#Idontneedfeminism … yeah you do


A couple of days ago the talented Natasha Devon wrote this piece Be prepared to compromise or ‘feminism’ will be a dirty word once again and I agree wholeheartedly. Feminism has become not only a dirty word but something young women are actively opposing. And who can blame them? You only have to browse through twitter to see the obsessive hate spewed by some of these self confessed ‘feminists’ or rather self-professed ‘Radical Feminists’. In fact Natasha herself has faced such online abuse and harassment she has reported it to the police. Young women in particular are seeing these militants in action and thinking no way am I associating with that.

And every time I start questioning whether I want to identify as a feminist anymore, (see here and F*cking Feminism) I stumble across something like the twitter hashtag #idontneedfeminism and feel such a fire in my belly.

I am going to prescribe a little cultural studies/ media homework for anyone who thinks we don’t need feminism. I’m a feminist. I wear fake tan, nail varnish, dresses, I’m married, I don’t ‘hate all men’. I also am damn grateful for the right to vote, that I can legally drive a car, have my own bank account, work outside of the home despite being married, that my husband can’t legally beat me or rape me. Marital rape was only made illegal in England in 1991. Just think about that for a moment. 1991. Not hundreds of years ago, not ‘somewhere else’. I feel grateful I can choose whether to have children or not, that I can question treatment my dr recommends, that I can read, write, and even pursue a PhD. I can friends and hobbies outside the home, I can access services of my choosing, I can live my own live on my terms. That’s what feminism has done for millions of women. Sure, there’s massive structural inequalities to break and misogyny is rampant, but we have come a long way. And we have feminism to thank for that.

Your first piece of homework is to watch one of my favourite shows Mad Men. It’s 1950. That would be your life. That would be how low your glass ceiling is. If your husband beat you, you would have nowhere to go. An unwanted pregnancy? Deal with it alone or with a backstreet doctor who might cause you to bleed to death. A boss who is sexually harassing/ threatening you? So what. Deal with it. After all, you don’t need feminism do you? You’re not a ‘victim’. Fancy keeping your job as a teacher after getting married? I don’t think so. Feeling depressed after having a baby and giving up work/ your own life? Uh oh, better hope your husband doesn’t whisk you away for some ‘revolutionary’ medical interventions against your will. Electric shock treatment anyone? Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)and frontal-lobe lobotomies were given to women against their will. Arguing with your husband? ‘Problematic’ woman? Victim of rape? Child outside of marriage? Angry? Too much to say? Nothing a nice dose of ECT can’t cure. Or maybe cut some of your brain out. You don’t need feminism though right?

Watch American Horror Story The Asylum. See the treatments disshed out to women for masturbating/ having babies and not being married/ having high libido/ studying/ not being a ‘good wife’/ being gay/ having anxiety/ having depression. Have panic attacks yourself? Take any meds for depression or anxiety? You could have been taken to the asylum. But feminism sucks.

Watch Hysteria featuring “Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rupert Everett. Feeling a bit horny? No, there’s no such thing, your womb is wondering around your body/ you’re mad/ you’re hysterical. A doctor will masturbate you and call it medical treatment. You will have no idea about your own anatomy. Masturbating too much or too ‘demanding’ in bed?? They can take care of that be removing it, clitoridectomies were widespread. Genital mutilation? not just those ‘others’ I am afraid. Now in the West we have female doctors/ lawyers/ policy makers/ academics and we don’t have our clits cut off against our will in the name of western medicine. We have feminists to thank for that.

The #idontneedfeminism tweeters probably don’t believe in structural inequalities or intersections of race/gender/class/religion/disability/sexuality. The product of a neo-liberal individualist agenda. If you’re suffering it’s your own fault, you are defective, you have failed. It couldn’t possibly be that despite our ‘freedoms’ we live in a patriarchy could it? Where I am likely to earn less than male counterparts doing the same job, unlikely to get a conviction against a rapist, likely to be sexually harassed as the norm, struggle with career and children whilst men just cruise on like they did pre-children.

Where hormonal contraception is forced on women (not men) where doctors are concerned about our ability/desire to have sexual intercourse not our sexual desires or ability to orgasm and the rights to a sexually satisfying life.

And lets think of women around the globe. In Saudi, women cannot drive and need formal permission from a man to leave the house.

Thinking of living it up in Dubai? your boss, and if you don’t have a job then your husband, must sign if you want a licence to drink alcohol.

Think of India, where in the last 30 years an approx. 12 million female foetuses have been aborted. Where horrific gang rapes and murders have made the media.

Think of your education options or chances if you happen to be a woman and Black or ethnic minority, or a woman and disabled, or a woman and a carer, or a woman and working class.

Think of the 2 women killed every week in the UK by a boyfriend/ husband or ex. Why isn’t that front page news? Why do we try and blame women for staying in violent relationships or marriages. We are most likely to be raped by a spouse, lover, friend or family member. But we don’t need feminism right?

We do need feminism. But we need to stop with the radical feminist hatred that turns women away. We need to read the Aesop fable of the sun and the wind.

If you want to wear make up, shave your legs, wear a nice dress and read fashion blogs, cool. But spread the word that domestic violence is never acceptable, that no woman ever deserves to be raped no matter how she was dressed, where she was, what she drank. That women have the right to decide if and when they want children. That women can decide if they want to marry, or not, and that marriage will be team work, they won’t be their husband’s property. That women should have access to education globally. That men and women should be paid equally for the same job. That sexual harassment in the street is never ok. That we should be able to live our lives free from violence and abuse.

We have come a long long way, but we still have a long way to go.