Feminism: Fab or Drab?

Article published on April 27, 2016
Article published on April 27, 2016

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

We've all heard the stereotypes of feminists. They're man-haters, they don't shave, they burn their bras. Feminism is a thing of the past, we don't need it anymore, women are equal to men - aren't they?

Over the last few years, feminism has taken off once again. With the power of social media, projects and campaigns about feminism have been read, shared and hashtagged a million times, giving the "ordinary" person the power to do something extraordinary. 

But just how much do we really need feminism nowadays? The answer is a lot.

When we think of feminism, we think of women throwing themselves in front of horses in order to be able to vote, and yet legally, men and women are equal, so why is feminism something that's still being fought about? Just because things are equal legally, doesn't mean they're equal socially.

Take the internet, for example. Most people with brains know that threatening to rape someone (or of course, actually raping them) is illegal. Not only is it illegal, but it's not nice. And yet, time and time again, we see women being threatened with rape over the internet, simply because they've posted something related to feminism. In fact, just to prove this point, a study was conducted where two Twitter accounts were made: one male, one female. They Tweeted the exact same thing, and whilst the male account received praise and a lot of nods behind screens, the female account received rape threats and name-calling. Why? Because sexism still exists.

Women are brought up being told by adults and the media that they have to conform to a set of 'norms'. You can't sit like that, it's unladylike. You can't be fat. But you can't be too thin, either. You can't sleep around with too many people, or you're a slut. But if you don't have sex at all, you're frigid and a prude. You can't be funny - girls aren't funny. You can't be too smart or guys will feel intimidated. You can't wear this, you can't say that. You can't do what you want, in case it makes a man feel inadequate, because that's what you're here for - you're here for the sole purpose of pleasing men, and God forbid you have your own brain and do what you want to.

So it's no wonder really that girls are confused about who they are and what they want, because the society they're born into doesn't even know. Every day young women are bombarded with contradictions from left, right and centre, one day telling them that "curves are in" and the next telling them how to get a "bikini body". It's confusing and it seems that whatever girls do, they can't win. They're going to be contradicted for something, no matter what they do, or wear, or say.

Of course, no-one is saying that men don't have problems, too. They do. Men can be raped and abused and feel pressured into conforming to certain norms too, no-one is denying that. And that's why feminism is such a good cause - feminists want equality for everyone. All genders - male, female, transgender, genderqueer etc. All sexualities - straight, gay, bi, pan etc. All ethnicities - white, black, Asian, mixed etc. Whoever you are, whatever your experiences, feminism can and will benefit you. Because everyone suffers from some element of sexism and inequality. It's just a case of working together to fight it.

So no, feminists are not man-hating, bra-burning, hairy-armpitted lesbian women. If you burn your bras, cool. If you don't shave your armpits, cool. If you're a lesbian, cool. If you're a woman, cool. But anyone can be a feminist. In the words of Caitlyn Moran: "Do you have a vagina? Do you want to have a say in what happens to it? Congratulations! You're a feminist!" (Although of course, this extends to those who don't have vaginas and still care about equality - anyone can be a feminist.)

We need to work together to fight the good fight - against Everday Sexism and rape culture. We need to call people out when they make sexist jokes. We need to hashtag and retweet and go internet crazy, because it's a powerful tool and we need to use it! Read new, feminist books (they're not boring, in fact they're hilarious) like Laura Bates' new book Girl Up, or Caitlyn Moran's How To Be A Woman. Read articles and Facebook posts and get involved. Feminism is not drab. It's fab. And it needs you.