Some months ago, a lecturer asked us to put up our hands if we would describe ourselves as feminists. Not one person did.
The general consensus in the room was that the connotations attached to feminism were not ones that many, well any, could relate to.
Since then however I have noticed more and more things that are taken for granted that women are expected to do. Like when talking to male friends it is generally presumed that women should be the ones, without much (if any) thought or consideration, to one day sacrifice their career upon having a child, whilst they continue to work and be the “breadwinner”.
Just the other day there was an opportunity for someone I know to progress in her place of work, yet it was presumed she would be uninterested in the role because she has a child. On a larger scale, women in the UK, over their lifetime, will earn almost £500,000 less than their male counterparts.
Until that lecture, I must admit I was naive to the stark differences of treatment between men and women. I just took for granted that we’re living in a 21st century democracy, that there surely can’t be that many discrepancies.
It infuriates me to learn however that it is almost a guaranteed expectancy that, despite studying for the same amount of time, and working just as hard as men of the same age as me, I will earn less and sacrifice my ambitions and aspirations as soon as I decide to “settle down”. There’s something not quite right about that.
Keeping with the theme of children, I’m not arguing that it’s a bad thing for a woman to stay at home to raise her children, but why would there not be a conversation to discuss alternatives with her partner? And how is it justifiable that there are less opportunities for a woman to progress in a work place just because her anatomy means she’ll be the one to give birth?
Now when I think of feminists, I don’t think of the stereotype that they hate men and don’t shave their legs. I’m just more vigilant to what’s going on around me and what may one day affect me. In Saudi Arabia women are fighting to merely be allowed to drive a car.
It’s not the only country in the world that prohibits the action that we take for granted. Women’s plight in the UK is, in comparison, inferior. Yet it is still there, still existing, and something that will impact upon many as graduates, out in the ‘real world’.
So try next time, when you hear the word feminism, to think twice before disregarding the concept as unimportant today. Somewhere along the line mind-sets need to adjust, something that won’t happen quickly enough if no one, and particularly women themselves, don’t even question what’s occurring on a daily basis.
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