I’ve encountered sexism from a very young age. Mostly, in ignorantly negative ways but sometimes in purposeful attempts to create a divide between being a boy and being a girl. Amazingly, when I was younger, I can now see sexism could come hand-in-hand with my talents. And I watched this with others too. Even more ironically, it could be presented as a compliment. Boys would congratulate me on doing well in running- pretty good… “for a girl.” I’d, like other girls, match them in a particular sport. All right… “for a bunch of girls.” And my favourite? I’d say something witty (or as witty as a ten year old can be) and I’d be kind of funny… “for a girl.” Because girls can’t be as funny as boys, apparently.
And then before we know it we are teenagers who believe boys master sport and humour and we can’t compete in their world. And then we reach adulthood with a distorted view of the how the world “just is.” Boys play football at lunch; girls sit and gossip. Men chat about sport results; women chat about make up.
We have socially come to reject the word feminism. When I heard of the word five or six years ago I heard only negative connotations, and I wouldn’t have imagined associating myself with the word. A couple of years later and I realised what feminism stands for. Equality for all. But I was still a bit wary of the word’s bite. I quietly knew that I was what feminists stand for but maybe not… a feminist…? Then, soon enough the ignorance faded and I realised why, of course, I am a feminist. I am a girl.
Why on earth would I not support myself? Why on earth would I not support everybody? The boys who don’t want to play football at lunch; the girls who do want to do sport in their spare time. The men who fear not sticking to traditional male standards, and the women who want to become professionals in areas such as science and maths. And then outside of my personal experience of equal rights, the girls who are married before I have even reached A-Levels; the many men who are too scared to speak out about mental health issues in fear of being perceived as weak; the women who are raped and deemed a liar; the men who commit suicide, producing an astounding gap between male and female suicides.
Just the other day, my female friend was telling a story which involved her saying, “I am a feminist.” Following this I turned to my male friend and said, “Are you a feminist?” Then, remembering a heated discussion we had about feminism a year or so ago (he believes feminism only aims to help and promote women’s rights), he looked quite agitated and said, “By your definition, yes.” And I felt deflated. It is becoming more and more known feminism supports women and men and yet it isn’t known enough. Although not by everyone’s “definition”, the world is definitely trying to put women’s and men’s rights side by side, working together, not against each other. All women, men, girls and boys can call themselves a feminist. And I encourage it. I don’t think it’s a must, as long as it is recognised we are all in this together. As long as we all can agree that we really do want feminism to be for girls, boys, women and men. We should all be able to talk about definitions and what feminism encompasses, and come to a conclusion – an inspirational and motivational one – rather than the whole issue being one that creates awkwardness between friends who definitely believe in the same ideas.
A couple of months ago my brother and I were talking about how there are current films with important female roles. Looking a bit scared, referring to the existence of women as protagonists, my brother said, “But it annoys me that people comment on it- it shouldn’t be a surprise… should it?” Firstly, he, of course is right, and I think it all the time: It shouldn’t be a surprise. Like when Daniel Craig is James Bond and we think, “that’s a cool dude,” we should, by now, be in a place where, when Daisy Ridley is the protagonist of a massive franchise, we think, “Cool, I look forward to that.” However because of society, it is a surprise (a brilliant one). So I do congratulate a film when a woman does take on a brilliant, main part. Secondly, my brother said, “I was scared I was wrong then.” How can we move on if people can’t air their thoughts? The discussion needs to involve everybody because feminism IS about everybody. We shouldn’t be scared of making mistakes and saying the wrong thing because we are allowed to during any point of this process. Let alone when there is still so much to be said and done.
Ending on a more positive note, one night I was out with two male friends. We were playing pool and I said the words, “I am okay for a girl, right?” (Silly, silly Kat.) They both turned to me and both said, “Not ‘for a girl’!” It’s pretty cool that two guys corrected me, and actually gave me another pinch of faith in the world!
For a girl (a woman, a boy or a man) you know, choose feminism.
Tomorrow I will be posting about every day sexism I personally experience.
~ Kat ~
P.S. 7/21 ❤