We still need feminism

 

*The term womxn will be used to mean anyone who identifies as a woman.

 

I’ve had a unsurprising amount of cis men and more surprisingly, cis womxn, explicitly tell me that we no longer need feminism as womxn now have equal rights. This is typically based on the argument that womxn (in the UK) can open a bank account, buy a house and vote. Apparently race, class, country of residence, ability, education, ethnicity, gender identification, age, sexuality, or language have nothing to do with it. My initial horror response is now a sad internal eye roll whilst I try to muster some compassion and energy to explain why they are so very, very, harmfully wrong. In my opinion, if you do not believe that feminism is for trans women and non binary people, you are not a feminist. If you do not consider or care about the importance of intersectional feminism, a term coined by an American law professor, Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, as ‘a prism for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other’ (1) – then you are not a feminist.

 

Feminism can’t be for one community – we all have layers of social identity which can compound our experiences of discrimination. I know as a white person, read as a cis womxn, middle class, well educated, and  UK citizen that I have bags of privilege. However, I am also queer and gender non conforming, this layer of my social identity takes away some of that privilege. Still, I get to navigate the world with more ease than womxn of colour, indigenous womxn, trans womxn, womxn who have disabilities, or who are working class, or have immigrant status. We need to stand in solidarity together to see how different communities are fighting interconnected issues – together we are stronger to fight the inequalities.(1)

 

‘Nobody is free until everyone is free’ – Fannie Lou Hamer, Civil rights leader & Women’s rights leader. (1)

 

Recently, I have read a lot of literature that has made me rage and cry at the blatant injustice and discrimination against womxn. Below are some examples of the huge inequality in the world that mean we still need to fight for equality.

 

  1. In the USA, and many other countries in the world, womxn require their husband’s signature to acquire elective sterilisation. In one case, (probably multiple) a womxn in same sex marriage was denied a hysterectomy ‘in case she wanted children in the future with a man’. Even a hypothetical man had more say over this womxn’s body than she did.(2)

 

  1. Despite the passing of marriage between same sex couples in 2013 in the UK, up until April 2022 adultery was not valid unless it was with a person of the opposite sex. Just think about that for a minute.(3)

 

  1. In a longitudinal study carried out between 2007-2019 of over 1,320,108 patients, it was shown that womxn are 32% more likely to die at the hands of a male surgeon compared to female surgeons. (4)

 

  1. Womxn are more likely to die from the wrong medication dose as it is based on male anatomy, and there are a lack of womxn in medical trials. (5)

 

  1. Womxn are more likely to die in car accidents, as safety devices are tested on male proportioned dummies.(5)

 

  1. Womxn of colour are 4 times more likely to die in childbirth in the UK . The risk of dying in pregnancy or within the first year after childbirth (7):

 

  • White groups 7 in 100,000
  • Asian groups 12 in 100,000
  • Mixed ethnicity groups 15 in 100,00
  • Black groups 32 in 100,000

 

  1. Womxn living in the most deprived areas are twice as likely to die due to pregnancy or birthing complications. Black and brown womxn are often denied pain relief due to racial stereotypes (7).

 

  1. The rise in anti abortion legislation in the US is shocking, with over 108 abortion restrictions enacted in 19 states in 2021, with more set to pass. As of September 2021, abortion in Texas became illegal once a fetal heartbeat can be detected – approx. 6 weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest (13). You can elect not to be an organ donor once you die due to ‘bodily autonomy’, this act gives dead bodies more bodily autonomy than living girls & womxn. (14)

 

  1. In a study carried out by Oxfam, womxn experience time poverty through unpaid labour of housework, child care, and elderly relative care, amounting to $10 trillion annually. *If they had been paid minimum wage.* What is worse, is this unpaid work is generating massive wealth for a couple of thousand (mostly male) billionaires (8).

 

  1. Just over half of disabled womxn in the UK are in work, and most who are in work experience a disability pay gap, for some disabled womxn this is as large as 18.9% (9).

 

  1. Misogyny feeds the patriarchy and the patriarchy affects everyone, womxn and fem presenting people more explicitly, but also men and masc presenting people too. It breeds inequality and toxic masculinity, teaching men to disconnect from their emotions, to deny their individuality and frame seeking help as ‘weak’. This stifles men, often pushing them to engage in maladaptive coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drug abuse, sometimes to suicide. The biggest killer of men in the age range of 45-49 is still suicide. Men can be victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, which is typically under reported for a a fear of being seen as a emasculated, weak or a victim (10).

 

  1. As of today there are 56 Members of Parliament who are currently under investigation by Westminster’s Harassment and Abuse watchdog. This means that alleged abusers are currently better represented in Parliament than womxn of colour, the LGBTQIA+ community, disabled people and the nation of Wales. (Jenn Selby, Women’s Equality Party 28th April 2022 (11) )

 

  1. Womxn make up 51% of the population, yet we live in a male biased world. It will take 135 years to close the gender pay gap globally. (12)

 

This list can go on, and I recommend reading Caroline Criado Perez’s book ‘Invisible Women, exposing data bias in a world designed for men’ (5) if you still have any doubt about the need for feminism. One of the best ways to counteract these horrendous statistics is through representation. If we are not seen, we are not heard. If we’re not heard, our needs can’t be addressed, let alone met. Womxn are under-represented in most areas, in the UK womxn currently only hold 34% of senior leadership roles. In the US just 6% of S&P 500 CEO’s are womxn, only 2.3% of venture funding went to womxn led start ups in 2020. For womxn of colour that rounds down to 0. Things are slowly shifting with some small steps in the right direction, for example, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was the first black woman to be confirmed to the US Supreme Court, in April 2022. This is an incredible personal achievement for Ketanji and for the peoples’ lives she will impact, but I fear congratulating the bare minimum – this should have happened a long time ago. (12). We need more womxn to be able to step out of the burden of unpaid labour and be involved in research, policy development, and decision making so that womxn do not get forgotten.

 

 

 

References

(1) https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/6/explainer-intersectional-feminism-what-it-means-and-why-it-matters

(2) https://4w.pub/in-2020-women-still-need-their-husbands-permission-to-get-sterilized/

(3) https://www.pinneytalfourd.co.uk/same-sex-adultery-and-the-forgotten-law/

(4) https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamasurgery/article-abstract/2786671?utm_campaign=articlePDF&utm_medium=articlePDFlink&utm_source=articlePDF&utm_content=jamasurg.2021.6339

(5) Criado Perez, C (2019). Invisible Women. London: Penguin Random House.

(6)https://www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/assets/downloads/mbrrace-uk/reports/maternal-report-2021/MBRRACE-UK_Maternal_Report_2021_-_Lay_Summary_v10.pdf

(7) https://www.mother.ly/life/the-value-of-unpaid-care-work-by-women-is-10-8-trillion/

(8) https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/our-work/blogs/%E2%80%98double-whammy%E2%80%99-being-disabled-woman-uk

(9)https://www.samaritans.org/about-samaritans/research-policy/suicide-facts-and-figures/latest-suicide-data/

(10)https://www.womensequality.org.uk/

(11) https://iwpr.org/

(12) https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2022/03/2022-state-legislative-sessions-abortion-bans-and-restrictions-medication-abortion

(13)https://aninjusticemag.com/does-the-bodily-autonomy-of-the-dead-matter-more-than-women-6e41ce0cb41c

 

Photo credit: Markus Spiske

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