TW: Mention of Gender Based Violence
Recently I was posed with the question ‘Do we still need feminism?’
A pretty loaded question that for me has an obvious answer. However, when thinking about this question and how to answer it many of us may fall into the westernised trap. We think about if the western culture still needs feminism and how far we’ve come.
On top of that, post-feminism is thrown into the mix. At first, it’s confusing, this idea that we’ve moved past the need for feminism, but it's more about what feminist ideas were built on. We have moved past the westernised goals, it's not about when we get gender equality anymore because there are too many intersections that are lagging far behind.
This idea of intersectionality is perhaps ignored by feminism at times. No one woman’s experience is the same because not only do women experience prejudice against their gender but against their race, sexuality, and religion. Feminism has reached a point where we must consider more than a gendered experience, but rather how other intersections affect their gender equality.
In the UK women have achieved a lot in terms of gender equality, we still have a long way to go but in comparison to across the world, it's repulsive how far behind we are. In the developed world women makeup ‘33% of managerial and administrative posts’ yet in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific they make up only 13%. This begs the question that if the gender of these people is the same what else goes against them that makes them different, and although speculative it's fair to arrive at the intersections such as race.
Furthermore, we can’t trust that legislations and tokenistic statements of equality are enough to stop the inequality. In 2009 a written bill in Afghanistan stated that a husband has the legal permission to starve his wife if she doesn’t have sex with him at least once every four days. In reports from Amnesty International, ‘150 people were executed by stoning in Iran from 1980-2009; the majority of whom were women’, and this also doesn’t account for the unreported cases. The Iranian law stated that women could be stoned to death for adultery, yet an Iranian man is allowed to have multiple wives. Both statistics are dated so I know they can be challenged but what can’t be challenged is the comparison of life for a British woman within the same dates. More recently, the death of Mahsa Amini for the removal of her headscarf in protest; she was deemed as ‘encouraging moral corruption’ by removing her hijab. This is a prime example of the intersection between religion and gender, which in 2022 seems horrifying but is the scary reality for non-western women.
It's not just in non-western countries that it happens, however, it happens in western countries for non-conventional western women, i.e., women that aren’t white. Women in the UK experience prejudice for other parts of their identity. This leads me to misogynoir; the discrimination black women face for their gender and their race. In a recent seminar, I was horrified and disgusted at an illustration of world-renowned athlete Serena Williams following a tennis match, in which she was penalized for a verbal outburst on the court by a male umpire. Following this she argued that men had got away with much worse. Aside from what took place on the court, the media spat out a racist illustration shortly after. The image is seen to be showing Serena angrily throwing a tantrum on the court, portraying exaggerated racialized features and played into the ‘angry black female’ stereotype that is pinned to black women’s experiences. In the back of the image, the opponent was illustrated as a slim calm white woman, which in fact wasn't representative of the opponent Serena was competing against. The cartoon is clearly placing racialised and discriminative tactics to build a harmful and racist ideology. This again is a display of the way in which we are falling behind in the intersections that align with feminism and the female experience.
For some this is deemed as a separate entity, that it is racism and sexism, which it is. However, the female experience isn’t the same because of the different factors contributing to their identity. This then means that part of the political stance we take for female advocacy must also advocate for all the female experiences, not just the white western woman. This is your sign to educate yourself on the varying female experiences and how you can contribute to advocating for the intersections that women experience prejudice against. It is our duty to fight for the rights and equality of all female experience because if we only fight for western rights, we have failed in what feminism is set out to achieve.
Mills, Sara, and Louise Mullany. Language, Gender and Feminism : Theory, Methodology and Practice, Taylor & Francis Group, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/nottingham/detail.action?docID=801854.
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Cover art courtesy of @Ebrulillustrates on Instagram
Caitlin Sweeney (She/Her)
A lover of Wilde and Shelley, and a guilty pleasure for 80s music. I believe chocolate and tea can solve 98% of my problems, I am always up for new challenges and learning new things!