Written by: Molly Lancett
Note: This is the first post in a series I will be writing about inequality, the issues women/non-binary individuals face, and act as an informative tool to people who may not be educated on the struggles we face. Starting with feminism and its importance, to the gender wage-gap, all the way to the prevalence of sexual assault against women.
Trigger warning - this article and pages linked to it discuss sexual assault and violence.
As I grew up, something I enjoyed immensely was arguing. Predominately, the victims of my arguing skills were the boys I knew. The reason these arguments occurred, a lot might I add, were due to sexist comments. Growing up, it started as a simple "Girls are gross" "Girls can't be in charge" "You're bossy." Then as you age, as puberty hits, the tone changes slightly. These boys who sparked my argumentative self when younger, those boys whose parents justified their sexist comments as "They're just being boys." Now had other things to say that were a lot more sinister. Threats of violence and jokes of sexual assault follow women wherever we go. These misogynistic attitudes are the beginnings of why I became an advocate for equality, and why you should too.
So what is feminism? Feminism is defined as the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way. It is understood that a female is anyone who identifies as a woman, whether born biological or non-biological . Feminism is typically discussed in three waves - the first wave fought for the right to vote, which was achieved in Australia only a little over a hundred years ago, in 1902. The second wave consisted of the fight for reproductive rights and embracing female sexuality. The third fought to be more inclusive of women of colour, as it was evident this was lacking in the feminist movement. In more recent light, we have experienced protests and movements, such as the #MeToo movement against influential men such as Harvey Weinstein. Even within our very own city, Newcastle, we see protests that have occurred such as the "March For Justice" in Civic Park a few weeks back. The history of feminism is large, and yet after all the accomplishments and awareness raised, it is still a battle that must be fought in the 21st century.
You may know people who disregard feminism, you may even be one. The typical argument I have noticed against feminism follows the lines of "I can't see inequality, to me it seems you're already equal." This argument is typically uttered by those who are uneducated and/or misinformed, either way this is far from the truth. Sexism is the fundamental issue that causes inequality and began the need for feminism. Sexism and inequality are shown everywhere. It's in the "good" mates you go down to the pub and have a drink with who make sexual remarks about girls as they walk past. It's shown in the statistic that 1 in 3 women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or physically abused. It's in the statistic that 12 million girls become child brides before the age of 18. It's important because over 96% of sexual trafficking victims are girls/women. Not to mention the fact that one hundred thirty-seven women are killed by a member of their family every day and over 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation, a practice that still occurs to this day. These issues are only scratching the surface of how needed feminism is, and how the fight for equality is of immense purpose. Feminism is not about hating men, as we are often described as doing, it is about achieving basic human rights that your sisters deserve, that your friends deserve, that your mothers deserve, that our grandmothers deserve, that we deserve.
If any of the issues discussed in this article have triggered you, do not hesitate to contact the numbers below:
Beyond Blue - Call 1300 22 4636.
Lifeline - Call 13 11 14.
Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of New South Wales - Call 02 9212 4777
Sexual Assault Counselling Australia - Call 1800 211 028.