Young Women’s News and Views

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.

DANCE LIKE NO-ONE’S GROPING YOU

by Martha Saunders

I’ve spent a couple of excellent nights over the last week in Belgian gay clubs. Trying to put a finger on exactly what it was that I really loved about the experience and exactly what set it apart from the clubs I’m used to was initially difficult. The music was unexceptional, the club was dark, overcrowded and far too stuffy. The real difference? Nobody tried to touch me up.

There is a pervasive dirtiness to UK clubs. Commentators on rape culture have called out club nights which seem to condone sexual violence and date rape or overtly sexualise girls such as the Tequila “Fresher’s Violation” events, but these are merely symptoms of a much more entrenched cultural problem. Clubs are at best permeated by an utter disregard for personal space and common courtesy, and at worst barely concealed and sometimes frightening sexual aggression. I’ve never found going out clubbing to be a relaxed experience, but a minefield of invasive gropes, degrading comments, and a general feeling that I am there as nothing more than a piece of meat, part of the evening’s entertainment. During one particularly gruesome night out I began to count the amount of unsolicited gropes I received in a club. It happened 27 times. The message is clear. Girls in clubs aren’t there to enjoy themselves; we’re there to be enjoyed.

Leaving the gay club, I marveled at the simple joy of an evening where I had been able to just listen to the music and dance with my friends. That shouldn’t be an exceptional and rare pleasure, and it’s sickening that it’s necessary to escape abroad, or to a club where you can guarantee nobody is sexually attracted to women, in order to have fun without feeling dirty and degraded. The culture this represents is one which dictates that just because a man is attracted to you, he has the right to touch and ogle you at will.

This idea that the attractiveness of a girl equals a free pass to curtail basic human decency extends to many other situations from catcalls in the street to date rape and sexual violence. They all come from the same mentality.

The worst part of this is the way girls themselves as well as men have been conditioned to see it as normal behaviour. Men will encourage their friends, seeing it as a completely acceptable way to get what they want. Girls, in the meanwhile, are taught to take their attention as flattering. If they respond negatively, they’re criticized as frigid or overreactionary. This idea that we should feel somehow complimented is the worst misconception. There’s nothing about being groped in a club that makes you feel good. At worst it leads to a slow erosion of self esteem and self worth, as you feel your body become less and less under your own control and more an object for the enjoyment of sweaty, desperate boys in overcrowded bars.

The only way to handle this is no huge protest movement, no law or movement, but by more and more people addressing it themselves. By men stopping the laddish encouragement of their mates, and instead discouraging them with a gentle “Hey, that’s not cool.” By girls who are on the receiving end to stop passively accepting their harassment and responding with nothing more complex than a withering look, a slap of the hand, telling them exactly where to get off. It’s simple to resolve, but nobody’s doing it, because we’ve all accepted that it’s okay.

It’s not okay to be felt up 27 times on a night out. All I want is to be able to dance. Is that so much to ask?