When I was first given the opportunity to contribute to this blog, I jumped at the chance. Women Work is a fantastic network and I was excited at the prospect being involved with it. But, in spite of the aim of Women Work, I certainly didn’t consider myself a feminist (this of course says more about my understanding of feminism than it does about the objectives of the network).
I was brought up believing that I could achieve anything I wanted to be, or do anything I set my mind to. I never considered gender a hindrance – or indeed a stepping stone – towards anything. This is probably because I (along with two younger siblings) was raised by a single-working mother who believed and expressed such an unwavering belief in our ability to do anything we wanted to do, in spite of numerous circumstances and adversities, that we grew into resilient adults. I was also fortunate to attend a secondary school that encouraged participation in as much as possible, irrespective of gender, experience or ability. I played sports I had never participated in before, chose Woodwork as a subject instead of Home Economics – lathes instead of ladles – and I was the scorer for the cricket team for a number of years. The opportunity to make choices like this, and participate in this way, was something I took for granted.
And so I thought that feminism was something completely different. I fell into the trap of sidelining it as being man-hating and something quite negative. I didn’t call myself a feminist because I didn’t feel I ever needed to. But what is clear is that I have been privileged in ways that many other people are. I have been lucky enough to experience equal opportunities, and have been supported by those closest to me in ways which have enabled me not to see gender as an obstacle to anything.
So when Emma Watson first launched the He for She campaign back in September, with words that challenged ingrained notions of feminism , I started to reconsider. Not my beliefs – I am totally committed to equal opportunities – but my understanding of feminism, and the place it has in our society . Watching Emma Watson in today’s live ‘He for She’ interview on Facebook (which coincided with International Women’s Day), really highlighted the need for urgency in spreading this understanding. International Woman’s Day is not just about celebrating the achievements of women, it’s about raising awareness that gender equality involves everyone (http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/9/emma-watson-gender-equality-is-your-issue-too).
Feminism and gender equality are not just women’s issues, they’re just pertinent to men too. And although the cultural shift is something that is likely to take a very long time, it’s important to realise that we are all in this together. So ‘Happy International Women’s Day’ to all of you out there – men and women alike – and here’s to feminism!