The battle of the sexes isn’t the same as it was sixty years ago. But there’s still a battle, and it’s happening in the media, on the internet, and attacking both women and men. Call it what you will – feminism, equalism – the point still stands. We have quite a way to go.
1. Go pick up a woman’s magazine. Or a teen girl’s magazine. Or anything that looks remotely sexist and is aimed at women. Shave your legs. Tone your thighs. Pleasure him in bed. Now go find a lad’s mag and tell me, are they aimed at an insecure audience? Do they aim to make the audience more insecure? I would say yes, what with all the emphasis on muscle and manliness. But it’s not as explicit as in women’s magazines – the overt message seems to be, ‘You’re already fantastic, now jerk off to these hot girls. You’re welcome’. Of course, it’s absolutely fine to be attracted to someone, but the media reinforces a very unequal depiction of attraction. And it’s shallow. And focuses only on sexual gratification. Come on, human race. We can do more than that.
2. If you’re a man who has sex with women, you’re a legend. If you’re a woman who has sex with men, you’re a slut. If you’re a man who has sex with men, you’re a pussy. If you’re a woman who has sex with women, you’re a dyke. I don’t condone any of this talk, but guess what? Other people do. Especially on the internet. There’s this online culture defining what it is to be a ‘man’ or a ‘lad’ and, yes, it objectifies and demeans women, but it also creates harmful ideals for men. Confessions pages are the worst. 99% of the confessions are sexual, and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. But when your genitalia defines your self-worth…What. The Fuck.
3. You can’t turn on any music channel without hearing (and seeing) a song about sex. When it’s safe, consensual and legal, sex is fine. Sex is all good and fun and natural, but why is it the only thing we can write about? Why must women be skinny and ‘conventionally’ attractive? Why is ‘naked’ all she can be? Why don’t the men take their clothes off? I’m not saying we should objectify men. I’m not even saying the female body shouldn’t be appreciated. But there’s more to a woman than her body and there’s more to appreciation than just sex. Except in the music industry, where the vagina may as well be a money making machine.
4. Men aren’t the perpetrators. Patriarchy is the perpetrator. It’s a system which encourages the subordination of women. Both men and women can be affected by it, and both can reinforce it. I mean, so many people have justified the above point with, ‘But the woman wanted to do it, so what’s the problem?’ That kind of is the problem. Feminism may be about choice, but those choices should be informed. You can choose to let Cosmopolitan magazine dictate your diet; you can choose to dress sexy only for the gratification of others; you can choose to believe that’s your place. But I’m not buying it.
5. Female orgasms exist. THEY DO? Yeah, they do. But go read a girlie magazine, or watch a music video, or porn, and you might start to believe otherwise. Women are hardly ever portrayed as actively enjoying something, especially when it comes to sex. Their pleasure is passive, if it’s even pleasure at all. When was the last time you saw a man dancing round a pole to turn on a girl? Oh yeah – never. Pornography, the media, you name it – it’s the girl’s job to be attractive and the guy’s job to enjoy it. Not in every case, but in many. And that, my friend, is objectification.
6. Obesity is a problem. I get that. It affects men and women alike. I get that. Funny how the dieting industry doesn’t. Dieting ads are always aimed at women. Not even overweight women. Women who have a small roll of fat when they sit down. Or women who are single and of course it must be because of their weight. Or women who aren’t a size ten and are clearly an offence to society. Don’t eat, ladies! If you eat, men won’t want to shag you! And they say we don’t need feminism. Sigh.
7. Lesbianism is not there for straight male gratification. Okay? The double standard of ‘I hate gays. Except gay women; that’s hot’ is just another reason we need equal rights and acceptance for men and women of all sexualities. Because look at it this way: women who aren’t attracted to men are objectified for the sex they’re not attracted to. And men who aren’t part of the dominant, heterosexual class are ridiculed, sometimes even beaten for being…well, for not being straight. For not being attracted to women. And the argument circulates: not all women want to be attractive to men, and not all men are going to be attracted to them anyway.
8. Rape still isn’t taken seriously enough. If you believe the victim shouldn’t have dressed that way, drunk so much, or led them on, you’re condoning rape. You’re exonerating the rapist. The gender of the victim makes no difference, nor of the rapist for that matter. Rape is rape, and you’re either against it, or you’re not. If we take the victim to be female, and the rapist to be male, the mindset of ‘she brought it on herself’ is a huge insult to women, but what else does it imply? That men have no control over their penises and ‘couldn’t help it’ and that any man, in any situation, would’ve done the same. Jeez…I’m offended on behalf of all the men demonised by such bullshit. Oh, and men get raped too. That might not file under women’s rights, but the majority of good, nice feminists want to raise awareness of that too.
9. Literature. I was saving this for a rant along the lines of ‘They’ll publish anything these days!’ but what the hey…fucking Twilight! Fucking Fifty Shades of Grey! Can we please have a series about gay women for a change? (Realistic ones, not bought and sold for the pleasure of straight men. Kthanksbye.) Or how about a series that isn’t about relationships at all? The really sad thing about Fifty Shades, I feel, is that it’s dubbed ‘mommy porn’ and aimed at middle-aged housewives with ‘boring’ sex lives. BECAUSE YOU ARE A FAILURE OF A WOMAN IF YOU DON’T HAVE EXCITING SEX EVERY NIGHT. YOU NEED A MAN IN YOUR – oh fuck off already.
10. Because people are still saying we don’t need it. Because people wrongly assume we live in an equal society. Because people attribute feminism to man-hating, or to women ‘defying their submissive nature’. (Um. What?) Because ‘feminist’ is taken as an insult, has negative connotations and, in the worst case scenario, is written off as women being stupid. The fact that we’ve had three waves of feminism, we got the vote and we still have problems means we still need the movement. The fact that men, too, are being battered by patriarchy means we need the movement. We might have made progress, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need feminism. We will never ‘stop needing’ equal rights. Saying we don’t need equal rights anymore is a bit like saying ‘I just took oxygen into my bloodstream; I don’t need to breathe anymore!’
Rights should be permanent, continuous. And we will always need them. We will always need equal rights, for women, for men, for gays and lesbians, for the marginalised and the minorities, for humanity, because there will always be new adversities and obstacles we have to overcome. You can reject the label if you wish, and define yourself however you please. But there really isn’t a huge range of options. You can’t pick and choose equal rights because that defeats the point of equality. You either support it or you don’t. What’s it gonna be?