How about “2014: The Year of Girl Power”? 2014 has been a year about celebrating strong women and about doing all that we can to campaign for equality everywhere that needs it. It would be impossible to think back on this past year without calling to mind the growing status of the Everyday Sexism Project, the inimitable Laverne Cox and the progress of women in politics – especially the record high representation of women in Congress.
It is undeniable that feminism is now a part of our main-stream cultural consciousness; however, there is still a stigma around openly identifying as a feminist and a bit of confusion about what this word actually means. (Just to clarify, “feminist” is not a synonym for “misandrist”).
2014 seems to have been the year where feminism underwent an accessibility makeover and this is probably why it has been gaining momentum. Due to the increased visibility of feminists the myth that those who belong to the movement have to be from the intellectual elite has been debunked; feminism is for everyone! And while the pressure to adhere to unattainably high standards of beauty is still a burden for most women, there is a burgeoning atmosphere of body-positivity being fostered in the feminist sphere which makes it clear that it is a movement about loving yourself and others.
Furthermore, there are now more big names backing feminism than ever before; the young girls listening to Taylor Swift or Beyoncé have a female role model that is not only beautiful but independent, successful and a strong believer in equality. Feminism is being ingrained in the psyche of the next generation.
And it’s not just about girls! High-profile male figures – specifically Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Aziz Ansari – are coming out as feminists and helping to remove the fear and hostility surrounding growing female independence and power. Of course, Emma Watson’s “he for she” UN campaign is not to be forgotten; Watson’s speech brought to the public spectre theories about harnessing the power of feminism to counteract the rigidity in gender roles that afflict both genders.
The thing is, feminism is a multidisciplinary movement which, through a focus on gender, seeks to bring about equality for not just women but men, the LGBTQ community and people of all races and ethnicities across the world. There’s not really anything in that which people should have a problem with.
But feminism still has its haters. The “who needs feminism” online photo campaign was met with a counter-campaign about why certain women don’t need feminism and female celebrities such as Kaley Cuoco cannot seem to stop making comments about why they don’t need feminism. And while more and more women identify as a feminist, we are still living in an inherently sexist society.
The leaking of nude photos of female celebrities is an obvious example; this made it clear that female sexuality is still considered to be shameful and that there are people out there who are still willing to attack women for their sexual agency. We need to take pride in how far feminism has progressed, be thankful to the activists that have paved the way for more equality and join together to try and progress towards a future where the goals of feminism can finally be achieved.
Illustration by Mariam Hayat.