I'm ashamed to admit it, but I once declared to my elder sister that there was no way I was, nor ever would be, a feminist. All I knew about so-called "feminism" was something along the lines of burning bras and that there was an association with lots of body hair. My naïve self quickly decided that, what with having DD+ boobs, a braless life like this was just not for me.
Luckily, I quickly changed my mind... even about the shaving.
And so, as a current undergraduate, when I got to university, I was ready to hurl myself into a life that was just as filled with stimulating conversation about misogyny as it was filled with alcohol-fuelled nights; I dreamt of bonding with my future friends over a common detesting of sexual harassment and the patriarchy. Sadly, I was met with bitter disappointment. The same society that had the ability to convince my ambitious and aspiring young teenage self that acceptance as the minority gender was inevitable, and that feminism was just for "weirdos," had of course managed to convince the majority of people at my university, male and female alike, that feminism was just not cool.
Aside from wanting to scream some rape statistics into the ears of those students who claim that "feminism just isn't that important because like, it's just like, never really affected me," I spent a large majority of my first term at university trying to pin point exactly what had gone wrong. Students, young and carefree, have the power to bring about large changes within society and culture, determining life for future generations, so why did no one care? Without sounding big-headed, I am at a great university and yet people are shockingly less interested in equality than they are about having the best night out they can, and this worries me.
Enter the university's hallowed walls and sexism is suddenly enlarged and exaggerated and yet, despite the fact that it is right on people's doorsteps, there is a shocking unwillingness to discuss sexism. Although we have an undeniable dominance of male lecturers and an infamous culture where sexual abuse, both verbal and physical, is so regular that a rogue boob grab from a random guy in a club would genuinely be considered the norm, people still don't care. People barely even bat an eyelid. So-called "lads" revel in how many "birds they can score" before constantly afterwards referring to them as "sluts" and, in a casual conversation today, I was even told that a module on post-war women writers would be "boring." Why? "Just because they're women." It's safe to say I didn't quite agree with this argument. There just seems to be a general perception of women as a) a sex object and b) inferior due to lack of humour or intelligence and, while this is sadly already too common in everyday life, a complete lack of interest in feminism and an overbearing 'lad-culture' means it is engorged and, worse, encouraged whilst at university.
Don't get me wrong, I like having fun and I like going out, but I also (shock, horror) would like a little bit of equality in my life. And yet it's this problem of equality which is the basis of many students' lack of interest in feminism; unfortunately, like my own younger self, for many students there is a massive stigmatism surrounding the idea of "feminism." It's as if, by calling ourselves feminists, we are automatically declaring ourselves to be weird and different. Young people and students apparently associate feminism with these negative ideas rather than the good ones where we try to pave the way for future generations of women to get something that should be the norm, just something small, like, I don't know... equal pay? Still sound stupid and uncool? Because to me, getting equal pay for an equal job sounds pretty damn good. It has just become too ingrained in the minds of many that feminism is a negative word and they don't understand its roots or the aims of followers, which, despite the fact that there is understandably no one true feminism, are predominantly aimed at a better future. And that's why, when one of the city's most popular club night's oh-so-hilarious tagline was "drunk women deserve jail," I boycotted. Instead, I of course chose a night in, dreaming of that equal pay and admiring my bush. Or something along those lines. I think we know who had a better night here.
While I do not want, in any way, to come across as considering myself superior just because I am a (admittedly, still very new) self-declared feminist, it scares me not only that people look down on feminism, but also that people are ashamed to label themselves like this. To me, it feels like it should be a natural admission, not a strange label, and society should be more shocked if you aren't a feminist than if you are. At the rate the students around me appear to be going, with future generations of adults and leaders refusing to acknowledge feminism, it scarily seems that that could still be a long way off. There is a simple reality that if more people accepted that the crux of feminism is not bra-burning at all, but equality in all senses between men and women, then they would feel like they can admit to being a feminist without feeling ashamed. Supporting feminism is simply supporting a basic human right of equality and if this negativity is lost then feminism could grow at a much faster rate. And isn't that what we'd all like?