By Ellen Orange
First things first, I would like to say I am absolutely in favour of gender equality. It is an incredibly important issue, which needs to be constantly dealt with in society. However, feminism is outdated. It had its place with the suffrage movement and throughout the 20th Century and no-one can argue that it wasn’t important; it achieved an awful lot. But it doesn’t have a place in the 21st Century.
The UK doesn’t need feminism anymore. Women have equal rights to men in all respects and the same opportunities. There are still some issues we know, but for the most part feminism has achieved its goal. The issues of pay, of proportions of women in managerial roles and cultural perceptions are important but feminism can’t achieve this.
This is firstly because of growing negative associations in the public perception. Many people now see feminists as militant, men-hating bra-burners, with a chip on their shoulder. Yes this is an unfair caricature, and it is in no way true. But the constant emphasis on being PC, and some very recent controversy about where to draw the line, has landed the whole movement on the wrong side of public perception. We can no longer make gender related jokes, wear a dress or watch a Disney film without being criticised for perpetuating stereotypes. And annoyingly enough even this is a catch-22, we can’t win. If a woman wears make-up she is conforming to this stereotype, if she doesn’t she is labelled for it. This issue is everywhere, from appearance to degree choice. And what’s worse is that, because of feminism, girls are being pushed into these decisions. We see encouragement for getting girls into science and women in industry, but how often do we see men being encouraged to do arts subjects, early years teaching or nursing?
The idea is outdated because the term itself is discriminative. ‘Feminism’, even when fighting for gender equality, puts emphasis on the female, and inherently puts her in opposition to the male. This immediately means that there is an imbalance in the emphasis of a movement that is supposed to promote equality.
We can see this imbalance in practice, there are all sorts of projects and schemes specifically targeted at hiring women, offering internships to female students etc. This positive discrimination, though all in good faith, is still discriminative. Surely the purpose of gender equality is to look past gender, and allow such things to be awarded on merit. So when a man misses out on a promotion because his boss had to fulfil gender quotas, we are actually tipping the other way.
There are increasing instances where the issue is tipping the other way. While domestic violence is still a big issue for women, it is not only women who suffer. There are increasing reports of men being the victims of domestic abuse too, but the concerns about not reporting are even worse for men. As a result of this, the scale on which it is occurring is unclear. And what about men’s rights? Looking at the verdicts of custody cases, we see men have a significant disadvantage. So how do we react to this? Do men need their own ‘masculinism’ to fight for their side of equality? It sounds ridiculous but it does follow the logic.
Most Feminist Societies, if we look specifically at universities, are in place to promote gender equality. Not women’s equality. These are different things, and if we are looking at gender as a whole then the term is simply wrong, not to mention old-fashioned. I’ll admit that the ‘Gender Equality Society’ doesn’t roll of the tongue as easily, but at least it gets the point across. It is also all-inclusive, I reckon men are far more likely to join than they would the Feminist Society. At risk of stereotyping, can you really see rugby or football lads campaigning for feminism? So this way the sentiment is still the same, all we have to change is the name.
‘Image: We Can Do It’ by J. Howard Miller