[Katie Noble | Entertainment Editor]
DISCLAIMER: This article is brief and does not claim to cover all experiences for all women. Please do your own research. These opinions are my own and are not necessarily those of Trident Media or Hertfordshire Students’ Union.
So you may have seen it. There is a (relatively old) video currently making the rounds on Facebook that features a young women denouncing her need for feminism. The video has become a viral success despite it’s lack of substantiated facts and general naivety. Here it is:
Now I may not be the most qualified person to be writing the post. I am a white, cis (I identify with the gender that I was assigned at birth), able, working class female and I am undoubtedly privileged. However, this does not cloud my ability to see that wider society does still NEED feminism.
Here’s the deal
The woman in the video is also white. She is also privileged (even though she seems to think white privilege is a myth). She may feel like she – as an individual – has equality with our male counterparts. However, her video – rather than focusing on herself – states that society as a whole does not need feminism. This is a ridiculous statement to make. She is likely referring to what we like to call ‘white feminism’ (modern feminism spearheaded by, and focusing on the issues of, mostly middle-class white women).
I am generalising, but the majority of white middle-class women have now, gained a great deal of equality and have come along leaps and bounds since the days of male-only voting.
Obviously there is still much progress to be made in terms of equal pay, rape culture, etc. but that is a whole other argument. Long story short, the argument in the video is greatly reductionist. It is ignoring and belittling the plight of women that do not fit into the ‘white, middle class’ bracket. Who is she to announce that these individuals are liberated?
Specifically, we only have to look at recent news to see that black women are still oppressed by our STILL patriarchal, capitalist, white-supremacist society. A prime (and depressing) example is that of Sandra Bland. Haven’t heard of her? Well that’s our supposedly colourblind, equal society at work.
Sandra was pulled over by a police officer for not signalling during a lane change, ended up being arrested, and later died in custody. Of course, if this had been a white male (or even a white woman), this would have been all over the news. However, black women are affected by both systematic racism and systematic sexism.
It is also argued by many that black women are ‘triple-oppressed’ due to the fact that society attributes them to be ‘lower class’ due to their race. And unfortunately, Sandra Bland is not a localised incident. More statistics about police deaths can be found here.
This problem extends into representation. Women of colour are still extremely under represented in outlets such as the government, entertainment and media. Until black women and other women of colour are treated and represented on par with white women, we still need feminism. In fact, this is a more pressing issue with modern white feminism that often ignores the plight of women of colour. This is something that we are working on.
“If I get to see myself on screen, then I know that I exist.”
-Gabby Sidibe, star of Precious
Gender is still a spectrum
Image: Olaf Hajek
The woman in the video states that the sexes are equal. So what about non-binary individuals that do not fit into one of our wonderful catch-all genders? What about people who are trans or intersex? Gender is a spectrum. Individuals who are outside of the traditional definitions of ‘male’ and ‘female’ are by no means seen as equal in our society. In fact, these people are often not even taken seriously in their identification. They are often not even recognised as being a legitimate gender. This is cissexism.
There are accounts of trans people being treated without their basic human rights, let alone being treated in line with their true gender. In fact many European countries require trans and intersex individuals to undergo sterilisation procedures.
‘Masculinity’ affects us all
True feminism is working hard to break down these outdated notions of gender – the notions that also continue to perpetuate ridiculous ideals of masculinity. Drawing attention to a specific point in the above video, it is noted that there only seems to be safe houses and safe spaces for women. The video claims that feminism isn’t doing anything to fight this. However, feminism works hard to work on the bigger issue of masculinity. Think of it this way. Why do you think that domestic violence towards males is greatly ignored?
Most people are unaware of the scale of this issue. Men can feel embarrassed enough (due to being made to feel weak and emasculated – by either the act itself or even the authorities) that they do not report incidents of domestic abuse. Because of these incidents being greatly under-reported, the government is unaware of any need for androcentric safe spaces. Unfortunately, as long as widespread expectations of masculinity exist in both the authorities and wider society, it will be hard to implement any practical measures such as safe houses that require equal funding. Until our damaging expectations of masculinity are demolished and ALL infinite genders are treated equally, we still need feminism.
There’s a long way to go
In all honesty, I could go on forever. I haven’t even touched on the issues that still affect ALL women. Rape culture is alive and booming. The pay gap has not been universally fixed. FGM is still a thing*. In Ireland (and many other countries around the world), women are still not completely in control of their own bodies.**
I will not ignore progress and say that we haven’t come a long way. I will not personally attack women who do not identify as feminist. However, I refuse to allow this video to spread false information. She claims that men are ignored by feminism – but feminism still has a great deal to do for women. And as a movement started for women’s issues, how can it be criticised for continuing to focus on these issues? Bigger problems such as damaging notions of gender (that affect all people) need to be addressed before others.
Feminism, as a movement, cannot expect to help all people until it can successfully be inclusive of all kinds of women; no matter their age, race, sexuality, ability, gender identity, or class. Keep an open mind and do your own research. Because of feminism, you are now allowed to speak for yourself; but you are NOT allowed to speak for the collective.
* This article is focusing on women’s issues and therefore we have specifically mentioned FGM – however, male genital mutilation (circumcision), is still a horrific practice that needs to be stamped out.
** Again, I haven’t even touched on the many countries in the world that are still governed by patriarchal laws and societal values. Many communities still consider women to be second rate citizens.
What are your thoughts on the video and feminism? Let us know @TridentMediaUK