What Does Feminism Mean These Days?

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I believe strongly in equal rights – this includes equal pay, equal working conditions, equal workplace benefits etc. However, I often think I might not be a feminist. Let me clarify, before anyone should rush to judge…

So why do I say I’m not a feminist? Well, these days I’m not sure what a “feminist” really is anymore. However, my gut tells me “feminism” means several things:

  1. It’s not a competition between the male and female species.
  2. It’s not about a woman being better than a man.
  3. There should be no double standards – men can get away with certain things but when a woman does exactly the same, they’re scorned or called names. On the flip side, men get bugger all paternity leave. These are both examples of double standards.

So what does feminism mean? In a very small nutshell, I think feminism is all about having the same rights.

We all know that women get treated differently by men in the workplace. For me, always having worked in a male-dominated workplace, both government and corporate, both for long stretches of time – it came down to respect. Respect from a man to a woman – and vice versa. If a man was rude or patronising to me, it said more about his lack of education (manners-wise) and upbringing than it did anything else. If I felt a man treated me in a “bimbo, she’s the secretary, she’s got nice legs” kind of way – I was pissed off, yes. Not because I felt my womanhood was being mocked though; rather I was pissed off that an utter twat would dare to cast such aspersions about me in such a pedestrian way. Having worked with mainly men since the age of 18, I learnt to view it as their problem rather than mine.

In certain corporate workplaces, time is money. At times, working sickening hours is part of the job. Every applicant knows this. There are no surprises.

Women have the right to work equally alongside the men – pay, hours, benefits, etc. Once a woman takes time off to, god forbid, have a baby, they go off for several weeks and then they have the choice to return or not. The point being, we have the choice.

“Whaaat? It’s nature for a woman to want to stay at home…”

No, it’s not. *Klaxon* I know as many mothers who have been sprinting back to work after 1 month (not 3, 6 or 12), as mums who wanted to give up work because they realised they were happier at home than in their career. The friends who counted down the days til they could get back to work didn’t do it because they were scared of losing their job. It was because some couldn’t handle being at home all day with a newborn; others simply couldn’t afford to take more than a few weeks off.

What do we call the men who think fathers should get the same length paternity leave and benefits as women? They exist, more so now than ever given that more same-sex couples are having children. Or do they not get paternity leave as they didn’t actually birth a baby out of their nether regions? Doesn’t seem fair to me. Maternity leave is as much about bonding with the newborn as it is recovering from the actual birth – more so, even.

I know there are women who are penalised for taking a long period of time off to raise a family – but, sorry if I come across as harsh – this is not a surprise. Unfortunately, we all know that taking extended time off can hamper our career trajectory. If a man were to do it (say, for example, a gay dad), they’d be penalised too. It’s shitty. It’s not fair. Is it, however, a reason to apply feminism? I don’t believe it is. Time will tell as more gay dads or hetero stay-at-home-dads ask for paternity leave. Then it will become much more about parental rights than women’s rights.

Then, of course, there are gender roles.

I am bringing my son up to be a gentleman. To pay for dinner, to open doors, to help her on with her coat, to carry the bags, take out the trash, kill the spiders, be the first to go down to the basement with a torch when there’s a strange noise at night. He, of course, will know that a woman can easily/equally do all of these things herself. There’s a difference to me between raising a man and a gentleman.

Girls play soccer, basketball, rugby, boxing. There is no less dedication, commitment, hard work or love than boys doing the same sports. Men and women will never truly be equal physically though. Sure there are a few anomalies, but in reality, most men have more muscle power than the average woman. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s how we evolved as a species. If we want to be angry about that, it’s Mother Nature, God, the dinosaurs etc. who are to blame.

So people don’t take women’s sports as seriously as men’s? Sod them. That’ll change.

I’m so torn about whether I say Yes or No when asked if I’m a feminist. I am a woman. A proud woman. A mother. An employee. An employer. I deserve the same respect as any man. I can vote. I can get an education. I can choose to work. I can choose to stay at home. If I am not happy in my marriage, I can leave.

I also deserve the right not to be judged for my choices – either by men or other women.


Featured Image: Flickr

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An ex spy from the UK, Elaine currently lives in Washington DC with her husband and toddler. Having to verbally hold in her British snark, she finds an outlet through writing. You can find her on Twitter @damesparkula and Instagram @delcerroyau and @twosisterstwocountries.

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