Remember when you were younger and there were vegetables left on your plate? I always got the “think of the children in the world who don’t have anything.” On reflection, my mum probably should have added “because of crippling debt, colonialism and climate change caused by the west” but I can’t image that was the priority when she was trying to get a snotty nosed little version of me to eat her greens.
Here’s the point; since our childhood, we’ve been told to think of someone, somewhere, who has it worse. That’s a fair thing to do. We should be thinking about others, we should be helping those in need, regardless of whether their problem impacts our lives our not. But somehow, these very sentiments, that originally meant for us to think about making the world better and be thankful, have been turned into words to silence feminists. Well, let’s face it, most things are turned into methods to silence feminists. It’s an age old method; feminists in the UK fight for women on banknotes, ending objectification, lads mags, the pay gap and the response we get is:
“feminists should be fighting real issues, think of the women in the middle east, in Africa, being stoned, that’s a real issue. ”
Now, usually I would brush this off, understand that this is just another day on Twitter and crack on with smashing patriarchy. But the thing this time is, it was said as part of a conversation about why feminism matters. It was used as part of a journey of understanding feminism, and that’s a problem.
My niece had a conversation with fellow young women about feminism (because that’s what she does now… proud), and the conversation was about how feminism makes sense for women with “real problems”, it wasn’t a dig, it wasn’t an attempt to silence, it was an honest view of social justice for women. My niece was taken aback and tried to explain that women everyone suffer injustice at the hands of patriarchy but found it difficult, as she explained; “Aunty, it’s not like I get put in prison for driving a car”. True. You don’t, but that doesn’t mean you have social justice either.
You walk down the street and you will get harassed
You have a 1 in 4 chance of being a victim of sexual violence
You will be paid, on average £108 less per week than a man for the same job
You are less likely to get a job in science or technology
You are likely to encounter online gendered and violent bullying
Your consent in a relationship is likely to be considered secondary
All of this is worth fighting for, as is FGM, forced marriage, child marriage, rape, human rights violations everywhere. But when we create a false dichotomy of “really bad” or “not so bad” we are tolerating some injustice. The reality is, they lie on a spectrum, you accept some things, a little more, then maybe a little more? How long before we accept a “really bad”?
It’s simple; it is not about comparisons, it is not about looking over somewhere else and thinking “well, at least that’s not happening to me”. If we do that, we are aiming for the lowest common denominator, not social justice for all, we are only hoping for women to be saved from the very worst. Every woman, in every corner of the world, deserves for us to strive for the very best.
Of course, I don’t expect my niece to have responded this way, she’s still figuring out her feminism (as am I everyday) and getting to the point of appreciating that feminism can fight on multiple levels, for multiple people took me a while. We don’t have to have experienced it all to know it is an injustice to fight and we don’t have to play top trumps with those injustices.
On a lighter, note today is GALENTINE’S DAY which only just got pointed out to me (thank Ellie!) so happy Galentine’s day. It could be worse, I could have waited till tomorrow and written you a feminist love note…