It’s been brewing for a couple of years, but 2011 feels like the year feminism really stretched its legs, sharpened its claws, and stood up for women while it kicked modern misogyny in the short and danglies. Because beyond the traditional challenges to inequality in the workplace and in Government policy (check out the Fawcett Society for tireless, policy driven feminism), and the immensely significant amount of oppressed women standing up to fight for their rights in the Arab Spring, 2011 has seen women en masse take a stand against complex, culturally endemic issues that affect them too.
Take the Slut Walk. Growing up, I couldn’t have counted the amount of times my all girls’ school warned us to protect ourselves from rape – but not once did my friends at the corresponding boys school sit through an assembly on how not to rape. And while I’m not saying that every boy is a rape timebomb waiting to go off (of course most men don’t have a problem with no-means-no) – it does say something about what society thinks of the causes of rape when prevention is a task charged to potential victims. And when a Toronto police office advised women to “avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized,” women across the globe took to the streets to protest the absurdity of this and demand a radical cultural shift in the way we think about rape and treat rape victims. It was inspiring and exciting stuff – but it’s just the beginning. With a recent study finding that people couldn’t tell the difference between copy from lads’ mags and statements from convicted rapists, and with the Men Call Me Things movement exposing the sheer volume of sexually violent threats made against women writers on a daily basis, it’s clear that we’re only scratching the surface of an issue that affects women everywhere.
Then there was the Muff March – protesting against the pressure for women to conform to a (let’s face it, porn-dictated) ideal of beauty that has so distorted our sense of perspective that doctors are seeing an increase in even teenage girls worried that their perfectly normal genitals are ‘wrong’ and in need of surgery. It’s messed up – and it’s time we started standing up for our bodies against this tsunami of utter nonsense.
And away from the streets, someone has slipped something in to regulatory board the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)’s water and they’ve started taking action against certain campaigns: including a ruling against a banned adverts that appear to objectify women as sexual objects from public spaces where they might be seen by children, and banned adverts using anorexic looking models for being unrealistic and irresponsible.
What would you like to see change in 2012?
Long term feminist, curious or just plain confused? Check out the very brilliant ‘How to be a Woman’ by Caitlin Moran. I’ve given it to about ten people now: funny, interesting and bloody inspiring. An amazing read for Christmas.