By Lauren Eaves
Why are we told that everything is fine? Why are girls told that everything is fine? Girls are told that if they get their GCSEs, their A-levels and a good degree, they will be able to have a fabulously successful career, a group of fabulous fun friends, a loving husband and three happy, healthy children. They aren’t told that women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food but only earn 10% of the income and own 1% of the property. So I know you’re probably thinking ‘wow, she’s cynical for an eighteen year old, girls are allowed to dream’ and perhaps that’s true, or perhaps I’m just realistic.
The majority of my friends think that we’ve won our fight: that feminism is buried, long gone with the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Davison. We got our vote. We can get divorced. We can own property. But women working full-time earn 16% less than men on average in the UK, just because they are women. So along with fostering young women’s dreams of being a super-mum-businesswoman-wife-friend, schools and parents should face up to the scary reality of telling their daughters that their fight is not over. That they can fulfil their dream, but it won’t be handed to them. That many people still doubt a woman’s ability to do the same job as a man. That many people, although they will not come out and say it, will still regard women as less than men, as objects to be exploited. In fact, some of these people may be young women themselves. I expected, unfortunately, that 1 in 2 boys think it is okay to hit a woman or force her to have sex, but for 1 in 3 girls to think the same; I was not expecting that.
We need to claim back feminism. It needs to be dredged up from the depth of history, we need to shake it free from the hunger strikes, the burning bras, the man hating. We need to reclaim feminism as ‘the radical notion that women are human beings’ as said by activist Cheris Kramarae. It scares me that, according to a survey by Netmums, only one in seven mothers (the people who are biologically programmed to support, encourage and empower the next generation of girls and teach their sons respect for women) consider themselves feminists. We must claim back feminism as something peaceful and rational, and tell young women, like me, that they are allowed to be feminist. That society will not be scared of them, society will not vilify them if they openly fight for their own basic human rights.
We, in the UK, and in Europe, should lead the globe. We are considered some of the most developed countries in the world, yet in the UK 100,000 women are raped each year, but just 6% of reported rapes end in a conviction. If we don’t sort ourselves out, how can we grow to help the one out of every three women around the world who has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
We need to pull the wool from our eyes. We should be honest to the next generation of young women. We should tell them that their fight for equality isn’t over here in the UK or across the world. We should claim back feminism and inspire the next generation of young women to proudly declare themselves as feminists.