‘ Crumpled in corners the suffragettes move in unison, deflated limbs renewed again,
Primordial longing stirring in their breasts, a chorus of power the soundtrack to war,
In the battle against man woman must stand strong, the voices of a thousand ancestors their weapon,
Baying for blood we are like predators, reclaiming the power that they took from us,
Sunsets tinged with blood we fall into exhaustation, our job is done here,
No more war, no more bloodshed, the unification of blood symbolizes a new dawn,
Man and woman exist in harmony the soft trilling of birds unifying their silence’
A Brief History Of Feminism
For centuries women had been denied equal rights, been questioned over their sexual preferences or told to sacrifice their reproductive rights for the apex of male entitlement.However by the 1960’s the United States saw the rise of second-wave feminism, a political movement that saw legal victories such as the ‘Equal Pay Act of 1963’ and Title VII of the ‘Civil Rights Act of 1964’ pass legislation (Fuentes, 2001). The second- wave feminist movement was influenced by two key texts: Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’ (1949) which examined the cultural image of women as “other” in patriarchal society and Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique’ (1963) which objected to the representation of white women in the media. Beauvoir and Friedan postulated that the cultural resonance of the “white other” was a patriarchal tool of oppression, employed by men to ‘keep patrimony intact’ (Beauvoir, 1949:122). In order to keep ‘patrimony intact’ women must be reduced to the ‘second sex’, an inferior species who is detained to preserve patriarchal regime.
The middle class white second- wave movement was preceded by third- wave feminism in the 1990’s, a multifaceted movement that was inclusive in its approach to race, class and alternative femininities. Coined by Rebecca Walker in ‘Becoming the Third Wave’, Walker outlined the need to form an inclusive ‘sisterhood’ that ‘will not be silenced’ in the face of racial negation, prejudice or oppression (Walker, 1992:39). Walker’s pledge to ethnic minorities highlighted the plight of the ‘racial other’ who had suffered under colonial rule, systematic apartheid control and mimicry. The political intersection between race and gender highlights mimicry, where the ‘racial other’ is ‘colonized’ by their ‘colonizer’ a Caucasian male in search of white supremacy (Singh and Schmidt, 2000: 24). However ‘mimic women’- subversive ethnic minorities- are challenging white supremacy, by creating their ‘own version of the colonizer’s reality’ (Odenmo, 2010: 3).
Types Of Feminism
All three ‘original’ strands of feminism were preceded by three different women- the radical, liberal and socialist. Radicalists held an ‘anti-male’ ideology, believing that a ‘male-controlled capitalist hierarchy cemented womens oppression, Liberals asserts the equality of men and women through political and legal reform and Socialists/ Marxists connects the oppression of women to Marxist ideas about exploitation, oppression and labor. Out of the three the most common image used to describe feminism is ‘Radicalism’ an ideology viewed by men as ‘cult-like’ and concerned with the downfall of masculinity. Mass media has always been a medium predominantly controlled by men and now that women are breaking the ‘fourth wall’ the masculine domain feels threatened.
Feminism is not a cult against men nor is it a medium for female dominance. Instead feminism is a platform that both engineers equality between men and women and campaigns for womens rights. Part of our understanding of feminism is rooted in the three strands-Liberal, Socialist and Radical which restricts our thinking. After all how can we limit women to just three ‘mainstream’ ideas when the idea of woman is ‘fluid’? Now we have seen the rise of ‘Black’, ‘Separatist/Lesbian’ and ‘transfeminism-among others- and even men like OITNB star Matt Mcgorry label themselves as feminists. Social Media outlets like Buzzfeed have helped normalize feminism in mainstream culture but we are a long way from being seen as ‘mans’ equal. We must unite as one and show patriarchy that A. sexism is not acceptable and B. that rejecting ‘stereotyped’ roles does not make us maternal deviants.
Being A Feminist
Being a feminist does not make you a ‘manhater’ nor does it mean that you have to fit into one archetype of femininity. A feminist is comfortable in her own skin and is answerable to noone. I am a feminist because I want to be acknowledged for my strengths as a woman and not delegated to roles that have existed since the beginning of time. Through feminism I can be seen as an equal and reclaim the power that patriarchy took from me in the battle between man and woman. I am a feminist because I believe that our bodies are a political site of displacement, commoditized to appease the male gaze. We must, as women reject the assumption that we have to fulfil the archetypes that surround femininity and be true to who we are as people. Some women are naturally maternal and crave a nuclear family setting whereas others are drawn to a role in a career world. But not everything is so black and white in feminism; many women like me are drawn to both worlds. Naturally maternal but also career driven I do not want to be a mother any time soon. At the same time I will not rule off having children because I believe that being a mother is a beautiful life experience. Many argue that being a mother and having strong maternal instincts is not ‘feminist’ behaviour but I disagree. Who says that mothers or those who accept societal conventions are less of a feminist than those who are independent?
How can we promote Gender Equality?
Gender balance is about creating an environment that is beneficial to, and representative of, both men and women. Rejecting the belief that pre-determinism defines our identities we must move beyond segregating men and women into two camps and create a dual culture that is free from gender stereotypes. In order to break free from gender stereotypes we must do the following:
– Reject biological labels and refrain from using sexist or derogatory terminology i.e ‘slut’ or ‘whore’
– Campaign for women and mens rights. Men are stereotyped as ‘masculine’ and ‘aggressive’ and any deviation from the norm is considered as ‘weak’. Reject double standards and let people feel comfortable in their own skin.
-Women more than men see great sacrifice as a prerequisite for success in life. This comes in part from their perception of women who have succeeded, from the nature of the available role models. Life is not about living by the book but making sacrifices because you choose to and not because you want to prove yourself due to gender inequalities.
The feminist revolution must start here and together we will make that change!
Photography: Jumanna Khanom
Location: Carnaby Street
Knitted Waistcoat: Lily Lulu
Jumpsuit: Lily Lulu
Chelsea Boots: Primark