Lauren Fraser argues in favour of the Gender Equality Society changing their name to the Feminist Society.
Feminism has long been a contentious issue, particularly with the negative stereotypes such as bra burning thrown in to the mix. But if we forget those for a minute and consider why feminism is still a legitimate concern, the recent name change of the Gender Equality Society to the Feminist Society comes as less of a surprise.
I would argue that it’s not about excluding men in the push for equality. Instead, I propose that in a predominantly patriarchal society achieving gender equality often means ameliorating the discriminatory treatment women face. For example, the Office for National Statistics reported that in 2013 the pay gap between men and women stood at 10%, resulting in a huge disparity in earnings over their lifetimes. Similarly, in the year ending June 2013, the ONS released data that shows 15,284 females were victims of rape, compared to only 1,777 males. These gender disparities show that many of the problems gender equality strives to tackle are problems specifically experienced by women. President of Feminist Society,
Lucy Whitaker recently told Exeposé that “the terms ‘Gender Equality’ and ‘Feminism’ should be interchangeable but the fact we are having this discussion proves that they are not.” This is not to say, however, that we should ignore problems experienced by other minority groups when it comes to gender. All groups who suffer discrimination based upon their gender require consideration when it comes to gender equality. But, despite women making up the majority of the population (51%), when it comes to the male and female gender categories they are treated as inferior. A significant proportion of gender inequality focuses on this binary, and the society’s name change reflects the need to address this.
Students may feel a concern that this risks alienating male students from the Feminist Society’s activities. I would argue that this is a clear influence of the patriarchy under which we live: feminism, or addressing the problems faced by women, should not only be carried out by women. Why wouldn’t men want to support equality too? Furthermore, as the decision was made through a vote, I would suggest that male students are not discouraged by the feminist title. If real gender equality is to be reached and sustained, men and women both need to be active in the process. They need to tackle the problems experienced by other gender categories as well as their own. Only then does feminism and gender equality more broadly stand a chance of succeeding.
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