By Maia Bondici
I am a young, immigrant woman who moved to London a couple of years ago. I had no idea what feminism was, so I started educating myself. Looking back at history it was hard to ignore the big steps we made as a gender. Elisabeth Blackwell was the first woman on the UK Medical Register back in the 1850s with a medical degree from the US. The Suffragettes fought for women’s right to vote in the 1920s and Coco Chanel broke the barriers in the 1940s being amongst the first women to wear trousers at a time where it was considered rude for a woman not to wear a skirt. Felicity Green joined Chanel’s trend 10 years later, when she paved the way for women in fashion journalism in the UK.
These women are the definition of protofeminism, a type of feminism that focused on creating an equal environment where women would have the right to vote, to access education and to express themselves freely. They were the heroes, the revolutionaries and the fighters for women’s rights who gave me the freedom I have now.
But now, modern feminists are speaking about how Disney princesses portray a negative picture of damsels in distress to our children, giving young girls the impression that we all need a man to come and save us. We have Caitlin Moran telling us “How to be a woman” and how she struggled with society’s pressure to shave her legs and armpits when she did not feel like it. Constant Instagram and Twitter trends come and go. Campaigns like ‘free the nipple’, ‘glitter pits’, ‘#slutwalks’ and ‘#saynotomistletoe’ are here to empower us and fight for equality apparently.
We have Caitlin Moran telling us “How to be a woman” and how she struggled with society’s pressure to shave her legs and armpits when she did not feel like it
Looking back at protofeminism and comparing it to what we now call modern feminism, I decided not to get involved in the current movement. Before you even start, I know. I am a horrible human being who hates women and would be nowhere without the hard work of Moran who made it possible for me to not shave my legs if I don’t want to. The problem is, I do want to shave my legs. At the same time, I want to fight for less privileged women.
I want to take a step back and thank the women who made it possible for me to vote, to study, to have an opinion – the women who allowed me to be either a housewife or a business woman without being judged for my choice. Those women empowered me to have more confidence and allowed me to think that while I am capable of doing everything a man can do – I don’t necessarily have to do it.
All my mum ever wanted was to have a big family and follow her passion for cooking. Instead, she has ended up as a single mother with one child, and a job that takes up 90 per cent of her life. I grew up with a strong woman who carried the heavy groceries all the way up to the fourth floor of our old flat and who changed the flat tyre in the middle of the road.
I grew up to be exactly like her. I grew up knowing that I can, in fact, do it all. But I don’t want to. I want to let myself be helped. And I still think we are on this planet as individuals. Men can’t do things that women can, and women can’t do things that men can. We should embrace the beauty of the fact that we are unique and that we have different abilities.
Nowadays we are fighting for out shaving choices. In this battle for equality, we are losing the definitions of a man and a woman. We’re becoming aggressive and demanding more rights, when in fact no one is censoring us like they used to. The fight for equality shouldn’t be stopped. But we should take a step back and look at how far we’ve come, how many privileges we have today, be grateful for it and maybe take it slower.
Let’s be more vocal when it comes to issues that truly matter. The latest statistics from the National Crime Agency show that in the UK there are over 3000 victims of human trafficking 53 per cent of them are women. Genital mutilation is still happening to young girls and women today in Africa and the Middle East. Even in England and Wales, the numbers from the Royal College of Nursing show that over 60 000 girls between the age of 0 – 14 are subject to this cruel tradition.
According to the International Center for Research on Women child marriages are still taking place. Globally 15 million girls are forced each year to marry a man who, in some cases, is twice their age. In Syria, under the ISIS Caliphate, every beauty product for women that that uses a female model is erased with a marker. Women are not allowed to show their faces – not even on hair dye boxes or shampoo bottles. And while some women choose to wear a hijab, here they are forced to cover their bodies against their will. In many parts of the world, leaving the house without the supervision of the patriarch of the family is forbidden. Imagine living like that.
Of course, women in the modern world deal with serious issues that can’t be ignored. According to studies from rapecrisis.org, approximately 85 000 women are raped every year in the UK. Domestic abuse will affect one in four women in their lifetime and one in ten women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. For every £1 a man earns, a woman will earn 81p. But when trends like #PissForEquality come on Twitter, the real issues are forgotten.
Even so, looking at the whole picture, we can’t even try to begin to understand the struggles of women from underprivileged parts of the world. Right now it just seems hypocritical of me to think if I should feel offended if a man pays for my dinner in that fancy restaurant in Central London and if cooking for him would mean I am not fighting for equality.
Right now it just seems hypocritical of me to think if I should feel offended if a man pays for my dinner in that fancy restaurant in Central London and if cooking for him would mean I am not fighting for equality.
Until every woman on this planet can vote, have a proper education, have access to basic necessities such as water, food, clothes or shelter, the right to express themselves freely or walk on the streets without having to cover their eyes, I can’t call myself a modern feminist. Let’s make it possible for other women to reach the level of equality that we have as modern women, and only when that point is reached, let’s talk about not shaving our legs.