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To Read #2

Why feminism still matters to young people

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Kristin Aune, Coventry University

It has been 100 years since women won the right to vote in Britain. More accurately, it’s 90 years since young women were able to vote; 2018 actually celebrates 100 years since suffrage was given to women over 30.

Feminism is held up as one of the most successful social movements of the 20th century. But ten years ago, when Catherine Redfern and I were planning our book on reclaiming feminism, some said young people just weren’t interested in “the f word” anymore.

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, young women were portrayed smashing glass ceilings in Louboutin heels, and feminism seemed rather outmoded. Many women thought of themselves as post-feminist, feeling there was no need for feminism, since gender equality had been achieved. But this wasn’t really true, and a lot of the fear about calling yourself a feminist came from the negative stereotyping of feminists as bitter “killjoys”.

It’s still needed

Things have changed. Feminism is now less despised because it’s more obviously needed. Women in the UK have been living under a regime of austerity since the 2008 economic crisis. They have shouldered 86% of the income loss from changes to the tax and benefits systems since 2010, simply because they are more likely to be welfare recipients in the first place.

Meanwhile, the resurgence of the far right has led to violence and harassment against ethnic minority women, with Muslim women bearing the brunt of virulent Islamophobia. There is a stubborn gender pay gap (now 14% for full-time workers), and women pensioners in the UK face one of the worst gender income gaps in Europe.

The list goes on: gender-based violence is alarmingly high. Crime statistics show that one in four women, and one in seven men aged 16 to 59 have experience domestic abuse. The most harmful forms of abuse – sexual violence, especially – affect mostly women. Yet three-quarters of councils have cut funds to domestic violence services due to government budget cuts, and a third of referrals to refuges are now being turned away because of a lack of room.

It’s gaining popularity

These examples of gender inequality explain why more people are identifying as feminists – especially young women. A 2013 Girlguiding survey found that 35% of girls and young women aged 11 to 21 were happy to call themselves feminists. In 2017, this was the case for 43% of 18 to 34-year-old women, according to a poll by Plan International, or 54% of 18 to 24-year-old women, according to UM London.

Today’s feminist movement is more diverse than ever before. Feminism has become more attentive to the wider range of experiences of those oppressed by gender norms and stereotypes, including men, non-binary and trans people.

There’s also greater awareness of the way that racism, anti-religious hatred, disablism or homophobia work alongside sexism, creating complex forms of prejudice and oppression. It’s not so much that feminism has moved “beyond” sexism. Rather, a wider range of voices is now being counted as feminist. The HeForShe campaign, which encourages men to become advocates for gender equality, and Muslimah Media Watch, a forum where Muslim women critique how they are presented in the media and popular culture, are examples of this.

It’s already happening

If the current situation has anything positive to show, it’s that where there’s injustice, there’s also resistance. Young people are already challenging the forces feminist author bell hooks calls “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” with style and skill – they don’t need to be told how by older feminists. What’s crucial now is to recognise the work they are doing and draw even more people to the cause.

Campaigns such as #TimesUp in the US and #tystnadtagning in Sweden have used the star power of famous actors – many of whom are young women – to draw a line under sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace, across all industries. Yet even worldwide movements can start with the actions of a single person: activist Tarana Burke has been credited with starting the #metoo movement more than ten years ago, based on her experiences as a youth camp director for Just Be Inc.

As these examples show, feminist activism takes many forms, from a single person signing a petition, to group protests on local issues such as the campaign to close Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire, right through to large-scale actions coordinated by women’s organisations, such as Women’s March. Feminist acts can be taken through formal political routes. For example, by lobbying a local member of parliament, or by informal means, such as sharing information about a topic on social media or boycotting a company known for exploiting women employees.

Individuals can make a difference by working for a women’s charity, becoming a local councillor or calling out sexual harassment wherever they encounter it. Even the conversations we have with our friends in our spare time can be a productive way to raise awareness about sexism.

There is no “right” form of activism and no one issue of greatest importance. A century ago, women’s rights activists weren’t all fighting for suffrage – some of them were working on other campaigns, such as equal access to university education, or a decent wage for working-class women. Nor did getting the vote solve other instances of gender injustice. So this 100-year anniversary is about much more than just “the vote”. Feminism is a movement for gender justice, and it needs to be fought by many different people, in many different ways.

The ConversationThis article has been corrected to reflect the fact that Tarana Burke started the #metoo movement based on her experiences as a youth camp director for Just Be Inc, not Brooklyn-based Girls for Gender Equity, of which she is now senior director.

Kristin Aune, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Trust, Peace & Social Relations, Coventry University

Este artículo fue publicado originalmente en The Conversation. Lea el original.



Blog · To read

To Read #1

Why Women Compete With Each Other

By Emily V. Gordon
Oct. 31, 2015

Los Angeles — I HAD a tightly knit group of female friends in elementary school — we called ourselves the Sensational Six. As the dominant girl force in our little universe, we felt important and exclusive; a unit in matching handmade sweatshirts. Time went by and all of my classmates and I watched as puberty reached down to form us, shapeless little lumps of children, into young men and women, into haves and have-nots.

I had an early growth spurt and was a full head taller than the boys in my class, dwarfing the girls. This made me a have-not, and I made it my life’s effort to shrink down and be like my friends, tiny and adorable. One day on the bus as I chatted with a fellow Sixer, I watched her examining our legs, propped up on the seat in front of us. “Look,” she said, innocently enough, “your legs are, like, twice as big as mine.” And she was right.

Women compete, compare, undermine and undercut one another — at least that is the prevailing notion of how we interact. It’s considered exceptional, or at least noteworthy, that famous women like Amy Schumer and Beyoncé and Taylor Swift acknowledge that other women are talented, and frequently work with those other women without, in most cases, being catty about it. This makes them feminist heroes. Feeling on guard around other ladies is normal for a lot of women, and it’s exhausting. I exhausted myself for years trying to understand how other girls could have gone from my closest allies to my scariest foes. I write an advice column and get a fair number of questions from women asking how to handle not trusting other women, so I know I’m not alone.

A good amount of research has been done on female competitiveness, both in condescending and eye-opening ways. A literature review by Tracy Vaillancourt in 2013 found that women by and large express indirect aggression toward other women, and that aggression is a combination of “self-promotion,” making themselves look more attractive, and “derogation of rivals,” being catty about other women.

There are two main theories of why women are competitive in indirectly aggressive ways. Evolutionary psychology, which uses natural selection to explain our modern behaviors, says that women need to protect themselves (read: their wombs) from physical harm, so indirect aggression keeps us safe while lowering the stock of other women. Feminist psychology chalks up this indirect aggression to internalizing the patriarchy. As Noam Shpancer writes in Psychology Today, “As women come to consider being prized by men their ultimate source of strength, worth, achievement and identity, they are compelled to battle other women for the prize.” In short: When our value is tied to the people who can impregnate us, we turn on each other.

I watched this happen among our Sensational Six — watched as our pastimes shifted from having goofy singalongs, to trying on clothes, to pointing out one another’s flaws, to primping before a mirror, and the final stop, making boys laugh. We were still friends, but we were suddenly aware of a new dimension. I went to a different middle school than my friends did and that new dimension persisted, except that now I was taking it in with fresh eyes. And because of my size and my status as a new kid, I stayed an outsider.

Here’s where I took a page from nature and decided that my indirect aggression, rather than self-promotion or discounting my rivals, would take the form of what’s called warning coloration. I took myself out of the battle. If I was unappealing, then I would advertise — like those butterflies with the warning spots — that I was not to be considered a worthy opponent. I would be ugly on my own terms. I wore artfully ripped clothes and enormous combat boots and old men’s pants.

In high school, I decided that all of my female friends were stupid and traded them for guy friends. I loved horror movies and heavy metal, and used these interests to become a “guys’ girl.” I thought that by segregating myself, I would save myself from the awareness that I wasn’t ever going to be pretty/perfect/cool enough, and occasionally I would get to make out with a male pal because hormones were running rampant. When another guys’ girl joined our group, she and I became fast friends by lamenting how stupid girls were, and when we met new boys, we threw each other under the bus to flirt with them. I felt sick when she did this to me, felt a sick thrill of power when I did it to her.

Instead of openly hating women, I used hate’s sneaky little sister and told myself that I pitied women who worked hard to be conventionally attractive, who had jobs that utilized their feminine wiles, who were “too girlie.” “Poor her,” I’d cluck at parties, “wanting attention so badly. I wonder who hurt her. Let’s discuss this art rock band I saw last week.” Self-promotion: check. Degradation of rivals: check.

In my 20s, there were two girls in my social group in New York — brash, gorgeous creatures — that owned every single room they entered. I hated them on sight, even as I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I thought they were magical, but with a dark magic that could steal my husband. Once I found myself in a bar bathroom alone with them and, feeling cornered by their spectacular perfection, mumbled something. One responded by complimenting my coat; the other started talking about the guy she was there with and how he was acting funny. I saw them for who they were: magnanimous, charming creatures, but also kind and obsessive and weird. My negative view of them had nothing to do with them at all. It was just a warped mirror.

Research tells us that women are compelled to level the playing field by any means necessary to make sure we have access to the best genetic material, but since these are not real concerns in our modern lives, our competitiveness becomes something a bit more private and understandable.

That’s the third theory of female competitiveness that I’d like to propose: We aren’t competing with other women, ultimately, but with ourselves — with how we think of ourselves. For many of us, we look at other women and see, instead, a version of ourselves that is better, prettier, smarter, something more. We don’t see the other woman at all.

It’s a fun-house mirror that reflects an inaccurate version of who we are, but we turn on her anyway, because it’s easier. But we don’t need to lower the stock of other women, either for the future of the species or for our own psyches. When we each focus on being the dominant force in our own universe, rather than invading other universes, we all win.

Emily V. Gordon is the author of “Super You: Release Your Inner Superhero” and an executive producer of “The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail.”

A version of this article appears in The New York Times on the opinion page on November 1, 2015.