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Feminism is the F-word of this generation

By in Opinions

Feminism is a word used to describe women being viewed as equal to men. Yet sometimes in the same breath these women become upset when “the guy does not pay for every date.” These stigmas have created taboo attitudes associated with the idea. This is ironic given the fact that “man-hating” is the opposite of what feminism is supposed to represent.

Emma-Watson--Flickr-UN-Women
Emma Watson launches her HeForShe campaign and speaks to the UN.

To say that the word feminism has become the “dirty word” of this generation would be a grotesque understatement. It is almost understandable, given the stereotypes surrounding women who fight for women’s rights and equality. The word feminism is too often considered synonymous with man-hating and typically associated with double standards — but this too is a massive inequality in itself and a part of the problem.

If you believe in equality among the human race, you are undoubtedly a feminist. It may appear to be a foreign and uncomfortable concept, as by this definition, the majority of people in Canada  — men and women alike — would qualify as feminists. However, in current society this type of identification is not present. The majority of Canadians do not see gender inequality having a direct effect on their everyday lives, when in actuality it affects everyone worldwide.

On Sept. 20, Emma Watson spoke to the United Nations to launch her HeForShe campaign as the UN Women Goodwill ambassador. The feminism-focused speech quickly went viral across social media. The main emphasis of Watson’s speech was bringing focus to the uncomfortable ideas associated with feminism in modern day society and to refocus the “taboo” word to its true definition of equality among men and women.

Watson spoke of the need for more “inadvertent feminists” — people who believe and model behaviour of equality, yet do not identify with feminism. However, the most radical topic Watson discussed was the need to have men involved in the conversation on feminism. Watson described how men are also greatly affected by gender inequalities and explained that excluding men from feminism will only prolong the problem. The HeForShe campaign is about exactly that — recruiting men as feminists to raise awareness for gender inequality.

As a Canadian citizen living in Saskatoon it may be difficult to identify with the problems she discussed — at first glance they do not seem to be pressing issues in Canada. In fact, Saskatoon is one of the most progressive places in the world for women’s equality.

A 2012 study conducted by TrustLaw, a news service by the Thomason Reuters Foundation, found that Canada was the best out of 20 countries worldwide for women’s equality. Furthermore, in another unrelated 2014 study — done by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Saskatoon ranked as second best in Canada for women’s equality, after Quebec City, Qc. Despite this high ranking in the world, gender equality of both men and women in Canada — including Saskatoon and Quebec — has not yet been achieved.

In Canada, women still face serious inequalities economically, which are often minimally discussed. Women are twice as likely to work a minimum wage job than men. In North America, when the average woman reaches 60 years old, she will have made $450,000 less than a male holding the same position.

However, it would be a form of gender inequality in itself to not address how men are also affected by gender inequalities and stereotypes. Suicide is four times greater in males than females — a fact that is often attributed to social pressures inflicted on males.

According to a report by Samaritans, a United Kingdom based suicide-prevention organization, “Suicide needs to be addressed as a health and gender inequality — an unavoidable difference in health and length of life that affects men more because of the way society expects them to behave.”

Watson also described seeing male friends suffer from mental illness and ended her speech urging men to become more involved in the conversation of feminism.

“If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.”

It is with this belief she stated that if you believe in equality, you are a feminist. Although the word may still appear to be the dirty F-word of this generation, Watson pointed out that the word itself isn’t that important, it’s the idea and ambitions behind feminism that are key.

Inequality is an issue that affects every person on earth and needs to be discussed without the social stigma associated with it. Whether you are a man or a woman, the problem needs to be addressed and fixed as soon as possible — because it affects us all.

Kara Tastad

Photo: UN Women / Flickr

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