First of all, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m one of two Gender Equality Officers alongside Nicky Moffat, and this semester we’re running a campaign called Feminists of Keele. The idea for this campaign came from an increasing awareness that feminism is largely misunderstood and that people from a range of genders are unable to understand or associate with feminism. For those people who don’t have feminist theory included in their curriculum, your likely source of information on the topic is a range of angry Buzzfeed videos on Facebook that address problems facing women by directly attacking men. I’m not saying that the problems experienced by these women aren’t legitimate. Most of the time, they absolutely are. My problem is that the misconceptions related to feminism often derive from internet click-bait videos that blame men instead of blaming the patriarchy.
That’s another thing I realised. Many of you will be reading this and have no idea what the patriarchy is, yet the concept is absolutely key if you’re ever going to understand where feminists are coming from. Patriarchy is a social system. It’s primarily the idea that men hold most of the power and social privilege within society. This is a truth that is difficult to deny when you do your best to just look plainly at Western society and take off your patriarchal lens. If you try to look beyond your inevitable defences, you’ll recognise the uproar when an all female cast takes the stage. You’ll see the advertising that targets women’s insecurities. You’ll notice the male-dominated cabinets. Imagine we’d replace the male figures we see in the public sphere with female ones. I can guarantee you will bat an eyelid. You might be surprised. You might be upset. Regardless of how women-dominated spaces make you feel, you are bound to notice a difference. My point is that nobody bats an eyelid when we see all-male cabinets, or all-male casts, and that is why feminists are keen to point out a power imbalance that is explained by patriarchy.
There is so much more I could talk about, and I’m not saying that any of these things are necessarily men’s fault. Men and women can both be proponents of the patriarchy. Women did vote for a misogynist to be the next US President. They do slut shame and they do put other women down. That’s because patriarchy is a way of looking at the world. It is not something that can be explained concisely, and that’s why I wanted to run this campaign with Nicky.
Feminism is about equality in the sense that this current wave of feminism addresses the socialisation of masculinity and femininity. This means that men and women who are feminine are not as respected socially as men and women who are masculine. In other words, men are frowned open for doing anything stereotypically feminine. It also means that women have to perform a perfect balance of masculinity and femininity, but we’ll get it wrong regardless.
Feminism points out that men’s interests are suitable for everyone. Women have fought and continue to fight to excel in male dominated fields, and we want women’s work suitable for men too. Mostly the feminist movement functions through having conversations about the root of double standards and stereotypes, and how to break them down. We have to call it feminism and not humanism because it directly relates to how society views femininity with less respect than masculinity.
Bringing this all back to our campaign: its aim is to provide an insight into the reflections of people who associate with a range of genders, sexualities and ethnicities but all identify as feminist. Despite the differences in opinion reflected in a range of feminist values, we want to encourage intersectionality within the feminist movement. This means that we want to help people understand the relationship between different hierarchies of gender, race and class, whilst giving you an insight into the problems facing women, men and the trans* community.