This is a blog I wrote for Fourth Wave Feminists – you can find out more about them here: http://www.fourthwave.co.uk/
Residing in modern London you would be forgiven for thinking that we’re now living in an equal, sexism / misogyny free society. Nearly 100 years behind us are votes for women, birth control rights and just recently the end to the sexist legacy that was page 3.
And for those that live a reasonably privileged life you might get that all too familiar nagging feeling that something you’ve seen or experienced is discriminative towards women. My advice to you is the advice that I have to give to myself every day… sweat the small stuff. Because all the small things make the big picture. It’s every man leers at you on the bus, friends that make rape jokes or finding out the dude that sits next to you at work is paid a lot more.
That rising lump in your throat that is telling you those things aren’t right isn’t something you need to ignore. Your experience contributes to truths that are hard for the modern ear to hear. Everyday women in London are reporting unwanted touching and advances on public transport. Shockingly 1 in 3 has experienced it. If you’re a woman in the UK, statistically you have a 1 in 5 chance of experiencing sexual violence; women are 8 times more likely to experience this than men. 94% of rape crisis service users are women and whilst we know that that men are effected by sexual violence and that many people don’t come forward to report these crimes you cannot ignore the disparity between genders. Last year due to economic inequality the gender pay gap saw women effectively working for free from4th November until the end of the year. (Though this statistic changes based on race and ability.) Things are changing and they are getting better especially for certain demographics. But there are still lots of women not receiving the opportunities and pay that they deserve.
The brave feminists that have come before us have fought for what can seem larger and grander steps forward. But we must not forget that these are our basic human rights. The suffrage movement characterised our first wave with votes for all, these women sacrificed their lives and relationships to ensure that we had a voice in the public arena. The second wave ensured that women had access to birth control, campaigned and won for equal pay for equal work, all the while insisting that women were written into history. By the time we entered third wave feminism in the early 90’s the goals of what feminism stood because even more diverse. We saw movements for queer rights, ending gender stereotypes and continuing the fight for sexual autonomy.
Now on our fourth wave we are part of a movement that focuses on what we hope is the last wave of feminist history, we want to complete the job. There is work to be done in the UK through representation in positions of power and breaking down the integrated sexism lying deep within our media and social consciousness. We have great struggles at home and worldwide with FGM, forced and child marriage and ensuring every child has access to education. We must set our house in order, whilst working with humanitarian issues abroad. A common criticism of UK feminism is that people in other countries are worse off than us. And of course this is true. But in order to achieve true equality we must fix it all.
Fourth wave feminism characterises the whole feminist movement. Equality. It really is that simple. Even though the history books will neatly place us into sections, dividing us whilst trying to determine who was fighting for what, in truth we has always been asking for the same thing. And that is to shed ourselves of our sectionalism. Women and men of different experiences are so important to the movement, these voices now need to join together and listen to each other.
Women’s rights are human rights. We need all of us.