A couple of days ago, a friend of mine wrote this post. After extensive reflection, plus a couple of things that have happened in the media since then, I feel like it warrants a reply. As JR suggested at the end of his post, I'm writing this in the hopes of helping people to understand the issue. And my thoughts were rather too extensive for a comments section...
On Monday night, the television program Q&A had an all female panel for the first time. JR asked why the media doesn't feel the same way about all male panels, and how it can be considered equality. First of all, it was a panel discussing women's issues in the twenty first century, hence the all female panel. And it's equality because there have been ninety one episodes of Q&A. The vast majority of these episodes (and yes, I went through the full list, checking each panel) have featured male dominated panels. According the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 50.27% of Australia's population are female. How it is equality that we have sat through 90 episodes of male dominated Q&A?
JR's post stated that he didn't think it's right for companies to have policies outlining minimum numbers of female staff, but not minimum numbers of male staff. He didn't provide examples, so I'm not sure if he had specific companies in mind, but I've never heard of a single company having a policy stating this. (In Australia, at any rate. I can't speak for the rest of the world) Companies may state that they're equal opportunity employers, which is less to do with employing women, and more to do with a diversity policy, ensuring that potential employees will not be discriminated against because of their ethnicity, race, religion, physical capabilities or gender.
But since it's been brought up, why WOULD such policies be required? Because women are still seen by many employers as a liability. Once hired, women may seek access to long periods of maternity leave. They may return to work part time, or ask for flexible work arrangements to fit in around their family commitments. They may require time off during the school holidays to care for their children. This is not to say that men don't want to work part time, or require time off to care for their children. It's simply that companies are more likely to consider a woman's child bearing potential as part of their hiring process.
Feminism in no way argues for elevating one gender above another. It does not lead to the disempowerment of men. Instead, it argues for us to be treated as equal. For us to have the right to go into any field of work we choose. For us to earn equal pay for the work that we do. For us to be judged for our worth rather than our appearance.
So WHY do we still need feminism in 2013?
I need feminism because I'm sick and tired of old men around the world making decisions about what women can and cannot do with their bodies.
I need feminism because if we say yes, we're sluts and if we say no, we're frigid. Our choice doesn't matter. We're simply objects.
I need feminism because women like Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard are constantly being called bitches and judged for their outfits or hairstyles rather than their policies or their arguments.
I need feminism because in high school, I was taught to type and cook and sew, but not to balance a budget or change a tyre.
I need feminism because of journalists who ask deep, philosophical questions to Robert Downey Junior and Christian Bale about their characters, but then turn to Scarlett Johansson and Anne Hathaway, and ask them what their diet was to fit into their costume.
I need feminism because a man who was going to retire in six months was once deemed a more appropriate fit for my job than I was.
I need feminism because Heidi Klum saved her son from drowning over the weekend, and the media instead reported on the fact that she had a "nip slip" while doing so.
I need feminism because out of my high school class of 70, ONE went on to a degree in technology or engineering.
I need feminism because women deserve to have their opinions heard, and not be told "Wow, hormonal much?" in response.
I need feminism because I am more than an incubator. I am more than a pair of boobs. I am a human being, and I deserve to be treated accordingly.
I need feminism because of the assumption that single women over twenty five are lesbians.
I need feminism because a colleague once said to me "Hey Kirsti, you're a girl. Could you sew this button back on my shirt for me?"
I need feminism because of Johnny Rotten telling Carrie Bickmore last night to shut up because "when a man is talking, you do not interrupt".
I need feminism because women are told to wear whatever they like, but that they take responsibility for the consequences.
I need feminism because pretty much anything to do with being female is used as a euphemism for weakness.
I need feminism because under the Australian GST, pads and tampons are deemed "non-essential items".
I need feminism because the friend zone is bullshit.
I need feminism because if we speak our minds, we're bitches, and if we stay quiet, we're doormats.
I need feminism because I should be able to walk down the street at night without being afraid.
I need feminism because "strong female characters" are the exception, not the rule.
I need feminism because Little Miss A told me recently that I should wax my arms because "you're not pretty otherwise". She's SEVEN.
I need feminism because of the generations of women before me who didn't have a voice, who were treated as property, and who stood up and fought for their rights anyway. And for millions of those around the world who still are.
I need feminism because being whistled at or shouted at from a passing car is NOT a compliment.
I need feminism because women in one canton of Switzerland didn't have the right to vote until 1990. And because women in Saudi Arabia still don't have the right to vote.
I need feminism because two thirds of the world's poor are women.
But most of all, I need feminism because I want Little Miss A, and Em and Matt's twin daughters, and millions of other girls around the world to live in a world where they DON'T need feminism.