What does Feminism Mean to Me?

Culture and Lifestyle, Opinion

By Tegan Francis

I’m constantly surprised by the reactions I get when I say the ‘F word’- Feminism. This topic comes up about as much as Brexit does when you’re in conversation with people from around the world, or perhaps it’s because I’d rather talk about feminism over Brexit, I’m not sure.  Having spent the past six months with people from many different corners of the earth, I feel compelled to write this piece because there is still so much confusion when it comes to the concept of Feminism. So, here it is, here’s a round up of why I believe feminism to be worthy of it’s very own blog post and why I feel so strongly that each and every person on this planet should be a Feminist. If you’re still skeptical, hear me out…

Why Is It Called Feminism?

fem·​i·​nism | \ˈfe-mə-ˌni-zəm  \

Noun

Definition of feminism 

1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

This is simply a word, which has been used to convey the idea that both men and women, nay, all human beings should be treated as equals on this earth. And before you start screeching about the fact that the use of the prefix ‘fem-‘ indicates that women are higher and more privileged when it comes to the pursuit of equality… IT’S JUST A WORD. And, if you’re a male and you have a problem with this, you have mankind, human, and history. So please, just this one time, can you let go of the fact that feminism starts with a female implied prefix, just this once? Thank you.

Photo by Will Milne on Pexels.com

Self Love

A key element of feminism which resonates with me is the concept of self love. Looking in the mirror and being kind to yourself is so important in a world of Photoshop and Victoria Secret models. It questions what our society believes to be ‘the perfect body’ and asks us to concentrate on what’s inside rather than your physical appearance. We are socialized to fit into a specific type, which changes from generation to generation. We’re told that our worth is in our appearance, that if we’re beautiful then that’s all that really matters. However, I say, life is too short to worry about what you look like all day. I think women would be able to concentrate a lot more on other useful things in life if we weren’t constantly worried about our appearance and how much people may or may not like us. Who knows, maybe we would have cured some fatal disease by now, or discovered how to teleport.

Alas, instead, we are preoccupied with whether our stomach looks fat today or if we should really eat that pretzel for lunch. Of course, that isn’t to say that society hasn’t imposed these pressures on men too. This is exactly why we ALL need feminism. The pressure men feel to be tall, strong and emotionally stoic, etc. is destructive and sadly demonstrated in the incredibly high male suicide rates across the world. Instead, I suggest we give less fu**s about what other people think of us, and spend more time celebrating what makes us unique. Let’s recognize when our society has made us feel like we need to behave and look a certain way, and challenge it. Embrace your quirks, because you are you and that’s the most beautiful thing you can be.

Photo by Dennis Magati on Pexels.com

Group love and Group Hugs

Feminism is also about inclusion. It’s about self-love, loving others, and accepting people around the world for who they are and what they stand for. Respecting their decisions and appreciating each and every human on this earth. I find it difficult to understand why people show hostility towards someone on account of their sexuality, race or gender. If their actions are not affecting your life in any way, you shouldn’t have a problem with them. On a more female level, feminism is also about lifting the women around you up, being their best cheerleaders and listening to their problems when they need you most.

It makes more sense to stick together in this harsh world before we start trying to attack one another on account of looks or personality. We already have modern society stacked against us, we don’t need extra ammunition from fellow females giving the patriarchy a helping hand! Of course this practice is sometimes difficult to enforce. Instead of getting mad and talking about a person behind their back, let’s take a moment to reflect and think about how destructive negative vibes are. If you’re not going to say something nice about a person, maybe don’t say anything at all. Wise words from Walt Disney there!

Why Is It Important?

Feminism matters. I was once told (by a man) that Feminism “doesn’t matter, it’ll never change anyway.” and this, my dear readers, is exactly why we need Feminism. There remains to be a considerable disparity between women and men in several aspects of our modern day society. One area, which shows this unequivocally is the gender pay gap. Across the world, women are consistently paid less than their male counterparts, which makes absolutely no sense.

The image above gives you a visual representation on how much further we have to go before women and men are considered equal in the workplace. This is just an example of one aspect of modern day life where the patriarchy is in play. I could go into many other examples of problem areas we still need to tackle such as child rearing, socialization and even the way we are expected to talk, but that’s for another time, and another day.

Now It’s Your Turn

A conversation I had recently inspired me to write this post as I felt so strongly that many people have a warped idea of what feminism really means and I wanted to set the record straight. Feminism doesn’t mean we are hysterical activist, burning bras at protests and refusing to shave. Instead, I need people to understand that it simply a concept of inclusion. We want everyone to have a place at the table. We want everyone to feel included, appreciated, and paid the same wage at this table. And, this, fellow citizens of planet earth, is why Feminism means so much to me. Thank you.

Is European Patriotism the Answer to Far-Right Nationalism?

Opinion

By Sophia Obrecht

First published in The Palatinate, October 12th, 2018.

For many months now, far-right nationalism has been rearing its ugly head across Europe. In the meantime, the impossible riddle that is Brexit has been dominating the news in the UK — leaving a lot to be desired when it comes to a feeling of pride both on the continent and at home. Europe and the UK are at odds, while the UK itself is divided, not only between leavers and remainers, but between those who want a deal, a no deal, a second referendum, no referendum, and those who would just like to go back in time before this whole Brexit business began.

So the question remains, what kind of relationship will the UK have with Europe following Brexit? And with this what does the future hold for the EU, given the rise of nationalism across the continent?

With the European success against the US in the Ryder Cup, I began to feel a strange sense of pride … those cool collected Europeans, the underdogs, coming back to take the win against those arrogant Americans. A victory on French and European soil. This got me thinking, what if it was possible to foster some sort of European patriotism through sport and sporting success, in order to counteract the growing rise of extreme nationalism across Europe, and in order to reunite the UK with the continent after all this ugly negotiating?

What if it was possible to foster some sort of European patriotism through sport and sporting success, in order to counteract the growing rise of extreme nationalism across Europe?

I know, I know, this opinion might seem unpopular, especially to all those Brexiteers, and Eurosceptics out there, and especially after the wave of pure patriotism felt across England during the World Cup. But think about it for a second, what if we could harness some sort of European identity and set it against rivals such as the US, Russia, or China in a sporting setting not exclusive to the Ryder Cup?

At its core, a nation is built on a common heritage and shared goals. Following this, identity, and pride is founded on the presence of an ‘other’, a rival, or outsider, against which a community can create their own set of values. In Europe, it was easy for a nation to find its own common national history and therefore memory: with its many wars and conflicts Europe’s nations experienced victory and suffered defeat at each other’s hands. Rivals and enemies were created and a national heritage followed. However, as a continent, it was, and is, much harder for Europe to find a defining moment in political or social history that could function as a shared heritage, a shared victory or even defeat… a moment when Europe in its entirety was on the same side.

Just look at the way the country came together this summer, following England’s performance in the football World Cup – despite its deep divisions over Brexit

But what if this could be created in sporting history? Sport, at its core, has a great power to unite people, sure it can also prove divisive, but played out in a setting such as the modern Olympics, a common sense of pride and identity becomes easier to foster. Just look at the way the country came together this summer, following England’s performance in the football World Cup – despite its deep divisions over Brexit. Remember the pride associated with the London 2012 Games, or in Germany’s case the World Cup victory in 1990. The memory of these shared experiences has worked to strengthen national identity. Sports also produces rivals and inspires healthy, and peaceful competition (aside from the odd football hooligan). Now imagine if there were regular sporting tournaments or championships, whether it be football, athletics, or winter sports, that focused on teams grouped not by nation, but by continent?

While I am not suggesting Europe become a federal republic, or demanding greater centralization within the EU, I do think it is high time that us Europeans stuck together. If we were to bring a continent together, moved by a common support for a sporting team, the process of European integration and better yet the project of the EU may still survive the nationalist rhetoric prevalent across Europe, in states such as Austria, Poland, and now Germany, to name but a few. In many ways, the idea may seem just too simplistic, too naïve, too pure of heart. After all, the EU, and Europe geographically speaking, has a lot of issues to solve, not least regarding the refugee crisis, and the general need for reform. But if we could foster that same patriotism and pride, experienced in England during the World Cup, maybe, just maybe, Europe could step back from the brink.

 

Brexit or no Brexit, the UK will always be part of Europe, just as the countries, currently dominated by nationalist rhetoric will remain firmly on the European continent, whether they like it or not. It’s time we appreciated our shared European values which date back for centuries: from culture, art, to sporting prowess, from values such as tolerance, and equality …. From the iron curtain dividing the continent to the fall of the Berlin wall, the European experience is unique. It would be a shame to throw it away for some short sighted nationalism, for a no deal Brexit and an ugly divorce.