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I’d rather be a rebel than a slave...

(by a RASAC Youth Ambassador Volunteer)

So, what is a feminist? Easy: someone who is on board with one idea; All humans, male and female, should have equal political, economic and social rights – with no bra burning necessary, because let’s be honest, bras are expensive. As a woman in the 21st century I need feminism because I don’t want to have to fear for my own safety at night when I walk on my own. I’m a feminist because I want my unborn daughter to have the chance to grow up into a strong, intelligent person, who has exactly the same opportunities as any man. Feminism is still relevant because domestic abuse, a gender pay gap and sexism is still relevant. Even if you’ve never personally experienced any of these things, other women do every single day, and feminism is leading the way to eradicating this, full stop.

If you take a slight glance at our media industry and flip through a magazine or listen to the lyrics of popular songs, unfortunately you’ll find a recurring theme: the sexualisation of women and girls. These images are damaging and slowly they are becoming more graphic with the messages behind them increasing in aggression. Many people have grown blind to the seriousness of this offense, and don’t acknowledge its devastating social impact. Advertisements have gone as far as featuring women in degrading poses and acts that promote violence and sexual harassment towards women. Dolce and Gabbana released an advert in the US that involved a woman being pinned down by a male positioned on top of her, whilst three more watched on. Over exposure to this behaviour has had an engraved impact on the younger generation as mental health has become a more stagnant issue than ever. Eating disorders and body issues alike are an everyday nightmare for teens and the media normally encourages this way of thinking. However, feminism is currently sweeping social media off its feet with the introduction of movements and hash-tags such as #heforshe, #yesallwomen and now #meetoo which trend for weeks at a time. This is encouraging feminist conversations and brings women together to talk about issues facing women on a daily basis, and with the help of celebrities (Beyoncé, Emma Watson) it’s happening a whole lot faster.

It’s important to credit how it isn’t just the media who sets destructive standards for young people, as pornography is easily accessible through the internet and children as young as 10 claim that they are addicted to watching porn. There is a staggering amount of growing evidence about the impact of porn on men's and boys' attitudes towards females, including their expectations and assumptions about sex and their tolerance of sexual violence. Within extreme porn, women are objectified and presented as mere objects without feelings or desires of their own but that’s not the worst of it; a lot of pornography is proudly misogynistic. Women are beaten, humiliated and used all to the extent of man’s pleasure. Porn doesn’t showcase men and women as equal partners, sexually speaking, underlines a warped viewpoint of sex that promotes rape culture. This is the basic of feminist criticism towards porn. If the education system and parents took it upon themselves to teach children and be brutally honest about sex, many youngsters wouldn’t have to turn to the internet and porn to find answers to their questions about sex. Feminist and activist Jennifer Baumgardner states, “Having a reproductive system is very powerful and a huge responsibility. It’s borderline child abuse not to provide the tools for young people to understand their bodies and what they are capable of.” This shows that in order to tackle sexual assault in the future we need to kill the root presently which lies in the pornography industry.

Women face inequality in all sectors of life in comparison to men, one being that a woman must break through a metaphorical ‘glass ceiling’ in order to establish a career for herself. The best paid women who work full time earn around 20 per cent less than the best paid men who work full time, the same difference as a decade ago. On average women have lower incomes than men, work in lower-paid sectors of the economy and are less likely to reach the top in their chosen careers. In regards to women in power, only a quarter of MPs in the House of Commons today are women. This underrepresentation of women reinforces the idea that women are weaker than men and don’t have what it takes to run a business, company or country. In the contemporary world women no longer spend their days at home bringing up children and doing household chores. Women in thetwenty-first century are mothers, business owners and are also risking their lives on the frontline in warzones alongside men. The campaigning group ‘UK Feminista’ has taken up the cause of the living wage which highlights that feminism is for both genders just as the living wage effects both men and women. Women are getting more involved in political and social issues as this new wave of feminism has come back more determined than ever.

We must take it upon ourselves to remind our daughters, sisters and friends of the cliché that beauty comes in many shapes, sizes and colours despite what the media preaches. We must take the time to reverse the years of brainwashing and teach young men and boys about gender equality and erase the stigma associated with the word ‘feminism’. The next generation of young people are to be raised as a society who aims for change and equality for both genders, and until that day comes I recognise as a feminist and will not play into the hands of society. In the words of Emmeline Pankhurst, “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.”

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