Why feminism has become a dirty word 

It’s a well-known social concept in Australia that we abhor pageantry, badgering and any righteous tall poppies. Despite their good intentions, such activists are greeted with contempt. Feminists are a prime example. They hit such a nerve with Australians that their activism falls short of the contempt our country has towards them.
On March 8, crowds of men and women flooded streets with banners and beating chests, flagrantly promoting the rights of women. To many it was an appreciated gesture, a nod of empathy towards the plights of women after the uproar of President Trump announcing his stance against abortion and his sexist comments towards women.

Across American airwaves the marching of celebrities and everyday-Joes alike left a hopeful taste in our patriotic friends’ mouths. But far across the pond, Australians cast an exasperated eye roll at the festivity which felt more like an angry mob than a peaceful protest. 

Why is that? Surely Australia is just as good hearted as our Yankee friends? 

Despite the sporadic pop-up protests in cities like Melbourne and Sydney, Australians cringe at any form of loud and proud activism. To simply put it: Australia hates nags.

Perhaps due to our collective laidback attitude that our country is so famous for, we dismiss many people who complain about social issues. Not for lack of empathy, as we are just as fired up and outspoken as our American friends when it comes to topics such as child abuse or support for our farmers, but we tend to approach social issues with a ‘suck it up’ form of tough love.

We poke fun at our politicians rather than become personally offended by their less than sensitive choices of propaganda. We value a good laugh and if ever confronted by the uncomfortable truth that we may be just as sexist as other countries, we recoil from the criticism or lash out.

What have us sheilas got to complain about anyway? We can vote, work and do anything we want in our peaceful little country. What else do we want? Why exactly is feminism still an issue?

Well, I’ll be brief.   

We’re still afraid to walk alone. We’re still being told that we may have ‘asked for it’ due to our clothing choices. We’re still told that a guy must be a legend for dating us if we’re overweight, but that we must be gold diggers if we were to do the same. We’re still told we’re ‘bossy’ or ‘cold’ or ‘dragon ladies’ and are turned down for promotions or raises when we show the same assertion and strength as our male colleagues. We’re still seeing young girls tolerate cheating or abuse from boyfriends because it’s just what boys sometimes do. And one of us dies every week due to domestic violence.

 But we’re supposed to be silent.

 A news story that breathed even more life into the backlash against feminism was the female crossing light debacle that saw the Committee for Melbourne lobby group push for an equal ratio of female and male figures depicted in the lights. It was argued by Chief Executive Martine Letts that a lack of faceless figures in skirts was discrimination against women.

It was an action that may have had the intention of eliminating those subtle little exclusions of femininity in our world, yet missed the mark. In a world where women are being date raped in clubs or abused by male partners at home, where young girls in Kenya are still being forced into clitoral circumcision without anaesthesia and in Saudi Arabian cultures where girls are married off as young as thirteen, a stick figure in a skirt hardly seems like the feminist issue to be throwing taxpayer’s money at.

Many believe it makes a joke out of feminists.

The activism enraged so many Australians that it became the latest craze of memes sweeping across Facebook in sarcastic tones. Some chose to make the link to school crossing signs that depict mothers walking their children to school, therefore discriminating fathers. In hindsight, surely this is a form of discrimination against fathers.

Some men have fought back against feminism, highlighting the insensitivity towards the male gender and the ignorance towards issues such as male rape, male suicide and custody battles that favour mothers. There are some men who feel that even the word ‘feminism’ is an attack towards them as it promotes the importance of women and their rights, but completely dismisses men and their own equal rights issues.

And I agree, men are just as entitled to fight for their rights. They shouldn’t have to tolerate being abused by women because it’s known to the majority of us that hitting women is bad. They shouldn’t have to tolerate any abuse from women just because women are seen as the underdogs. They deserve just as much respect as women. 

Whispered in hushed tones, feminism has now become such a taboo concept that many women deny being a feminist out of fear of the increasing backlash against women who promote ‘pussy power’.

In some small towns, the topic of feminism will be met with a collective groan and even a comment from the more outspoken men who complain, “feminists are the worst kinds of people.”

A word that sums up the view many have of some feminists is ‘feminazis’. A not-so-subtle jab at radical feminists that compares their activism to a Nazi regime, certain to wipe out an inferior race: men.

Despite the crude affiliation with Hitler, these ‘man-hating’ women may very well exist; embittered and resentful from years of sexism and failed relationships, they retaliate in the way they know best: with emotion, prejudice and words. Very confronting words.

 They’re simply women who have lost sight of what feminism actually means. But can you blame them? Like anyone who has suffered, they are just victims fighting prevent further harm happening to their sisters, their friends, their mothers. 

As a survivor of sexual abuse and harassment and mentally, emotionally and physically abuse relationships with men, I know just how scarring these controlling and dangerous behaviours can be. However, due to the underlying attitude against taking a stand, I endured in silence. Would you really want your daughter to suffer just so she isn’t labelled a ‘nag’? 

We need to stop pretending there isn’t a problem. There are still so many people who disrespect women. They mock them, criticise them, joke about raping or abusing them. They favour their male counterparts and force them to adapt to male culture to be seen as ‘cool’. They must deny the parts of being a woman that are mocked but must still be a sexualised. And these attitudes are seeping into younger and younger girls. It’s toxic. 

The problem is, men will never understand women’s issues and women will never understand men’s. We can’t blame each other for that, we just need to educate each other. 

We need to sit Australia down and have a heart to heart. Remove the picket signs and the “bro-culture” and just open our hearts. Perhaps if the truth was told without prejudice or judgement, then Australians would give equality a fair go. Perhaps there would be progression for equal rights.

Maybe instead of feminism and meninism we need to just be on the same team! Enough with the labels and the division. Men need to know just how much women suffer and they need to care. Women need to do the same.

Let’s remove these stigma within Australia and create something revolutionary. 

 

 

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