Feminism. Perhaps one of the most misused and distorted terms in the English dictionary, but also one of the most powerful. As a woman at university, living, breathing and learning among some of the country’s most educated young people, why is it this is still a term to be shied away from? Among some of my more vocal friends, I desperately argue ‘feminism just means equality, why do you have to twist it and make us all man-haters?’
And yet the answer is simple. We live in a society which supposedly preaches equal opportunities and yet the government is failing to improve awareness and education surrounding women’s rights. Emmeline Pankhurst may have secured us the vote a hundred years ago but the work didn’t stop there. Nor did it end with access to contraception and the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act in the 1970s. This was just the beginning, and as of March this year fresh hope has come in the form of Catherine Mayer and Sandi Toksvig. Disillusioned by women’s lack of representation in the manifestos of the leading political parties during this year’s General Election, the Women’s Equality Party (or WEP) was born.
Feminism. Perhaps one of the most misused and distorted terms in the English dictionary, but also one of the most powerful
Whether it is because the party is non-partisan or brand new, the WEP is refreshingly clear in its aims and objectives. Instead of becoming involved in the bitter fight between left and right, the WEP welcomes members of all existing parties as long as they have an interest in battling for equality. Tackling issues such as equal pay, equal parenting and the equal treatment of women in the media, there is no doubt regarding the message advocated by this party. At this stage, it is their simplicity which makes them so appealing to join, strongly contrasting with the waffle propounded by England’s egotistical government figures. As Sophie Walker, the party’s first leader, has established, these concerns should not be “presented as though they [belong] to a special interest group”; they affect every second person in our population.
A primary fear in a group naming themselves the Women’s Equality Party is that the men will find themselves forgotten, intimidated or, at worst, blamed for these issues within society. Such thinking is merely a misconception of the party’s true aims and reminds me of previous conversations I’ve had regarding feminism. If the public believe that all possible work has been done to redress the unequal balance of power between men and women, they are sorely mistaken. To aim for a truly equal society, women must be given the chance to stand up for themselves. The party’s mission statement advocates a ‘shared determination to see women enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men so that all can flourish’. Just as Emma Watson stated in her HeForShe speech on gender inequality, men are not excluded from helping with this change. WEP has already gained a following on social media, with both male and female supporters championing the party’s commitment to women’s rights. Photographs of founder member cards are appearing all over Twitter with the hashtag #WE and key media figures have pledged their support, Caitlin Moran declaring ‘My @WEP_UK Founder Member card came through today – proud and excited and slightly aroused to be part of it’.
If the public believe that all possible work has been done to redress the unequal balance of power between men and women, they are sorely mistaken
On the strength of what I had heard, I recently attended a meeting, the first for the St Albans WEP branch, to decide whether I thought the party had a future in the fiercely competitive and intimidating world of politics. Sitting in a room filled with just under twenty women I was given an insight into the hardships experienced by them all in different aspects of their lives. Whether they were a student, like me, and had experienced casual sexism brought about by ‘lad’ culture, or they had been victims of discrimination in the workplace, every woman had a story to tell. What truly impressed me was their fight to see something change and their enthusiasm to join a cause they finally felt spoke to and for them.
Image by Jay Morrison Via Flickr
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