I, Chloe Falzon, am a feminist, and I know that people might question why. ‘Sexism is in the past, we don’t need feminism anymore!’. ‘Feminists are still a thing? But women are equal now!’. To these people, I have a few questions.
Where would women be without past feminist movements that have been set into motion? Where would we be without the suffragettes? Not voting. Where would we be without the National Organisation of Women? With worse employment opportunities than we have now. And, as a feminist, I recognise that there are women across the globe who have it worse living as a woman than I do. I’m Australian, white, middle-class. I don’t live in Sudan, where girls as young as 10 are married off to older men. I haven’t been thrown in jail for running from an abusive partner, like in Afghanistan, like to Indigenous women in our own home Australia. This is why we still need feminism today, because we may have come a long way, but we still have quite a distance to go before every woman in the world feels equal to the men beside them.
It shocks me to hear that some people today think of feminism as a thing of the past, no longer needed in our modern society. If this were truly the case, would there still be a national 14.2% percent pay gap overall between men and women? Gender discrimination continues to account for the largest component of the pay gap. A survey of 500 managers by law firm Slater & Gordon found that a third of these managers would rather employ a man over a woman of the same age and qualifications for fear of maternity leave. This is why we still need feminism today.
We still need feminism today because women are too often expected to go to work, look after the kids, clean the house till it sparkles and still have food ready on the table for their husband and kids. Feminists highlight the burden of domestic duties and parental demands and try to instigate laws which could prompt cultural change, like paid parental leave.
We still need feminism today because women are constantly seen as the inferior gender, compared to men even when we are at the top of our game. Even elite athlete Serena Williams can’t catch a break. She’s a 23-time grand slam winner, and 7-time grand slam winner John McEnroe seems to think that although she’s the best female player ever, she would rank a mere 700th in the men’s tennis circuit. Bit of a backhanded compliment.
We still need feminism today because there simply are not enough leadership opportunities for women, and, if women do manage to achieve leadership positions, they are quickly stifled by the culture of misogyny that runs rampant in our society. Even when sitting as Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard still fell victim to the cruel words of misogyny from the then Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott. When talking about men having more power than women, he dared to ask the question, “is that a bad thing?”.
But I’m here today, and I say, it is. Women can change the world when given the chance. Providing equal opportunities for women lets them use their talents in the workforce and make positive change in their communities. Unfortunately, men outnumber women in organisational leadership roles, in parliament, on government boards, on the bench, in public recognition.
We are not only fighting against this inequality of society, but the voices that tell us that feminism is no longer needed, that it has no place anymore. The reality is that feminism will be necessary until women are equal to men, but right now we aren’t. Men are at the top of the ladder, already reaching for the sky, and women are a few rungs down, holding on tightly. Now we have hammers to break through that glass ceiling above our heads. Feminism allows us as women to achieve our dreams, to have an equal shot at success. Feminism allows us to reach for the stars, and grab them. So, let’s start talking about it. Let’s spread the word. This can’t just be about tolerance now, about accepting feminism but staying distant, about watching from the sidelines in silence but never joining the battle.
We must be like the Pankhurst sisters, who helped women win the right to vote. Like Eleanor Roosevelt, who advocated for women to be appointed to federal positions. Like Malala Yousafzai, who advocates across the world for education rights for women. Like these women have before us, let’s keep the wheels of feminism in motion for a revolution of equality.