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October 8, 2012 | by  | in Features |
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Feminism: Still Fucking Relevant

On the Road Yet To Be Travelled.

Earlier this year a group of 16 female students in a women studies class at Duke University, launched a PR campaign for feminism entitled ‘Who Needs Feminism’. Asking Duke students and the wider community to submit photos with their personal declarations about why they needed feminism in their lives, challenging the perception that it is no longer needed or relevant in today’s society.The campaign quickly went viral and people from all over the world were participating in, and sharing the campaign.

Like these 16 students, I feel like society has accepted that feminism is no longer needed or relevant. In New Zealand critics cite Helen Clark, Margaret Wilson,Theresa Gattung and Dame Sian Elias as evidence that we have reached equality in this country, and therefore feminism is no longer needed or relevant.

While it is true that women have gained the right to vote and enter into higher education,while rape by our husbands is no longer legal and we can climb the career ladder, like the above ladies show, the fact of the matter is gender inequality still exists in this country.We have reached milestones, but we have not achieved equality.And this is not just an inequality between men and women, but there is even great inequality between these groups and members of the LGBT community.

While feminism has managed to eliminate or decrease the most obvious and visible injustices, inequality still pervades many of our daily interactions.While there are still some quite visible injustices that operate within our society such as pay equity and the lack of women in Parliament, many of the most harmful injustices are ‘invisible’.They operate at a structural level and therefore are not only harder to argue against, but also harder to notice. Often they are disregarded as individual issues, rather than problems that affect a whole section of society.

Let me ask you. Can we really argue that there is gender equality in this county when we have multinational cosmetic conglomerates telling us that women’s bodies aren’t good enough just the way they are? When we get shamed as ‘sluts’ for wearing what we please and sleeping with whom we choose? When one of the greatest insults to a man is being called ‘pussy’ or ‘girl’? When menopause is constructed as an ‘illness’ that needs to be treated, rather than as a natural stage of life? When old, white men in power start throwing around the word ‘legitimate rape’? It is because of these inequalities that feminism is still needed, and in fact, is more relevant than ever.

Feminism itself can be hard to define. Based on your age, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, feminism can mean something a little different to everyone.And to the movement’s detriment,the critics of feminism have been successful in being able to negatively contort the word and strip it of its meaning.

For me, feminism is basic. It’s the idea that men, women and those who define themselves as neither (and who don’t define themselves at all), are people. And that all people are equal.

A truly equal society is not achievable without feminism. If we seek to eliminate the barriers that perpetuate gender inequality, then we need feminism by our side. It is only if we understand, utilise, and accept feminism that we may one day create a society where someone’s worth and value is not based on what is (or isn’t) between their legs. ▲

Bridie Hood is the President of VUWSA for 2012. Bridie has ruled with an iron fist.    

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