Nicole Bendon | Opinion | Friday 29 July 2016 | GMT 17:00 | @Nicolebendon_x

Since I can remember, my dad has always encouraged me to partake in a variety of different sports and hobbies that otherwise may be seen as ‘manly’ activities. This was at a simpler time when the concept of gender inequality never really crossed my mind. However, with the world we young girls live in, it has become a common issue and one that people seek to undermine.

For the record, the definition of feminism is: “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. I shall repeat for those who may not understand that it is the: “equality of the sexes” – not the superiority of women. Of course, it is impossible to deny that there are many people out there who advocate for feminism in the wrong way, including the use of violence and “man bashing”. However, it seems that these are the few who get the most attention and have eventually tarnished what the feminist movement stands for.

I am not ashamed to say that I am a feminist and nobody will ever be able to force me to hide my feelings towards the movement based on the extremist actions of a few. Personally, despite the existence of extremists, I can’t see how somebody can read the definition of feminism and not believe that in some way they are a feminist or at least support what the movement stands for. Feminism is not about making women stronger. It is about changing how the world sees a woman’s strength. Feminism is not a dirty word, but sexism is a social disease.

I received some nasty backlash on Twitter recently following the emergence of the hashtag “IAmAFeminist” and after posting a few tweets on my thoughts of feminism. These tweets consisted of the argument that feminists are constantly generalised as “men haters” and how people who identify as feminists are quite often attacked or spoken to rudely. Here comes the irony: the first few responses were from boys making comments about how feminism exaggerates problems, with women simply being “too whiny”.

Once I then posted about how ironic these comments were, I received possibly just under 100 responses either disagreeing with me (which is their right) or in most cases calling me nasty names and sending me sexist slurs in my mentions. I read all of these responses and concluded that at least 95% of them were attacking me based on the false assumption that feminism attacks men and misinforms people. Normally, these comments wouldn’t bother me as I’m never really shocked by how far people will go to suppress somebody’s opinion and belief. But after being referred to as a “parasitic human”, an “evil feminist bitch” and even a “bigoted transphobe”, I finally understood why people are so afraid to identify as feminists and take a stand against patriarchy – at one point I was even told to “get back to the kitchen”. How original.

My point is that there is very little in the world today that you won’t be criticised by somebody for doing or saying. Immediately, I thought to myself that I would never comment on controversial things again as clearly it wasn’t worth the hateful and spiteful attacks. However, that is what people hope to do to you. They hope that their spiteful attacks will suppress your thoughts and feelings and then they will win. Believe me, I don’t intend on ever letting anybody make me feel stupid or embarrassed to express how I feel again.

Linking back to the issue at hand, it seems to me that many people wish to demolish the idea of feminism and silence those who fight against issues as the gender pay gap (which blatantly exists despite people’s best efforts to undermine that fact), the sexualisation of young girls and violence against women particularly in Middle Eastern Countries. The fact is: I don’t want to bring a daughter into a world where I would have to sit her down and explain that if she wears a certain skirt or looks at a boy a certain way, she would be blamed for what would occur next. That she would be “asking for it”. This has become a key issue as women everywhere are being told that their outfit choices provoke a certain response from a male and lead him to believe that you wore said outfit for one reason only.

Wanting the equality of the sexes does not make me “whiny” or “bitchy” at all. It makes me human. Now, of course I have to mention that I am fortunate enough to live in a country where women have equal rights and for the most part, my gender does not hinder me in any way. However, having equal rights written in law and actually being treated equally are two very different things. And it’s the little things that really bother me. For example, the fact that PE teachers rarely allow boy vs. girl games because it was “obvious the boys would always win” and how our skirts had to be a certain length so we wouldn’t “give off the wrong vibe” or “distract” anyone. The little and seemingly unimportant things take their toll over time.

Conspicuously, we have come a long way in terms of women’s rights in many European countries and America, whereby we now have the privilege to vote, to own our own accounts and to be treated as equals in law and in public. However, that does not eliminate the fact that there are women in Middle Eastern countries and across the world who are owned by their husbands, forced into marriages and pregnancy in their early teens, abused because there is no real law against it and constantly undermined and reminded that, because they were born a girl they will always be inferior.

It is for the reasons aforementioned that I identify as a feminist – not so much for me, but for the millions of girls and women out there who haven’t had the advantages in their lives that I have been blessed with and who perhaps will never have a platform to address these issues like I do. I cannot stress enough that I do not have to be feeling the full effects of patriarchy to be against the oppression of women.

In all, people will always attempt to undermine and silence you on the issues that matter most, mainly because they don’t want to face up to the truth. This is the only logical reason why I can think that some people deny that women are unequal and claim feminism is actually dangerous and prone to man hating. You don’t have to be anti-man to be pro-woman. Yes, we have evolved into times that are fairer in terms of gender equality, but it is nowhere near to being what it should be. Perhaps there never will be complete gender equality and there will always be the same misrepresentation of the movement, but that won’t stop me or the majority of women out there from believing in an equal world. After all: “we cannot all succeed when half of us are being held back”.

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