Why feminism isn't a dirty word

Penelope Walsh on why we still need the f-word today

Last word, The Knowledge

Penelope Walsh shares her views on why feminism is neither obsolete, nor a dirty word.

A viral-fever recently exploded on global social media channels. It was caused, by a group called ‘Women Against Feminism’, which posted a series of disavowals of the F-word, under the tagline ‘I don’t need feminism, because…’ The reasons were along the following lines: ‘because I can vote’, ‘because I have equal pay’. Many (myself included), considered this a steaming pile of stupidity. Perhaps these women had forgotten, firstly, about far less privileged women around the world. Secondly, it seemed they had forgotten about history. Feminism, is not a story from Star Wars ladies. Votes for women and equal pay were achieved by feminism – not a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, but by our grand- and great-grandmothers.

Feminism is like food. Thai food may be too spicy for you, sushi too raw for your taste, or veganism a little too niche, but you wouldn’t say you don’t need food, just because certain sub-sections don’t appeal to
or affect you personally.

Let’s extend this ‘I don’t need feminism’ logic a little. Can you imagine saying you don’t need electricity, because you already have a fridge, or modern medicine, because you’ve had your immunisations, and you certainly don’t need to read Jane Austen’s Emma, because you’ve already seen the film inspired by it, Clueless?

Women, if you’re reading this, you are literate. Consequently, your guardians must have considered your education (despite the fact you are women) to be important, or even a necessity. That, is a product of feminism. Presumably you spent Dhs9 on the magazine currently in your hands (thanks guys, you’re keeping me in ‘a room on my own’, by doing so). If you earned that Dhs9, from a job that you earned on the back of that education – feminism earned that for you. Let’s not forget, men can be feminists too. Gentlemen, if you believe that your wife or sister has the right to education and a bank account, that is pretty feminist of you. Kudos.

Across the world today, feminism may have bigger, more poverty-crippled, or controversial, fish to fry. That is where diverse, individual opinions come in to play. You may not agree with the furthest-flung corners of different feminist factions. That is fine, that is fair. If you at least agree that women deserve equal rights of opportunity and treatment, and as much autonomy over their destiny as men – it doesn’t matter whether you, personally, don’t think those other, bigger fish need a bicycle – you are still a feminist.

Ladies, don’t claim it’s time to throw the baby out with the bathwater, only because she looks a lot less grubby now.

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