Emma Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch even Obama – they all have one. Feminist t-shirts became a real “thing” during summer of last year. An amazing campaign challenging the usual feminist stereotypes of over- sensitive, angry women with unshaved legs and instead showing that feminists are truly just anyone who believes in the equal rights of all humans! It seemed every politician wanted a photo opportunity posing with their T-shirt but what I noticed a real lack of was seeing people wearing them in everyday life and why was that? Why is feminism still a dirty word?
But when I thought about it – I didn’t have a T-shirt either. But it’s only a t-shirt and it certainly isn’t some weird kind of feminist entry criteria! However, I also realised that I was quite often embarrassed to openly speak about my opinion and support for feminism in certain social groups. This is not a good thing and it is certainly not something I am proud of! I have benefited massively from feminist run groups such as Rape Crisis in the past and would struggle to describe in words how invaluable their input into society is, I donate to woman’s rights causes, I march for reclaim the night, I sign petitions and I like to think I help as much as I can. But sometimes in a social group when something inaccurate or inappropriate is said – I am guilty of not speaking up and afterwards I feel angry at myself for it.
I live and study at an agricultural college and a large amount of my social life is spent with student farmers and others studying similar courses. Many of these young people come from small countryside towns and most of them are not particularly open minded. A lot of inappropriate remarks are made and I frequently cringe inwardly for them but more often than not – I don’t say anything. There was once a conversation round my college flats kitchen table that touched on feminism and it became glaringly obvious how uneducated people still are and how some people find admitting to being a feminist akin to admitting to being something awful like a white supremacist. The consensus seemed to be that feminists are woman who think they deserve better than men and that think its ok for women to assault men but not the opposite – one boy joked about hitting women while shouting feminism. I listened to all of this and in my head I wanted to say something. To tell them all they had the complete wrong end of the stick. To tell that isn’t feminism but just another brand of ignorance. But my words stuck in my throat and I walked away. To this day, I wish I had said something.
It’s not the only situation of that kind I’ve been in – many a time I’ve heard young women saying that they’re not a feminist because they want everyone to be equal. I should have said that this is the exact principle feminism is built on. I’ve heard people say we don’t need feminism because woman have rights now – I wish I had asked them about the wage gap, the glass ceiling. I really should have told them that although in the UK we have made massive progress in recent years – women in many countries have not been so lucky and we still need to fight for these women to have their human rights. We owe them at least that. But I didn’t. And I am ashamed for that.
All of this has made me realise that I am in such a fortunate position to live in a country where progress continues to be made but I also realised that this luck has to come with responsibility – to use my voice and free speech to educate the people I can and to make whatever difference I can regardless of others reaction. I should not be ashamed to admit to believing in the rights of myself and others and I should not be ashamed to wear a bloody T-shirt. So, I am going to buy one and I will wear it with pride. I hope you will too.