Embracing feminism is the only route to achieving gender equality, and empowers men and women to live freer and more complete lives, says Alannah Marsden.
1928. In Britain, after a long and gruelling fight by the suffragettes, the Representation of the People Act was finally brought in, allowing women to vote on the same terms as men. It was the first step towards a gender-equal society in the UK. Since then, many more steps have been taken towards the equality of British men and women. As far as many people are concerned, the battle has been won and feminism is now unnecessary in the UK. In reality, the fight has only just begun. Today, feminism is more important than ever.
It comes as no surprise that a lot of young people in the modern-day do not recognise the need for feminism. After all, in the UK, women can vote, have any job they like, and even become prime minister and run the country. Sexism may not be as glaringly obvious as it was 100 years ago, but that does not mean it has been completely abolished. Of course, the gender pay gap still exists. In 2019 the gender pay gap in the UK was recorded at 17.3%. This means that on average, for every £1 men were paid, women were paid just 83p. Although this gap does appear to be closing gradually, it will take an estimated 60 years for the gender pay gap to be non-existent. This simply isn’t good enough.
Arguably, the gender pay gap is the largest example of sexism that is still around today in the UK. However, women actually face sexism every single day. From catcalls in the street to not being taken seriously in the workplace, women face these issues on a daily basis. In fact, British feminist writer Laura Bates set up a website named ‘The Everyday Sexism Project’ which allows women from all over the world to document their experiences of sexism, however big or small they may seem. The website has had many submissions of all kinds, which goes to show that sexism truly is still rife, even today. We need young people to join in the feminist movement so they can help combat this. After all, today’s young people are the leaders of tomorrow.
Being a feminist in the UK is easier than ever. You can write letters to MPs voicing your concerns, you can partake in International Women’s Day celebrations, you can even use the internet to connect with other feminists and share your thoughts with one another. For the suffragettes, their fight was extremely tough, and many sacrifices were made. Perhaps one of the most famous examples is Emily Davidson, a suffragette who lost her life after being run over by the king’s horse at the Epsom Derby in June 1913. Although there is speculation around what she was intending to do, one of the most popular beliefs is that she was trying to pin a suffragette banner on the horse. She gave her life for the cause and has been a martyr for women’s suffrage since. Another woman who died in the fight for women’s rights is Mary Jane Clarke, the younger sister of the well-known suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. Clarke was arrested and went on hunger strike whilst in prison, which resulted in her being horrifically force-fed. She died as a result of this. Many other suffragettes made large sacrifices and endured awful things in their fight towards gender equality. Young people today owe it to them to continue what they started.
One of the main reasons feminism is something young people should be getting involved in is that it empowers people. There is a common misconception that only women can be feminists and that feminism only benefits women. In reality, feminism strives for equality of the sexes, not superiority for women. And one of the main aims of feminism is to take the gender roles that have been around for many years and deconstruct these to allow people to live free and empowered lives, without being tied down to ‘traditional’ restrictions. This will benefit both men and women. It is a movement that everyone can, and should, get involved with.
It is safe to say that, in the UK, we are closer to a gender-equal society than we ever have been. But we still have a long way to go. Getting young people involved with the feminist movement will allow us to acheive this much faster. A world where the sexes are equal is a dream for many of us. Our generation must look to our own cultures and communities in order to make that dream a reality.