Feminism – my favourite ism

I’ve got a bit of a filthy mouth. Most of the time, when I’m not in front of a mic, I’d give Samuel L Jackson a run for his money. So you can imagine the expletives that were spewing from my mouth this week when I read Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash, distance herself from that most offensive of ‘f’ words, feminist.

This week, this International Women’s Day, at a Women’s Day event, we’re having this discussion. It’s such a boring and idiotic thing to get hung up about.

Do you believe in and strive for the rights of women to be equal to men’s? Then you are a feminist. Plain and simple.

Senator Cash said this: “In terms of feminism, I’ve never been someone who really associates with that movement. That movement was a set of ideologies from many, many decades ago now.”

AAAARRRRGHGHGHG!!!! That’s all I can print, in place of the much more colourful language I’d like to share with Ms Cash.

Feminism is an ideology from decades ago, yes, but it is as crucial today as it was when our fore-mothers thought of it.

Relegating it to an irrelevance from decades ago is like suggesting there’s no need to vaccinate for polio because the disease doesn’t exist any more. One prevents the spread of the other. Whether it be polio or misogyny, we cannot give up the fight, for without it, our generations face a dire reversal of quality of life.

Know a woman who’s been paid less than a man for the same job? You need feminism. Sick of not being represented in the highest levels of your company or industry? You need feminism. Not being appointed as the Minister for Women, but instead having to assist a man who apparently knows better the needs of women. Don’t you think, Senator Cash, you need feminism?

Been groped by strange hands when pushing through a crowded pub? Watching your 5-year-old daughter search in vain for a bike that isn’t pink? Been called ‘girlie’, even though you’re 41???  We all need feminism.

Feel the sickening shock and sadness when you read about the amount of women dying at the hands of men each week in this country. Or the horrific numbers of women being gang raped or burnt alive in India, or in other parts of the world being denied the right to drive, vote, have a job or show their faces. THE WORLD NEEDS FEMINISM.

It is the basis for a broad minded generous way of thinking that calls for one thing only. Not that you have to hate men. Not that you can’t wear stilettos or lipstick or shave under your arms. No one is expecting you to join an all women’s group, whip off your top and bra and dance in a big old saggy boobed circle.

All feminism demands is that one half of the world’s population be treated the same as the other half. But as a movement it is so much more important than a motivational saying on Oprah’s website.

It is the language through which we have the dialogue. It opens the door to serious policy discussion, education programs, welfare funding, and crucial conversations between teachers, students, parents, children, and, because of it’s controversial nature, in offices, factories, workshops, farms and board rooms around the world.

It is the context within which we see injustice. And most importantly, in it’s united defiant rageful presence, it is the call to action. Without the ‘ism’, there would be no change.

I am a feminist, Senator Cash, because I want better for my daughter. I want it to be a given that she will have equal representation at all levels of industry and government. I want the thought of wage inequalities to sound ludicrous. And I want her never to feel lesser because she is female.

I am a feminist because I want women and girls in poorer countries to live longer, to be able to stay in school, have the freedom to work, enjoy better healthcare and safer child births, be free to choose who they do and do not marry, and know that she can exist in her community safe from attack.

I am a feminist because equality is the measure by which a society can be judged, and I want to live in a country I can be proud of.

I’m sure, Senator Cash, your vision for our world is much the same. In fact, without freaking you out, by definition, you are a feminist.

The difference is that I proudly adopt the title so that I can stand united with a world-wide movement that has already exacted change, and will continue to do so. Change that none of us could have achieved on our own, and that we all are now the beneficiaries of.

Most importantly, I stand with feminism because there is still much to be done and progress is not a given.

It might be just a label to you, Senator Cash, but to say you want equality but then denounce feminism is not only illogical, it’s irresponsible. It accedes to the rhetoric that an organized women’s movement is irrelevant or extremist. It contributes to the notion that women are incapable of banding together for one cause, and it isolates you. All of which could basically be a step-by-step guide to the art of oppression.

Please don’t say, in your role as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, that you are not a feminist. You are benefitting from the vaccine, but putting us all at risk. And I have another ‘f’ word for that. Foolish.

2 Responses to “Feminism – my favourite ism”

  1. Higgo

    I don’t know where to start with this Jo.
    I think you’re awesome, always have, and maybe that’s why I am so ignorant to what’s happening around me.
    I have been lucky to work with the most amazing women possible, in front of, and behind the mic.
    And maybe that’s why I am ignorant.
    Thank you for bringing this to my attention, I like to think I see everyone as equal (in fact most of the time I feel inferior to most) and I ask the same question of this, as I do of gay equality. How is this even an issue?
    We’re better than this, surely.
    People are people. We’re all flesh and blood.

  2. Naomi Edwards

    I think what Jo is trying to say (and I think she is saying this) is that we would be setting back women for DECADES if we stop embracing feminism. Feminism does not equal burning our bras and standing around bonfires with our pubes hanging out to say that we are women hear us roar….Being a feminist in this day and age means for goodness sake TREAT us like equals, STOP undermining us not just in the workforce but EVERYWHERE and HELLO we are just not the little women in the kitchen anymore… A lot of us work LONG hours outside the home (in my case as a nurse and let me tell you it’s not a pretty job to do most days and then return home to a family life) and YET we are still not PAID the same, TREATED the same, or RESPECTED the same…. That is what feminism means to me…


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