‘#idon’tneedfeminism because I don’t want to politicise my gender.’
‘#idon’tneedfeminism because I’m equal in America: I can vote, I receive equal pay, I receive equal education.’
‘#idon’tneedfeminism because I am not a victim.’
These are a sticky assortment of comments that have inundated news and social media in recent weeks. I say sticky, because whatever I say, someone is going to disagree.
The first problem with the concept of #idontneedfeminism, is the word: Feminism. What does Feminism mean? Certainly not the same to you as it means to me, or to her, or to him. The dictionary definition does not account for the connotative lime-scale which has cemented itself to the word.
When I was a kid, I went to a Christian school. Naturally, we were taught about the virgin birth. I put up my hand. I can almost imagine my teacher’s internalised wish to throw her Bible at me, controlled by a tight-eyed smile; I get the same kind of smile from my estate agent, and give it to customers at work.
‘Yes, Dandie. What would you like to share with the class?’
‘Did God ask Mary if she wanted a baby first?’
I was made to sit in a corner on a hard chair and reflect on what I’d said. And reflect I did, for nearly thirteen years.
Because for me, this is what Feminism means. The capacity for women to choose how they think, and how they are.
The women and girls who were part of the #idontneedfeminism campaign have chosen that. However, I can’t help thinking they’ve missed something quite uncomfortably obvious. If it weren’t for the efforts of Feminism, they wouldn’t be able to say any of what they’re saying. They wouldn’t have the choice to say so, let alone speak of equal pay and the like.
These women and girls have missed something else. As western women, they may not consider themselves to be a victim of sexism and gender inequality, because they have the vote, equal pay, and equal educational opportunities. Well, good for them. But the majority of the world’s female population don’t. Perhaps we should just forget them then? Perhaps we should just forget about all the dark and troubling things that happen in this world because they don’t apply to us, don’t beat us, rape us, or force our hands into marriage?
These women are frozen in photographs. Their thoughts are spoken on cardboard in felt tip pen. If we asked them whether they cared about these things, they would say that they do.
I worry that #idontneedfeminism responds to only one type of Feminism, the Radical kind, divisions of which advocate misandry, or an inversion of gender inequality. I worry that this is the kind which receives the majority of media attention. And this is why I account for the expanse of all kinds, in this small space here.
My arse is numb from sitting on that chair in the corner, but this here is my Feminism. What’s yours?