current affairs

Being a young woman in 2017

Women in 2017, kettle mag
Written by ritacunha

Whilst researching for this feature, I wanted to know more about what women thought about explores the a controversial and highly talked-about topic: feminism. After a tumultuous year filled with sexual assault allegations against prominent figures, human rights violations against women, and threats in change of legislations concerning female sexual health, I thought this feature was much deserved.

The women interviewed for this piece were Millie Finn, a twenty-three year-old Brummie working as the editor and feature/news writer for a cruise bulletin; Shonagh Mulhern, twenty-three year-old from Ireland, a full-time law-student and part-time barmaid; and Phil Hill, twenty-five year-old host in a restaurant and a volunteer at a charity (CALM) from Buckinghamshire. They were incredibly nice and open about answering my questions, and their detailed answers will help you get to know them better.

Being a Woman in 2017

Would you consider yourself as being feminine? What makes someone feminine and does it have an impact on how much of a woman they are?

Millie Finn: I think being feminine is all about the traditional traits of women, such as being ladylike and ‘girly’ so to speak, enjoying wearing make-up, jewellery, and skirts. If that is what feminine is then I do consider myself to be feminine, but any women that aren’t interested in that side of things do not constitute as being any less of a woman! It’s personal preference, regardless of gender, in my eyes.

Shonagh Mulhern: Physically I would consider myself to be quite traditionally feminine. I have mid-long hair and wear considerably girly, gender dominant clothing and colours most of the time. However, in regards to my lifestyle, personality and future goals, some may deem me less feminine as a result. I am extremely independent and do not fit —nor wish to fit— the stereotype of what a woman should be (mum, maternal, homemaker). I have absolutely no desire to have children. I’m not a naturally maternal person; if anything, children scare me. I’m also not ashamed that I value my own passion and career in life above creating a life just for the sake of it, knowing I wouldn’t have the time to look after children without sacrificing my own goals.

Phil Hill: On occasion, but generally no. I don’t think there’s a clear-cut answer to that. For me, personally, it’s about how I feel. For example, wearing my hair down makes me feel more feminine even if my entire outfit is made up of “men’s” clothes — this might not make me appear feminine to passers-by, but again, it’s how I feel.

What is your favourite thing about being a woman?

Millie Finn: It seems more socially acceptable for women to express themselves through their image— I enjoy the freedom in this sense of being able to express myself through wearing bright clothes and feel like a different person if I want to, even if it just means doing my hair and makeup differently! Although, with this comes the sad truth that if men wanted to express themselves through their image, it’s socially frowned upon.

Shonagh Mulhern: My favourite thing about being a woman is how far we have come and developed throughout the years — gaining our right to vote, breaking the borders and the old-school stereotype of what it is to be a woman.

Phil Hill: Society doesn’t tell me to “man up” if I cry.

What is your least favourite thing about being a woman?

Millie Finn: I loathe the stereotype that women are lumped with before you’ve even spoken or gotten to know somebody. From assumptions that what you wear reflects your personality or intentions, to smaller things that women nag and moan about all day long. Women have to spend a large portion of their time proving this wrong when they never asked for it in the first place!

Shonagh Mulhern: My least favourite things are periods and hormones generally. Also, feeling unsafe in general because of the rape culture, vulnerability, and receiving copious amounts of sexual harassment at work in my bar job.

Phil Hill: Having society insist that I WILL want children —despite me saying I don’t— just because I’m a woman.

How Society Views Women

What do you think about the way women are portrayed in cultural fields (films, books, tv shows, music)?

Millie Finn: I think there are enough typical examples where women are the damsel in distress in films, books and TV shows. It would be so much nicer to see producers throwing something different at us and challenging the stereotype we’re so bored of. How about a man in trouble, having lost his job, and needing the help of a powerful woman? I’m sure it would be refreshing and more realistic for everyone to watch or read (and not just for the women!)  

Shonagh Mulhern: I think women are typically viewed in one of two ways in books and film. As either a sexual object of desire, or a helpless victim. I’m glad in recent years franchises such as The Hunger Games have championed intellectually and physically strong, self-reliant women such as Katniss Everdeen.

Phil Hill: I definitely think women allow themselves to be portrayed as sex objects in music videos. As for film and TV — it varies, but a lot of the time I think they’re portrayed as “sexy” and ditzy, or the cliché “nagging wife”. I don’t think either does us, women, any favours.

Do you think that gender roles that hinder women’s potential in Western societies still exist? If so, which ones and how do they affect you/women in general?

Millie Finn: The stereotype that women are sexual objects— I never feel comfortable walking alone down the street, even in daylight, and am consistently catcalled. It makes me feel unsafe and majorly devalued.

Shonagh Mulhern: Yes, as I earlier stated I have felt unsafe and demeaned whilst working in pub environments. Frequently punters have overstepped the mark and made me feel uncomfortable. I once had a man put a five-pound note down my top/bra, because I wouldn’t accept his tip. I had to go off shift and cry because I felt so violated.

Phil Hill: Yes, although I don’t think it’s as bad as it used to be and I think gender stereotypes are a bigger problem. Again, people don’t seem to respect my opinion to not want to get married and have children.

Have you ever felt discriminated against because you’re female?

Millie Finn: I regularly feel discriminated against because of the gender pay gap that still exists! Men on my level of experience in my workplace sit on a higher salary than me, solely because of their gender and I always feel looked down upon because of this. It will always be a problem until our salaries are balanced out with men’s!

Shonagh Mulhern: I think the gender pay gap that exists still is one of the most ridiculous realities of the modern age.

Phil Hill: There’s a guy I work with who will literally take heavy things out of my hands and start carrying them for me without asking. I know his heart is in the right place and he’s just trying to be helpful, but I find it incredibly frustrating. It’s one thing to offer, but to insist or physically take them off me just because I’m a woman and deemed weak is another.

The Future of Women:

Would you consider yourself a feminist? 

Millie Finn: I believe in women having equal rights to men and I think that absolutely constitutes someone as a feminist! Although I do think there is a stigma attached to the word ‘feminist’ that has developed over the past few years. Women are standing up for their right to have control over their own bodies, equal pay, and a variety of other topics in a very vocal way that has attracted more and more attention. While a lot of us see this as a good thing, it can lump feminists with a negative image of rioting and uproar. I think everyone needs to be reminded that being a feminist is just believing in equal rights and wanting to stand up for them! A man can be a feminist too.

Shonagh Mulhern: Yes. I believe in championing and campaigning for equality for both women and men.

Phil Hill: I don’t go around labelling myself as one, but I guess I am in that I want equality for all. What puts me off using that label is that I volunteer with CALM; a male suicide prevention charity. Often I’m learning about the pressures men face and the way they are treated unfairly in society. Plus, personally, I also witness more sexism towards men than women in my day-to-day life. It seems a lot of feminists —although I appreciate not all— seem to think men have it better, but I know first-hand this isn’t always the case. Based on this, my interests lie more in getting men equality. Don’t be fooled, though — if I see unfair behaviour against women I will definitely call it out.

Do you think feminism still has a purpose in 2018?

Millie Finn: It absolutely does and it always will. I feel like we are getting closer to succeeding in getting what we want and deserve. Our voices are finally being listened to and if we stop now, then we are not doing ourselves, our mothers, our grandmothers, our sisters, our aunties, our cousins, and our friends justice! I truly believe a year from now things will look and feel a lot different. 

Shonagh Mulhern: Absolutely. There’s no doubt that we have come so far but still, we have a long way to go.

Phil Hill: How can it not! It will have a place until there is equality for all.

What is something you wish was taught to every little girl and boy?

Millie Finn: Equality is not something I remember being taught a lot at school. It isn’t that I was taught the opposite, but it wasn’t mentioned enough. Too much time is spent focussing on topics we will never go on to use when we should have more social and topical information filling our brains! Even trivial things like only girls being taught sewing at school— this leaves an impact on us at a young age!

Shonagh Mulhern: I wish gender typical notions weren’t forced upon children in general. Men are strong, women are weak. Girls wear pink, boys wear blue. I wish there would be less of a pressure for women to marry and have children and less strain put on men to financially fund the lifestyle of their entire family. I wish it would be acceptable to be as you are, not as what you should be.

Phil Hill: That sex and gender are two different things and it’s OK if they don’t align. That there are more than two genders so it’s OK if they don’t identify as “little boy or girl”. That gender isn’t even that important.

Millie Finn; 23 years-old, grew up in Birmingham, Editor & Feature/News Writer for a Cruise Bulletin
Shonagh Mulhern; 23 years-old, grew up in Ireland, full-time Law student and part-time barmaid
Phil Hill; 25 years-old, grew up in Buckinghamshire, host in a restaurant and a volunteer at CALM.