All too often, I am hearing people say that feminism in the UK has become redundant; there seems to be an idea that just because, yes, some women have jobs, everyone should feel fulfilled and as though feminism is something that can be, and has been, completed. Done and dusted. No more work to do here.
Having recently written an article expressing my frustration about a lack of university students who would happily refer to themselves as feminists, an overwhelmingly disappointing response I got from many of those who weren't was: "What's the need?"or "Why are you bothering?"
People were questioning my motive, saying that women in the UK were equal now; we have our own jobs, lives and bank accounts and legally have the same rights as men. But this is just a technicality. I can assure you that when I see hundreds of adverts every day where a woman is in a state of undress, or my body is treated as public property, commented on and touched, I feel substantially less equal to my male counterparts, who suffer no such woes. It starts to make me wonder: How did we get here? How did we get to a time in society when women are not only being mistreated and exploited but that people don't even care or notice anymore? Yes, legally, we are equal, but are we equal in any other respect?
The fact is that the young adults of today, a generation that will soon be leading the country, have grown up in a world of social media, advertising, glossy magazines, porn and the double-edged sword of the World Wide Web, all of which seem to amplify the importance of bodies, sex and appearance until we are so blinkered by it all, we no longer know what's right and wrong. We are a lazy generation, too attached to the Twitter account giving us a never-ending stream of naked women's bodies, or to our monthly dose of FHM, to realize that, actually, this isn't right. In the 21st century, objectification is not only acceptable, but it's also entirely normal and people have forgotten we should be fighting against it.
Before the snarky remarks come in... no, I haven't lost my sense of humor; I just don't think it's all just "a bit of banter," nor do I like seeing an advert for cars that, for some unknown reason, features a woman with her pants around her ankles.
For me, there are two major factors that need changing: the way a woman's appearance is the only thing that matters and the way language is used against those who desperately try to break free from social conventions. There's a reason why Germaine Greer recently said, in Blurred Lines: The New Battle of the Sexes that it's harder being a woman in the 21st century than it was 40 or so years ago.
The sad truth is that, for a woman, you can't be taken seriously unless you look right. There's makeup that has to be done in a certain way (don't look like you're trying too hard, but make sure it's clear you've made an effort and that you're wearing the exact right shade of eye shadow), and don't even get me started on clothes and body shapes. Remember not to wear a tight top if you're over a size 8, be ashamed of your body and make sure you keep it nice and covered. Or not.
What's more, I'm sure we're all familiar with the repercussions that come to those who dare to step out of line; it's no secret what Caroline Criado-Perez faced after she suggested women should be featured on bank notes. She encountered death and rape threats through social media, and for what crime? Daring to suggest women should be given the same special treatment many men get? And when was the last time a fat man got shouted at in the street, just because he didn't look right? I myself have been told that my views on feminism can be equated with the Nazi regime; forgive me if I'm being naïve, but I'm pretty sure that asking for women to be equal to men is just not the same as being a mass murderer. It's really not.
Don't get me wrong: I won't judge you if you like to keep a nice appearance, I do too. But I will judge you if you exploit a woman with the way a woman looks, tell her she has to dress a certain way or, worse, see her only for her body. Shocking, though, it may be to hear, we do have a brain as well as boobs.
The feminism I believe in is about choice; I want to be able to choose what I do with my life, how I look and what I choose to wear and yet still be taken seriously. That's because I want to choose not to be considered just for my looks but also for my intelligence. And I want language to change because I don't want there to be a backlash when I bravely decide that this is what I want.
Sure, I know there's loads of other reasons why feminism is needed in the world, most importantly in places that aren't quite as lucky as us to have women at least legally equal to men. But for me, and many other women like me, our troubles are overlooked. I want to shout at all those people telling me that feminism isn't necessary anymore because I feel that it still affects me in a huge way. And I really don't think it should.
Sexism towards women is stifling our voice, not in an obvious way, but in a subtle way, in a way that means we don't even notice. Don't tell me you wear that thong and desperately uncomfortable, nipple-skimming top for yourself. You wear it because the patriarchy has taught you that that is what you should look like. And don't even get me started on skinny jeans; sure, they may look nice, but I'm pretty sure they restrict my creative juices. There's no way I can start to write unless I'm wearing a big old pair of track pants. So while the idea of feminism may seem trivial and unnecessary in the modern world in which we live, the truth is that we just don't realize how much sexism is holding us back.