Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have seen or heard about the Golden Globes a couple of weeks ago. While there was some focus on the winners, it was really all about something else. Oprah Winfrey spoke passionately about time being up for gender inequality, many other women called out examples of inequality (I personally loved Natalie Portman introducing the ‘all male’ nominees who then all looked really uncomfortable, and Debra Messing telling the E reporter that E don’t pay their female co-hosts as much as men) and where women wore black to support the #TimesUp movement.
It really does feel like it the time that we will move forward with women receiving the same pay, opportunities and recognition that white men have.
Yet there are still lots of women that I heard or read say ‘I’m not a feminist but …..’
This statement is usually then followed by an example of something unacceptable that has happened to themselves, or other women.
I’ll give you an example of a female radio DJ in Auckland. She’d had a sleazy taxi driver who she’d ended up reporting to the police. She wrote a follow up about the situation and in it said she wasn’t a feminist but she didn’t believe women should be made to feel uncomfortable by men.
Okay, but if you believe that – you are a feminist.
That’s what a feminist is.
Someone who believes there should be equality between the genders – in pay rates, in how we’re treated, in opportunities given, in recognition of our skills. Someone who believes that a women shouldn’t be harassed when walking down the street or getting a taxi. Someone who believes that a women shouldn’t be blamed for being raped because she wore a short skirt.
It got me thinking about a couple of things.
Firstly, many women don’t want to be put in the same category as those really outspoken militant feminists, so they say they’re not a feminist. But that would be like saying you’re not a human because you don’t want to be put in the same category as Robert Mugabe or Donald Trump or Hitler. It would be like saying you’re not an Aucklander because you don’t want to be put in a category of driving around in a convertible, drinking champagne and throwing money into the air (which apparently is what non Aucklanders seem to think all Aucklanders do).
But just because there are some negative examples of something, it doesn’t mean everyone is like that. That’s stereotyping in the worst possible way.
Secondly, if you believe in something, or live somewhere, or eat certain things – I don’t think you can choose to be called that thing. It’s not a choice thing – it’s just what you are. If you live in Auckland, you are an Aucklander. If you don’t eat meat, you are a vegetarian. If you believe in gender equality then you are a feminist. You can say you’re not – but quite clearly you are.
I would be interested to ask any woman who says she isn’t a feminist if she is happy to be paid less for doing the same job as a man. If she is happy not to be considered for promotion just because she has children. If she is happy not to consider a career as a developer, or engineer or scientist (even if she loves and is good at these things) because ‘women aren’t good at that type of stuff’. Or if she is happy to give up a dream of being a Firefighter or Police Officer because women aren’t as strong as men.
If that women is not happy with those things, if she believes women should be paid the same, and promoted, and can do any if those jobs – well then she is a feminist.
Stop with this “I’m not a feminist but….”.
There is no but about it. You are.
What we will need to all do is to work together to change how things are. Men and women together making it a better place for all of us.
As Oprah said, a new day is about to dawn. I am excited to see what it brings.
Angela Atkins is People and Learning Director for Elephant Group NZ and Elephant Group UK – and also developed the Management Bites training programme. She is best-selling author of the bites series of books and is passionate about helping HR and managers create better businesses. You can follow her on Facebook Angela splits her time between New Zealand, the UK, California and Hawaii.