What being a feminist means to me

I still remember the day I first learnt what feminism was. I was in my first week of my first year at uni, sat in a large lecture hall. “Hands up if you consider yourself to be a feminist” came the call from the lecturer. Only a few hands went up, not including mine (shout out to Callum if you’re reading this cos you did put your hand up!). The lecturer wasn’t surprised and went on to tell us the dictionary definition of feminism.

“The advocacy of women’s rights to create equality of the sexes”

She asked us again to put our hands up if we considered ourselves to be feminists and every single hand went up.

You see, up until this point I’d believed that feminism was all about thinking women were better than men. Women should rule, be in charge, take over. In my mind I was thinking “well I’m all for girl power but feminism isn’t for me”. So many people say that they agree with gender equality, but not feminism. They are the same. damn. thing. Feminism is about women, yes. But it’s about promoting women’s rights to create equality. Nothing more than that. For years women have been downtrodden. It’s an uncomfortable reality for people to face but it’s true. For years a woman wasn’t allowed to work, then she could work but only until she got married. Then after that she could work but only until she had children. Women used to be used as property to be bought and sold. Gradually we have progressed and society has evolved, we are starting to make real head way but there is still so much sexism that goes on in daily life and the sad fact is we barely even notice it. What’s more, many countries are nowhere near as progressive as us and girls all over the world are being pushed down and overlooked on a good day, objectified or raped on a bad day.

That’s not to say it’s all great for men. Awful stuff also happens to men every single day… but a pursuit of gender equality means that the stigma surrounding male rape, male domestic abuse victims and male suicide is shifting. So men and women both benefit from feminism and gender equality.

Of course, there are people who “give feminism a bad name” there are women out there who hate men and call themselves feminist. But the dictionary definition focuses on equality of the sexes, those people are not true feminists. Just like terrorists are not true Muslims and murderers of innocent school children are not true Christians.

With all that being said, what does feminism mean for me?

First of all, freedom. Being a stay at home mum, I once thought I was “un-feminist” but I have since realised that gender equality gives us the freedom to work or not. It also gives dads the opportunity to stay home if that’s what they want. Being a stay at home mum isn’t weak, it’s strong because it means I am prepared to sacrifice to do the best for my family. But feminism also means that more and more women who have amazing careers are able to go back to work thanks to maternity pay etc.

Secondly, feminism is opportunity. It means that there is a world of options open to my daughters regardless of their gender. I did a quick search for “girls toys” on toys r us. The first categories that came up were dolls, arts and crafts, beauty accessories and make believe toys featuring a picture of a microwave. Do you know what came up for boys? Building sets, action figures and LEARNING. Yes, that’s right, companies think beauty accessories are a higher priority for young girls than LEARNING. I don’t want my daughters to grow up thinking that their outward beauty is all they are which is why I actively try to compliment them on their intelligence, strength and bravery every single day rather than just how pretty they are. I want them to have the opportunity to play with toys that will challenge their mind and grow their skills. I personally don’t think there is any need to label toys “boys” or “girls”. I want my girls to have opportunity to play rugby, do ballet, play video games, programme computers, cook and so much more.

Finally I think for me feminism is about safety. We’ve all heard the stories; woman rejects man in a club and gets punched. Male domestic abuse victim is not taken seriously. These kind of stories show how dangerous life can be for men and women. Particularly women in other countries where laws aren’t so strict/ well enforced and women regularly get bought and sold or given away as property. Rape is a weapon of war. It’s not ok and it isn’t the type of world I want to live in. Once we start to see the sexes as equal it starts to become less ok to do these things.

As a Christian I believe we are all made equal by God. When Jesus was alive, he cared for women and treated them as human beings which is something that was seldom done in those days. He would have been seen as radical on his approach to women.

I want my girls to grow up with every opportunity that their male peers have. I want them to know that they can be strong and sensitive. They can be a stay at home mum or prime minister of the UK. Equally, if I ever have a son I wish the same for him. I want him to know it’s ok to cry and not like football.

So there you have it.

I’m a feminist. I believe in equality.

Thanks for reading.