I have called myself a feminist since I knew what the word meant, and Emma Watson's speech at the UN has stirred something up to me. It's not enough just to say "I'm a feminist." It needs to go further than that.
When I am walking home from school, I quite often hear wolf-whistles or cat calls from men and boys, who take great pride in shouting out comments about my appearance across the street in front of all their friends. It's humiliating. It's degrading. It needs to stop.
Once, my friend and I were walking through town when a middle-aged man walked straight in between us and asked "Do you want a boyfriend?" It was clearly aimed at us, and neither of us knew how to react. We just kept walking. I doubt very much that we are the only two teenage girls who have received completely unwanted and unnecessary comments/questions of this nature. It's sickening. It's disgusting. It needs to stop.
Earlier this year, we had a talk in registration about feminism. When asked for our comments, none of us wanted to say anything. Twenty minutes is not enough time for a class of 29 girls to share their strong views on feminism. Our form tutor found our silence hilarious. "Oh, so you don't need feminism then?" she laughed. "Wait until you get to the real world." This kind of attitude, this ignorance infuriated me. How dare you imply that I don't think that wolf-whistles, cat calls, disgusting comments, songs and videos objectifying women and girls, the price gap I will experience in my life when I go into work, are not the 'real world'? And how dare you imply that when I get to the 'real world', there is nothing I can do to make a change? Is that really the attitude you want to be giving young, impressionable teenage girls? That is irresponsible. It is heart-breaking. It needs to stop.
We live in a world where, in some countries, women are oppressed. They are made to feel disgusting when they get their periods. They never receive education about their periods, and don't know how to keep clean or even what is happening. And they have no one to ask, because menstruation is such a taboo that no one dares to give them the answers. It is the 21st century, and a wife in some countries is known as her husband's property, and not his equal. She loses her rights over her property and even herself when she marries. Women and girls in some countries are treated as inferior beings, that need to be told what to do and are good for nothing but childbirth and housekeeping. They need to be 'put in their place', and that place is the kitchen. This is infuriating. It is degrading. It needs to stop.
Every single day, I am bombarded with images, videos and songs degrading and objectifying women. Male rappers sit around fully dressed while women dressed in skimpy lingerie strut around them, jiggling their bums and boobs like there's no tomorrow. How about dressing your dancers in some clothes? How about having a couple of male dancers in there as well? Of course, some women like to show of their bodies, and why shouldn't they? They would have no reason to cover up every inch of flesh if exposing a bit of cleavage or leg didn't provoke unwanted comments and even unwanted touching from men and boys who need to keep their hands to themselves. My clothes are not my consent. And just because a women prancing around on screen can act as though she most certainly does want that kind of contact, it does not mean that every other woman and girl out in public wants it 'as well'. What I choose to wear is not an invitation to be called a slut, or told that I am easy. Just because the neckline of my top is lower than my forehead does not mean that I am your little toy or pet to be objectified and sexualised. This portrayal of women in the media and the way it carries through to the real world is utterly disgusting. It is degrading. It needs to stop.
One out of five American women has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape. 75% of female rape victims are under the age of 25, and more than half of them are under the age of 18. Girls aged 16-19 are four times more likely than the general public to be raped. I am sixteen years old. I don't like knowing that I am four times more likely to be raped. But I need to. If I don't know, how can I tell others? And if I don't tell others, how can we change it? I don't want to be a young woman in a world where statistics like this exist. I don't want to (possibly) raise a daughter in a world where statistics like this exist. I don't want anyone anywhere to have to live in a world with statistics like this. But we do. So we should change it. These statistics are shocking. The amount of and attitude to rape and sexual abuse against women and girls is despicable. It needs to stop.
To every man, boy, woman, teacher, musician, etc. who has ever attempted to make me feel inferior, who has degraded me, made me feel stupid and weak because I am female, shut up. You need to listen, and you need to stand up for change. I will not stand for this any more. I am a feminist. That does not equal 'bitch' or 'man-hater'. That equals someone who wants equal rights for men and women, socially and economically. I want to paid the same amounts as my male counterparts. I want deserving fathers to have the right to see and care for their children after a divorce. I want to stop hearing wolf-whistles, cat calls and disgusting, degrading comments. I want to see a man or boy cry and not have someone call him 'weak' or 'gay'. I want change. And I want it as soon as possible. Sexism is ignorant. It is unnecessary. It needs to stop.
I'm a feminist. Are you?