NAWO

History The National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO, founded 1989) is an umbrella organisation for over 100 organisations and individuals based in England. All members are concerned to ensure women gain access to their human rights, and...

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FEMINISM IS ALIVE

By Lauren Eaves

Why are we told that everything is fine? Why are girls told that everything is fine? Girls are told that if they get their GCSEs, their A-levels and a good degree, they will be able to have a fabulously successful career, a group of fabulous fun friends, a loving husband and three happy, healthy children. They aren’t told that women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food but only earn 10% of the income and own 1% of the property. So I know you’re probably thinking ‘wow, she’s cynical for an eighteen year old, girls are allowed to dream’ and perhaps that’s true, or perhaps I’m just realistic.

The majority of my friends think that we’ve won our fight: that feminism is buried, long gone with the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Davison. We got our vote. We can get divorced. We can own property. But women working full-time earn 16% less than men on average in the UK, just because they are women. So along with fostering young women’s dreams of being a super-mum-businesswoman-wife-friend, schools and parents should face up to the scary reality of telling their daughters that their fight is not over. That they can fulfil their dream, but it won’t be handed to them. That many people still doubt a woman’s ability to do the same job as a man. That many people, although they will not come out and say it, will still regard women as less than men, as objects to be exploited. In fact, some of these people may be young women themselves. I expected, unfortunately, that 1 in 2 boys think it is okay to hit a woman or force her to have sex, but for 1 in 3 girls to think the same; I was not expecting that.

We need to claim back feminism. It needs to be dredged up from the depth of history, we need to shake it free from the hunger strikes, the burning bras, the man hating. We need to reclaim feminism as ‘the radical notion that women are human beings’ as said by activist Cheris Kramarae. It scares me that, according to a survey by Netmums, only one in seven mothers (the people who are biologically programmed to support, encourage and empower the next generation of girls and teach their sons respect for women) consider themselves feminists. We must claim back feminism as something peaceful and rational, and tell young women, like me, that they are allowed to be feminist. That society will not be scared of them, society will not vilify them if they openly fight for their own basic human rights.

We, in the UK, and in Europe, should lead the globe. We are considered some of the most developed countries in the world, yet in the UK 100,000 women are raped each year, but just 6% of reported rapes end in a conviction. If we don’t sort ourselves out, how can we grow to help the one out of every three women around the world who has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

We need to pull the wool from our eyes. We should be honest to the next generation of young women. We should tell them that their fight for equality isn’t over here in the UK or across the world. We should claim back feminism and inspire the next generation of young women to proudly declare themselves as feminists.

HAVING THE LAST LAUGH

By Fenella Collins Smith

Being young and impressionable is a given for any student at university. You find yourself being caught up in waves of misogyny, with the, ‘smash’, ‘bang’, and, ‘pound’  guffawing’s of the alpha males ricocheting round the conversation so much so it starts to sound like an onomatopoeic orchestra. The constant flow of, ‘lad banter’ sexually belittling women around campus every day is starting to form the misogynistic soundtrack to my education. As a feminist, and an independent woman (que Destiny’s Child) I am expected to morally object, and take a stand for these girls reduced to drunken vessels and a five minute cuddle. Yet here I am, shaking my head and tutting whilst the boys are enticed to the watering ground with the size of her, ‘massive bazookas.’

‘You’re not a very good feminist then’ I hear you say, as the excitement of last night’s catch dies down and normal conversation resumes. Well I am a feminist, and I do believe in equality, but I also believe that men are funnier than women, and if we could command a comedy crowd when talking about such matters, we probably would. Making fun of a sexual encounter doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding, or belittling, it could be the only possible outlet in which men feel comfortable when expressing themselves in realms that they are puzzled by. The misrepresentation of women in male comedy; be it matters of the heart, or matters of the bedroom is a continuing concept as a result of this enigma.

Humour for many people, and not just boys, is the ultimate defence mechanism. Covering the cracks of the unknown with a face value joke is anyone’s gaff. I could take the opportunity here to quote John Gray’s old classic, ‘men are from Mars and women are from Venus’ quip whilst spouting some nonsense about feeling needed and cherished, but I fear I’d slip dangerously into a Mills and Boon sick bucket (where no-one ever wants to be.) But instead I’ll give you the long and short of it, (and no I’m not talking about penis size, we’re all friends here) despite all of this, ‘lad culture’ cracking up the former and disappointing the latter, women are still sriving to be on top. Why? Because being a strong independent woman isn’t about avoiding the knock backs, and showing humility to the sexual insecurities of man. It’s about staying focused and being assertive in your own skin, not someone else’s’.

Take Beyoncé for example (I’m all about Destiny’s Child today), to most of the world she is a sexual godess; sashaying her voluptuous hips and shaking her perfectly sculpted behind is enough to make any man hide behind a library of jokes if she ever came up to them to say, ‘hi’. But to me, she is the absolute epitome of the new, new woman. Her drive, her power and her presence in a man’s world is awe-inspiring, and I cannot help but wonder where she would be now if she’d let the sexually orientated foibles of her male counterparts get to her.

So girls, next time you’re having a cuppa with the boys and conversation slips to the, ‘sloppy bucket’ of the girl you were talking to briefly last night. Don’t slam your ornate porcelain mug on the table and preach about women’s rights, or even laugh along dismissing the matter. Just remind yourself that boys may have the last joke, but we’ll have the last laugh.