Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Is Feminism Just A Phase?

Feminism has collided with our world like a meteorite cascading from space. We shouldn't be shocked by the impact, for it has always been there, orbiting in the peripheral for centuries. Those with premier insight have been forewarning us of the impending force, set to send shockwaves across the planet. Some of us have listened intently to their warnings and have helped to prepare in any way that we can, despite only being an individual of a small commodity. Others, however, have ignored the writing on the wall and instead, they stand idly by proclaiming: "It is just a phase! They have scare-mongered us about this before. It will pass on by!".

People are naive to the history of feminism. Blinded by artificial lights and sucked into the abyss of politics and patriarchy. Their minds consumed and distracted by the people that lead this world who lament about other catastrophes (eg. fake news, China faking global warming and the unjust media - you know ~real~ problems). They presume that if they simply ignore it all, it doesn't exist

But it does exist. The term, 'Feminism' was first coined in 1837 (better late than never) by a man, no less. French philosopher, Charles Fourier is credited with having given the movement a dictionary definition. In fact, not content with just providing a term in which women could unite, Fourier stood by the same values himself. For example, he abstained from marriage due to his belief that it forfeited women's identity at a time when they were considered the property of their husbands. Instead, he focussed his energy intently upon liberating every human individual, man, woman, and child. In short: A true unsung hero.

Feminism, however, pre-dates Fourier. In fact, there are hints of female revolution at practically every moment in history. For example, in the 15th century, Catherine of Aragon (the first ill-fated wife of Henry VIII) bravely commissioned a book to argue women's rights to education at a time when women were just viewed as a vessel in which to produce heirs.

Catherine's only child, Elizabeth, would later become one of the England's most prolific monarchs, despite being a woman in a world that favoured men. Of course, Elizabeth was not simply able to glide onto the throne. The 25-year-old rightful heir had to fight for her place, in a way that mimics modern day women’s struggle to conquer their careers and obliterate the glass ceiling.

As Queen, Elizabeth was tainted by masculinity (despite not having any apparent masculine qualities) simply because her role as monarch was predetermined a male role and thus she was described as having "the body of a weak and feeble woman, but with the heart and stomach of a king". She was permanently illuminated by a harsh spotlight, that plagued her accomplishments as "ruthless" and prompted her to laboriously apply make-up in order to improve her appearance (according to history scholars, it would take Elizabeth four hours to get ready each and every day). Had she not succeeded to the throne, her male counterpart would have felt no pressure for his physical appearance and would have been celebrated for his ruthlessness, rather than dehumanised. Despite her continuous comparisons to men and her bitter battle with misogyny, Queen Elizabeth I left a fierce legacy that many King's before and after her could not compare to.

However, the world had not yet learned that women are equally as capable as men. In the 17th century, the witch trial pandemonium started. Women who spoke their own mind and acted without the authority of their husbands were punished upon a fiery stake, having been accused of witchcraft and allegiance to the devil. These women, deemed lunatics, were publically executed in order to maintain the patriarchal order.

Then, from the ashes of these repressed, falsely criminalized women rose the suffragettes. Furious in pursuit of equality, they stood tall, taller than any man in order to make themselves seen and heard. By 1918, they had challenged the British Government to allow women the right to vote, in which women above the age of 30 who owned property were included in the elections. It was a small victory. However, the suffragettes worked tirelessly, putting themselves at great risk, to level the playing field with men even further. As a result of their determination, in 1928, all women over the age of 21 were permitted to vote in England (in America, women were afforded this right in 1920, France did not allow women the vote until 1945 and Saudi Arabian women were only granted the right to vote in 2011). Each of these dates were a monumental victory for women. It remains so today. However, today it is also a bitter reminder that women's journey to equality only truly began less than 90 years ago in England, and 6 years ago in Saudi Arabia.

Thus, there should be no confusion as to why women rallied for the various Women's Marches this January. The reason is evident. Women have suffered and women still suffer. They have always been perceived as lesser human beings, despite their monumental achievements which challenge those of most men (here’s looking at you Marie Curie, Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Jane Austen, Florence Nightingale, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai - to name only a small few).

Women are strong and alarmingly for many politicians and world leaders, when they unite, they are practically untouchable (yeah, that's right, put your wandering hands away!). But, as a surprise plot twist to our ancestors, women now have a majority of the media, politicians and men on their side for the ride too and if there is one thing that every history book is unanimous on, it is that men are indeed, strong.

Therefore, in conclusion, the next time that somebody suggests feminism is just a "phase", remind them that women have remained consistent in their plight for centuries, and what they are seeing now is the wave of feminism cresting upon them. Ask them, do they want to be washed away by the current? Or, would they rather swim into it head first, hand in hand, with some of the fiercest people on the planet: women.

If they need a little more convincing, invite them to join the next Women's March - if they are strong enough to handle it.

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With freedom, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy? - Oscar Wilde

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