear all of that, then this blog is not for you. I am tired of justifying and explaining myself to men who never cared in the first place. My feminism and my womanhood do not need your justification or validation. I do not need to prove to you why we still need feminism. The question is not why I am a feminist: but why aren’t you?

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