Image: Jacinda Ardern
First published on Wednesday the 20th of May, 2015, this piece comes in at number 13 in the top 30 Villainesse stories of 2015.
I am a feminist.
I remember saying that to a room full of career women once and watching them recoil in horror. A feminist? It was almost as if I had stood up and declared that I considered showering an optional exercise and deodorant to be devil juice. A feminist? Was I trying to be ‘retro’? Had I perhaps seen a film recently on SOHO that given me some weird ideas? Surely I didn’t mean it.
But I did mean it, and not only that, I wanted them to join me. Looking at the faces in front of me, I knew I had my work cut out for me.
I am no scholar. My favourite subjects at school were metal work and history. University for me was not full of feminist theory or Marxism. For whatever reason I have always felt like my political views and drive came from my gut rather than a textbook. And that’s exactly the origin of my views on feminism.
In my simple worldview, if you believe in equality, you should be a feminist.
If you believe that women and men performing the same job should get the same pay, you should be a feminist.
If you believe that places like parliament or local government should reflect the people they represent, and that means having equal showing from woman, you should be a feminist.
If you believe that women deserve to be free from violence, have economic security, and have choices around the roles they take on – be it caregiver, worker or both, then you should be a feminist.
If you believe that in New Zealand we have all of that already, then you don’t need feminism, you need educating.
I could rattle off all the statistics in the world to prove my point, or I could just encourage you to challenge your perspectives instead.
You can wear a bra, make up, have never read Germaine Greer and still be a feminist.
So why aren’t we? I fear a little that perhaps we don’t see it as ‘our’ collective battle anymore. I remember having a discussion about the position of woman in the workplace with the same group of women I declared myself as a feminist to. They each had a story of having been paid considerably less than male counterparts. One woman declared that the answer was for each of them to simply challenge their respective bosses one-on-one about the gaps they had uncovered. That may have been all well and good for them to confront this issue in that way – they were in senior roles and steady employment. But what about everyone else?
“What,” I asked, “about the woman who work in home care, or who stack shelves? Should they just go and ask their bosses too?” You see, I had seen how this worked when family members in service jobs had made a play for pay rises as small as $1 an hour after almost a decade of nothing. They got up the courage to ask, and had their $1 declined. “What about them”
A feminist on their own makes a point, but it doesn’t make for a movement, and it doesn’t necessarily bring about the change that we need for our next generation of girls and women.
That’s why I am a feminist. Are you?Support Villainesse