The word feminist has become, over the last decade, a label that many women now shy away from or men laugh at. I admit it does conjure up images of dungarees and a basic lack of style! But believe me, sexism is not dead and women are still not treated as equals despite the passing of major legislation – feminism still has a role to play.
Great strides have undoubtedly been made since the 50’s and 60’s. We don’t see the institutionalised chauvinism that barred women from certain professions and paid them less than a man for an equivalent day’s work. However, despite equal rights legislation, we still live in a country where there remains a 10% pay gap; only one in five MPs are women and, unbelievably, a topless model is still on page 3 of a daily newspaper. I think we have some way to go!
There is a perception that women no longer need to be feminists. However, girls and women in the home, at school, at work and through the media are hit by a barrage of sexist remarks and assumptions every day. But if we take offence or complain, we are seen as po-faced, not being a good sport, and probably suffering from PMT! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe the comments made are all malicious, they are just done without thinking. And that is the problem.
Sexism is insidious; boys grow up thinking it’s fine and funny to laugh at sexist jokes and often end up believing society’s pervasive view of gender stereotypes. No one expects women to be the same as men; we just don’t want to be less than them.
It may seem petty to moan at a joke about hormones when women are being stoned to death for adultery and are denied even their basic rights in other parts of the world. But feminism is a movement that requires momentum, and just because our mothers and grandmothers made great strides, it does not mean our generation does not have work to do.