I’ve heard a lot of men tell me that feminism is dead lately. Like, more than normal. Normally at least one man a week tells me that feminism is dead, and that men and women are equal beings on Earth and all is well and good with the world. I love these preachy guys, and I especially love correcting them.
Feminism, like many things, is subjective. Every now and then some newspaper or magazine or blog will announce that feminism is dead, all goals of feminism have been achieved and we can go back to our pre-bra-burning days, and start shaving our legs again. Right now however, we’re riding high on the feminism wave, hairy legs and all. Men, and in all fairness a lot of women, these days have a hard time understanding how it is that we still need feminism. We have the vote. We can get a tertiary education, in any field we choose. We can be doctors, or we can be nurses. We can be lawyers, accountants, scientists. We can join the military, and not just for paperwork. Australia finally had it’s first female Prime Minister (and we treated her like complete crap – but that’s a side issue). When my mother was my age, women weren’t paid superannuation, could never be promoted to higher management positions. In my grandmothers time, women weren’t allowed to have a single parent welfare payment, unless they were widowed. My grandmother raised three children – alone. She wasn’t a widow, she worked VERY hard to give my mum and her siblings everything they could ever want. Without any help from a man or the government, in a time where women were only allowed to work in shops and be secretaries.
I’ll be the first to admit that there is a LOT of confusion regarding exactly what feminism is. For me, feminism is simply equality. For all genders (yes there are actually more than two), sexualities, colours, races, whatever. For every single being on this planet. Equality. It’s actually that simple. Feminism may have started as a way for women to be equal, but it’s about so much more than that now. It’s about the political, economical and social equality of all people. If you are for equality, then you are a feminist.
I’m here to tell you that I still need feminism. In this age of quasi-equality I definitely still need feminism. As a female traveler, I need feminism. As a human being living in a woman’s body, I need feminism. In solidarity with my less fortunate sisters in developing nations, I need feminism. Feminism affects how I travel, it affects how I see the world, and it affects how people respond to me. My travels have opened my eyes to how women the world over experience oppression. I first started exploring the world at the tender age of 17, coming from a small town in country Australia where I led a VERY sheltered and removed life. And so, I need feminism.
I NEED FEMINISM BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE WORRIED ABOUT ME TRAVELING TO CERTAIN PLACES
Whenever I tell people I’m headed away again, I invariably get worried looks and have several conversations with people where they voice their concerns for my safety and well being. Mostly they express their concern that the country I have named (Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt, Syria, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia…. it doesn’t matter) isn’t safe. Their voices say that the country isn’t safe, but what they mean is that it isn’t safe for me. As a single, white, female traveling alone. If you put “Is it safe for women to go to…” into Google, any number of countries will pop up. But do you know what, I have a surprise. I’m actually a lot safer traveling solo around South East Asia, or wandering down dark London streets, or on safari in sub-Saharan Africa than I am at home. You wanna know why? Because at home, I’ve been a victim of domestic violence. I’ve been touched inappropriately in nightclubs and at festivals. For my American readers – you’re actually safer traveling through Thailand than you are in college, given that 1/4 of women who set foot on US college campuses experience violent rape or sexual assault.
There are choices I have to make as a female traveler, that I wouldn’t have to if I were a man. For example, I can’t be the last one left in the bar with the local guys in Africa. Women don’t frequent bars generally, or at least not in any places I’ve ever been while I’m there. And so, when I’m in a bar with a bunch of other tourists, as well as local men, that’s fine. But I will choose to leave early, rather than staying on and partying with the locals like I want to. If I were a man, I wouldn’t think twice. I’d just stay. I’ve had conversations with my male travel companions and blogging colleagues, who tell me that there are still dangers for men when traveling, and that’s true. Sure it is. The dangers are there, but on top of the ones you guys have, we have extras that you don’t even think about.
I NEED FEMINISM BECAUSE FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION STILL EXISTS
If you don’t know what this is, you’re living under a rock. You need to get out from under that rock, because I’m about to educate you. Until recently, this was a revolting act that was rarely talked about, perhaps because we don’t want to be seen as judging other cultures, or we’re scared to have opinions on things we don’t know much about.
Get ready to be appalled and shocked, I am going to outline exactly what this is so there can be no question. Female genital mutilation (FGM), or female circumcision (definitely not the correct term), is when a girl is taken at a young age, usually prior to puberty, and held down so they can’t move. Women from her local community hold her legs and arms in place, and then an older woman uses whatever sharp implement she can find – a rusty razor, a knife, scissors, anything really – and they cut everything away. Literally everything, all the labia, and especially her clitoris. This young girl, who is also currently not under any anesthesia, is then sewn closed. Sewn, like with a needle and thread – no surgical stitches here – and she’s then left with a small hole for the urine to come out when she pees. She’s kept away from everyone in the community, and deprived of food and water while she heals, to prevent her from needing the toilet during the healing time.
It gets worse. IF they heal (death rates from infection are sky high), these young girls go on to normal lives which include marriage and babies. FGM is a brilliant deterrent for pre-marital sex, wouldn’t you be terrified of the pain? How do you have sex when your vagina is sliced apart and then sewn shut? Lets not think about how you would even have a baby. This is all fine until they get married, and they have to get married. It’s what’s expected. Sex with their new husband rips them open again, and the risks for infection are again, huge. During childbirth, the skin can’t stretch enough for the baby, so often, the local midwife will take a knife and slice open her vagina again. And, probably no surprise by now – after the baby is born, she’s sewn back up again.
This procedure certainly isn’t performed to increase female arousal during sex, and it’s certainly not done for safety or health reasons. In fact, there is absolutely no good reason to perform this. Recently FGM has been in the media, when a young girl was taken out of Australia by her uncle to go to a country where the procedure isn’t illegal. A lot of refugee women are starting to speak out against FGM, but that isn’t enough. And so, I need feminism.
I NEED FEMINISM BECAUSE THESE NUMBERS ARE SO FAR BEYOND SCARY I NEED A NEW WORD TO DESCRIBE
- 84% of women who have been date raped knew their attackers
- 33% of men said they would attempt to rape someone if they knew there would be no consequences
- 42% of the women who were date raped reported it
- 27% of the women who were date raped didn’t know at the time that what they experienced met the legal definition of rape
And possibly the most scary of all:
- 84% of the men involved in date rapes didn’t know that their actions met the legal definition of rape
Seriously, 84% of y’all didn’t know that NO means NO? Women shouldn’t have to speak the word in order for you to get it. You can tell if someone doesn’t want to have sex with you. If she doesn’t want to have sex with you, then it’s rape. Plain and simple. I really shouldn’t need to explain this one.
I NEED FEMINISM BECAUSE WOMEN ABROAD ASK ME WHY I DON’T HAVE CHILDREN
Genuine shock has been displayed when I have sat with a group of African mamas and told them I will never have children. They assume there is something wrong with me, medically. They can’t understand that I have a choice, and my choice is for no children. What scares me more though, is that they don’t understand that they could also have the same choice. If not for our vastly different societies, with their vastly different belief systems – they could also have the same choice. Much of the developing world has its own issues in regards to women’s reproductive systems. Here at home, governments try to regulate control over our own bodies by outlawing abortion, and creating a stigma wherein women who carry their own condoms and take birth control are crazy over-sexed sluts who need to be controlled. Abroad, I’ve encountered everything from one child policies in China to husbands getting away with rape simply due to a marriage certificate. If you’re male, and even if you’re a feminist male, I’m sorry, but you forgo the right to have any say about what happens to a woman’s body. At any time. I realise this sounds like a double standard, but there are actually things you cannot fathom in regards to this. You will never experience child birth, or menopause or a period. Until you do, you don’t get to have an opinion on anything regarding these matters. Feminist or not.
I NEED FEMINISM BECAUSE THERE IS STILL A GENDER PAY GAP
Women consistently get paid less than men for doing the same job. Confused? Me too. The same job, and yet in Australia, men are paid 17.5% more than women. How is that equal? Remember before when I was ranting about people telling me that feminism was dead because all it’s goals were accomplished? 17.5% of a pay gap says no. Until 1969, there was a legislation that existed that allowed companies to pay women up to 25% less than men, so yes – we have come a long way since 1969 but we still have a long way to go until equality is reached.
I NEED FEMINISM BECAUSE I’M SICK OF RECEIVING HATE COMMENTS AND RAPE OR DEATH THREATS
In the wake of the Julien Blanc uproar where he got himself kicked out of Australia, and then consequently getting banned from several countries, including Singapore and Brazil for his monumentally disgusting behaviour I received several tweets from his supporters. Several told me that I was a stupid whore, that I should shut up and die, that I was a lesbian, that I was obviously unhappy in my life and just taking it out on an innocent man. I’ve been called a Nazi – because feminism and Nazism are the same >sarcasm< and I’ve been called all kinds of other names. When women ignore men on internet dating sites, they are inundated with comments referring to them as fat whores who no one could love. If you want a good laugh about comments toward women on the internet, go here. If you want to scare the shit out of yourself, check out this article about why women aren’t welcome on the internet.
This is more than not ok. When did we become the kind of people who went to hate as their first instinct? When did we become the kind of people who immediately shoot down others when they voiced an opinion we didn’t agree with? And more importantly, when did we start being so scared of what other people thought? The 2014 attacks in Paris are a great example of this. A newspaper writes and illustrates satirical articles and cartoons about a school of thought, and people die?
I NEED FEMINISM BECAUSE I’M AFRAID TO GO TO INDIA BY MYSELF
I’ve been talking about going to India one day for as long as I can remember. This mysterious and intriguing country has been high on my list of places to go for a very long time. And it was only last year that I realised that the reason I haven’t been yet is because I’m scared to go alone. Why am I scared to go alone? To a country that has ladies only carriages on trains, and an unimaginably high gang rape rate? You’re right – I have no reason to be scared, and solo female travelers definitely face the same issues as men. Do you really need to see my sarcasm sign again?
I’ve lost count of how many female backpackers have gone missing, or have reported gang rapes in India. And these are only the ones we hear about in the media, what about the ones that go unreported? As we learned above, most rapes go unreported.
Now, this actually has nothing to do with how I feel about Indian people. I know a lot of wonderfully caring, warm and generous Indian people. What concerns me is the massive amount of people that call India home. People get crushed on trains, women – both foreign and local – are frequently assaulted, children are trampled. There is no order, only confusion. There is no law, only insanity. I just don’t know how to begin to prepare to cope with that.
Aside from this, do I, as a raging angry feminist, really want to put my hard earned tourism dollars into an economy where men are given a free pass on rape, murder and assault?
I NEED FEMINISM BECAUSE I’M NOT FREAKING CRAZY
Almost every single guy I have ever dated has called me crazy when I dared to express an emotion. This isn’t 1850 anymore. Women are not meek and mild, we are passionate and we feel. Some of us feel a little stronger and a little louder than others. I happen to be a person who feels louder and stronger and more passionately than most. This doesn’t make me weak. This makes me stronger than you because I am not afraid to wear my feelings publicly.
When you call me crazy or irrational because of this, that makes you weak. Male or female, if you can’t handle someone else’s emotional responses to something, then you are weak. If someone else’s emotional responses are inconvenient for you, don’t say so. Keep it to yourself. Your judgement of my emotional response to an event defines you, it does not define me.
You know what else I’m not? I’m not irrational. If I was an irrational person, I wouldn’t be able to outline my thoughts and feelings as concisely as I have in this piece. Women aren’t irrational, did anyone stop to think that perhaps men and women just think differently? That perhaps men aren’t equipped to handle women who have strong, loud and passionate emotional responses. That perhaps men should try it out sometime. It’s liberating, freeing and definitely calming.
To all future potential parters: If you call me crazy, irrational or imply that I am not thinking clearly because I am on my period, you better start packing your bags.
Still think feminism is dead?