Recently, a Facebook post has been doing the rounds on social media. The post itself is riddled with remarks that bash both the feminist movement and feminists themselves, from “I do not feel I am a “second class citizen” because I am a woman,” to “I control my body.” Not only are these statements entirely oblivious, they are more worryingly a reflection on how a systemic patriarchal ideology has been drummed into many of us as a societal norm that doesn’t need changing.
The post was made as a retaliation to the recent Women’s March on Washington after Trump’s inauguration – the author of the post believes that she is “not a victim,” and thus didn’t attend the march. She also believes:
“I can make my own choices.
I can speak and be heard.
I can VOTE.
I can work if I want.
I can stay home if I want.
I control my body.
I can defend myself.
I can defend my family.”
But did she once stop to believe that the reason she can do all of this is because of the feminist movement? Through generations, women have been arrested, imprisoned, beaten and gassed just so that we can have the right to do any of these things. Women have fought, tirelessly, to give us the ability to be able to say any of those statements. Thankfully for her, some women do believe that marching, and protesting, and rallying make a difference, and they are the ones that have given her the ability to feel “equal.”
Thank Emmeline Pankhurst for your right to vote. Thank Elizabeth Santon for your right to work. Thank Maud Wood Park for your access to prenatal care, and for giving you an identity that is built around more than who you are married to. Thank Rose Schneiderman for the fact that you are able to work in humane conditions. Thank Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Thatcher for your ability to work in politics and affect government policy. Thank Margaret Sanger for your birth control. Thank Gloria Steinem, Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafazi, Ida B. Wells. Thank your ancestors and your peers alike for fighting for half of the rights that you are entitled to now.
You may not see the overwhelming and immediate successes that feminism has brought about, but you unknowingly reap the benefits of them every single day. Benefits that strong women who have fought misogyny and pushed through patriarchy for generations have gifted you. I am fortunate enough to be able to write this freely; fortunate enough to be allowed a voice – a benefit that would not have been available to me some tens of years ago. You are wrapped up in your own delusion of equality; forced to believe that systemic patriarchy doesn’t exist.
And yes, women in third world countries are severely underprivileged and hold a disadvantage that is incomparable: but you are not equal either.
You still make less than a man for the exact same job. Men are still debating over what you should be allowed to do with your own uterus. You still have to pay taxes for having a period. You still have to carry pepper spray when walking at night, and you still wouldn’t dream of walking home alone. You still have to prove to the court that you didn’t provoke the rape, and that what you were wearing should have nothing to do with the fact that a man couldn’t keep his hands to himself. You are still being abused by your partners and murdered by your soul mates. You still have to suffer from depression as a side effect of birth control because there’s nothing equivalent for men as of yet. You still have to fight to breast-feed in public. You are still catcalled by builders; still sexualised; still objectified. You are still told you’re too skinny, or too fat. Or that you wear too much make-up, or not enough. You are still judged on what you look like instead of what you have in your mind. If you are a woman of colour, a gay woman, a transgender women, you are worse off than anybody else. We still tell our young girls that they are beautiful before we tell them that they are smart. We still tell them that “boys will be boys,” and that they’re only being bullied by them at school because they like them.
We are not equal: your daughters aren’t equal, your mothers aren’t equal, your friends aren’t equal. We are all systemically oppressed, whether you are from a third-world country in Africa or a wealthy city in England. But I get it, because by admitting that you aren’t equal then you would feel exactly like the “second-class citizen” that you claim not to be. You will believe that the rights you have at this very second are the rights you have always had, and that they’re enough. But luckily for you, there are women out there who believe that what we have right now isn’t enough, and that there’s still so much that needs to change before our gender is anywhere near equal. Your equality is an illusion, and I’m sorry to say that you’re not equal at all.
But you still see feminism as a dirty word, and it’s embarrassing to fight for equality when there’s really nothing to fight for – so don’t worry, the rest of us will do it for you.