I am a feminist.
There – I said it. I believe women should have political, social and intellectual equality to men. Outrageous, right?
I shave my legs (admittedly more in the summer months…), have a boyfriend and have never treated a man any differently because of his gender. I simply, truly, wholeheartedly believe that the fact I have a vagina shouldn’t mean that I should be restricted to a role society traditionally dictated for me.
Men and women alike must come together to strive for social equality.
Of course, many men are naturally better at some things than I am and we women have some skills that men don’t. I’m not expecting men to suddenly become child bearers or anything in the name of equality. But when a misogynistic sexist has become the leader of the currently oxymoronic ‘United’ States of America, the disunity of the nation and the polarising nature of Trump’s campaign has only highlighted the need for a bit of feminist support the world over.
Feminism has never been about women shaming all men for the behaviour of a few (Trump included) but rather can simply provide a catch-all term for the awareness and challenging of gender-based inequalities within day-to-day life.
The US had the opportunity to elect the first female US president who was a staunch advocate of Planned Parenthood, women’s rights and maternity and paternity leave protection. We were so close to the ultimate political equality that feminists a century ago could have only dreamed of.
While I am of course not refuting the fact that Trump was democratically elected, we – males, females or otherwise – must make a stand against the abhorrent opinions that he has made acceptable during his hate-filled rise to president. It could be argued that Trump’s campaign did not fuel a regression into old-fashioned views but that it has merely acted as a catalyst to expose the antiquated opinions of a significant proportion of the American population.
The influence of the US both politically and through social media has meant that Trump’s campaign has influenced a movement that will affect not only Americans but females, Muslims and ethnic minorities the world over. With 20 per cent of Exeter’s university population identifying as black or minority ethnic – demographics repeatedly insulted during the presidential campaign – we can use this election to create open conversations about how we as students can positively influence the world we live in.
With freshly-exposed divisions within sectors of society, it’s extremely important for us millennials to protest the normalisation of deplorable views about women and minorities. Men and women alike must come together to strive for social equality. While I of course understand a woman should not be granted a vote purely because she is a woman, I believe the fact that 42 per cent of women voted for a man who openly degraded and undermined their own gender exposed a lack of female-to-female empowerment.
Everywhere we look there are women degrading other women, whether through body shaming on social media for being too fat or too skinny, women who believe those who chose to have an abortion should be punished or simply those who call other women sluts only to be surprised and offended when men call them the same in return. As much as it is easy to scapegoat, it’s not just Donald Trump branding women “nasty” or “bimbos” or engaging in “locker room talk”. We females frequently forget intellectual equality in our day-to-day conversations and overlook the fact that misogyny is not solely restricted to males. I am sure there are few of us who haven’t made a snide comment about how someone’s body changed over the summer, how a new haircut made them look or how ‘whiny’ or ‘bossy’ a female peer is. Self-proclaimed feminist or not, it seems we women are still complicit in our own oppression. We can’t expect misogyny to go away if it is normalised in our daily conversations.
Self-proclaimed feminist or not, it seems we women are still complicit in our own oppression.
Trump publicly blundered his way through his campaign branding women ‘pigs’, bragging about sexual assault and claiming certain women were not ‘attractive enough’ for him to prey upon. While it became easy to become accustomed to the daily news articles about yet another outrageous Trump comment, we as students should embrace the opened conversation about sexual harassment and how it is received. Sexual assault cases and reported offences in the UK have risen dramatically in recent years, with the NUS reporting that 37 per cent of all female students have faced unwelcome sexual advances. Across the pond, Trump has been accused by dozens of women of inappropriate conduct or sexual harassment, with likely more too afraid to speak up. These women have been publicly branded ‘ridiculous’ or ‘meritless’. I am left questioning whether the public dismissal of such allegations will affect the numbers of reported sexual offences on our home turf. Reporting of offences nationwide has been on the rise, thanks in part to various student-led campaigns such as our very own #NeverOK, but will the ruthless demonization of victims speaking out about their alleged assaults send negative messages to male and female sexual assault victims already wary to report their experiences?
Though small we may be as individuals, our voices and actions together can assert that we will never accept the normalisation of pejorative attitudes.