In the United Kingdom, this week, two women will be killed by their partner or ex-partner. One incident of domestic violence against women is reported to the police every minute. That’s going to be five women by the time you reach the end of this article. That ranks the UK as worse than nearly every other European country. It’s equally bad in terms of the gender pay gap. Women earn less here compared to men than most other European countries – 17% less per hour, some £300,000 in accumulated losses over their career. The UK needs, desperately, to pursue gender equality. The pursuit of gender equality has another name: feminism. The UK needs feminism.
Feminism needs you
And feminism needs you. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. Polls suggest feminists are more likely to be female, so this piece is directed at everybody else. Feminism is diversifying: this isn’t the first wave, and it’s not the early twentieth century. Sexism is pernicious – it’s subtle, sometimes invisible. It needs to be combatted not by one gender but by all genders. Being knowledgeable about feminism, even knowing the basics – that can make a huge difference to your outlook on politics, on social justice, on women. The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one. The genders are not equal.
Even if the flame of altruism doesn’t burn within you, consider only that equality of genders (and by extension the advancement of women) benefits everyone. A more egalitarian society would result in a stronger economy and a stronger workforce, as women would no longer be limited to less skilled jobs. In other words, feminism would make us richer. Gender roles and norms affect men in the exact same way they affect women. Male victims of domestic violence aren’t taken seriously, and neither is assault against men. Punitive sentencing against men is also negatively biased. These are issues that feminism could address. These are areas where a real, meaningful difference could be made.
Opposition to feminism
Unlike other social movements, opposition to feminism tends to stem not from ideology but from ignorance. Outside of various profoundly oppressive countries, most people intrinsically support equality. Opposition to feminism therefore comes from simply not knowing a great deal about it. You don’t have to spend much time on the internet to hear the tried and true ‘Women don’t need feminism anymore’. Ironically, the same people who claim feminism is obsolete perpetuate the misogyny that necessitates it. There is staggering evidence that feminism remains a positive, relevant and potent movement. One example of this is 2003 Sexual Offences Act. After intense campaigning by feminist groups, the law in this country was changed. A new, broader definition of rape was adopted. Further, men were no longer recognised as the sole perpetrators of the crime. This represents an example of when feminism directly advanced not just women but men as well.
Feminism is the pursuit of gender equality but with each new generation, the goalposts move. Where once feminists strived for the vote (the Suffragette movement), they now strive to address issues like the gender pay gap and domestic violence. These issues are different but no less important. Many protections are already enshrined in law but creating a practical reality is the next frontier. There’s already equal pay laws in most Western countries, but in not a single one has the gender pay gap been closed. Feminism also needs to begin to play a part in influencing foreign policy – should we continue to trade with states that have notorious Human Rights records, especially with regard to their treatment of women, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar?
Kettle is a student magazine. That means that it’s readership are the next generation of activists and lawyers and policy makers and politicians and citizenry. It means that soon, if not already, the baton of social justice gets passed to you. If you’ve gotten this far you’ve seen the statistics and heard the arguments. You likely realize that there’s a compelling case to be a feminist, a compelling case for feminism. If you’re reading this in a Western, liberal country, like Britain, remember your freedoms are not free. They were payed for with activism, with sweat, tears and blood. None of you need martyr yourselves for feminism but the highest patriotism is a critical one and there is always more work to do.
This article was co-written by Joshua Daniels and Camila Vergara.