The disparity between men and women has been a long-standing matter. Famous actors such as Emma Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch raised their voices in support of feminism. However, more can still be done in achieving greater equality between men, women, and other genders. And unless we all get involved, we will never fight the fear of being called a feminist.
Modern feminism concerns wage disparity, unequal job opportunities, the fear of being seen as weak or vulnerable, having to choose between family and career, etc. These are some of the limitations that impact our day-to-day life, and it is upsetting to see that many still struggle to treat women as equal partners to men today. However, there are signs of positive change.
Hillary Clinton spoke about women’s rights being no different from human rights in 1995. Emma Watson reaffirmed this statement in 2014 at the UN. Sara Ahmed produced work on intersectionality in 2017, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke about her experience with harassment this year at the Congress, and the list could go on. Yet, even today, some still associate feminism with bra-burning and man-hating. But why? Why can’t we pronounce the ‘F word’ proudly and not fear criticism or hater in return? If we want to achieve change, everyone must get involved. Because, as Emma Watson said, ‘if not now, when?’
The global solidarity movement HeforShe, as presented by the UN Women’s Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson in her 2014 speech, serves the mission to inspire men in particular to support gender equality. From Pakistan to Iceland, from an activist to a male nurse, it brings together a wide range of people who all want the same - nondiscrimination.
Today, a new wave of hope is flooding companies. For example, at CGM, they perceive a balanced workforce as a tool to encourage healthy competition and boost effectiveness in the workplace. As their General Manager, Vladimir Prikryl, confirms, it is crucial to have ‘a work environment where everyone feels supported, recognized, and treated with respect.’ Only then can a company reach its full potential. (Read more in the interview with Vladimir here)
The CGM is a great example of men getting involved in supporting the issue. Similarly, you might have noticed Benedict Cumberbatch in the 2014 December ELLE addition where he talks about his positive attitude towards feminism and gets photographed in his ELLE x Whistles for Fawcett t-shirt that says ‘This is what a feminist looks like.’ Benedict is famous for turning down roles where women don’t get paid equally (CNBC). Thus it is a good sign that things are moving in the right direction. But more action is needed from all of us.
It starts in the family, when boys are afraid to cry, and girls are called bossy. It is not sensitive nor strong we use to describe them, but rather weak or silly. And that isn’t fair. Many still fear being called a feminist, mainly because of the negative connotation. But it is not the word that matters, it is the idea that we should all have equal access to opportunities and be treated in the same way. And ignoring inequality is the synonym for violating human rights.
As Hillary Clinton mentioned in her 1995 speech, the violation of women’s rights is no different from ignoring human rights. ‘It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, […] when women and girls are sold into the slavery, […] when individual women are raped in their own communities, […] when women are denied the right to plan their own families.’ We might not see it happening every day, but that does not mean that we should turn a blind eye on it.
One of the modern feminist activists Sarah Ahmed, whose book Living a Feminist Life sheds light on feminism, queer, and race studies, admist in her Killjoy manifesto that she is willing to lead an unhappy life if it means achieving greater equality between sexes. She refuses any sexist or racist comments and, in her extensive work, examines the issues on intersectionality.
Recently, you might have noticed in the media that a Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was abused by the representative Ted Yoho who called her a ‘fu*king bitch’ (Huffpost). This shows that gender inequality is not the issue of the past, it still needs to be tackled today. And we can all be advocates and try our best to treat each other equally.
It is our choice to decide how vocal we choose to be in advocating human rights. What we should NOT allow ourselves to do, however, is to ignore them and deny women and other genders equal access to the opportunities men have. It all starts with us. Discrimination is not an isolated problem, it has penetrated the society, and it is up to each one of us to take action, as little as it might be, to show that we are anything but indifferent to the issue of equality.
If you don’t feel comfortable calling yourself a feminist, then don’t. But rather than turning away next time you want to ask for a pay rise or a promotion, or discuss the lack of women (or men) in the workplace, ask yourself, ‘if not me, who?’. Now is the time to be a role model and inspire the new generation to be brave and fierce and feminist because ‘if not now, when?’