This is a transcript from our December 2016 event, where we busted various myths about feminism. Below is a transcript of Blair William’s talk, where she busted the myth that we don’t need feminism in the west anymore.
Blair Williams is a PhD candidate at the School of Politics and International Relations. Her thesis focuses on why women Prime Ministers experience misogynistic representations in the media and how the media in turn construct misogyny through discourse. Blair has written feminist themed articles for local Canberran feminist journal Feminartsy, HerCanberra, ANU’s Woroni and University of Adelaide’s On Dit. She is also a passionate intersectional-focused feminist who dedicates her life to trying to fight capitalist, patriarchal heteronormative white supremacy and believes deeply that feminism is still needed.
There an abundance of myths about feminism that I would love to debunk. As I reflect on the multitude of topics to choose from the least obvious yet most important one hit me right in the face – the myth that feminism isn’t needed anymore in ‘The West’. I constantly hear this from whiney white guys telling us that feminism in ‘first world countries’ isn’t needed anymore and proceed to inform me that women are actually the most privileged people in the world. They say this between emotional pleas that they’re ‘nice guys’ and aggressive accusations that we are ‘feminazis’ who ‘are lesbian, hairy, ugly man-haters’ – which actually literally describes me pretty well.
Whilst the feminist movement has made some change, there is a looooong way for us to go.
To be reflexive, I am a queer white middle-class mentally ill woman who aligns with intersectional feminism and I believe the Kyriarchy needs to be smashed.
Whilst these nice guys yell at us that we have equal rights and demand us to tell them ‘one right that men have that women don’t’, we are still underrepresented in leadership, political and certain occupational positions.
It needs reminding that in Australia women still earn 18.2 per cent less than men (that is, 18 cents per dollar). This is for white women and white men. I couldn’t find the breakdown for race in Australia, but in the US black men earned 75 cents and Hispanic men earned 67 cents to the white male dollar. Whereas white women earned 78 cents, black women earned 64 cents and Hispanic women earned 54 cents to the white male dollar.
Women are also more likely to be part-time workers in low-wage industries. Further, on average, women’s superannuation payout was just over half of what men received, meaning that women are more likely to experience poverty during their retirement and are also more likely to be dependent on the Age Pension. We need feminism because this means that as we grow older we will become more vulnerable.
Women are still lacking in leadership positions as we still only make up 18.2 per cent of ASX 200 listed company boards – though this is slowly increasing. More than two-thirds of people on government boards are men and 65 per cent of Commonwealth judges and magistrates are men. Less than one-third of senior managers are women.
Looking at our current political representatives, women only make up 28 per cent of the Federal House of Representatives and 39 per cent of the Senate. In Turnbull’s current Cabinet, only 26 per cent are women.
We need feminism because women in positions of power are still seen as hateful, bitchy, untrustworthy and disloyal shrews. We need feminism because the media representation of this has a tangible effect on everyday women.
And most of these statistics that I have mentioned forget to add other intersections such as People of Colour, trans and queer people, disabled people, etc.
Whilst these statistics focus on more Liberal notions of feminism, it is still important to be aware of the lack of women representatives and the repercussions that this can have. We need feminism to make sure that all areas should be representative of the population. Whilst many critiques can be made of our capitalist society, and rightly so, until our system is changed I think it is still important for women and other oppressed groups to have substantive representation and power.
I think the biggest thing that Nice Guys and Cool Girls forget or fail to care about is the social equality that feminism fights for. The feminist movement focuses on more issues than solely just our legal rights. We need feminism because we are still not seen as socially equal.
Women are still expected to be the primary caretakers of children, spending a weekly average of 8 and a half hours looking after their children in comparison to fathers’ 3 hours and 50 minutes. Furthermore, women are 92 per cent of caretakers for children with disabilities, 70 per cent of primary caretakers for parents and 52 per cent of caretakers for their partners. We need feminism so that people of all genders can parent equally – so that fathers can feel that they are able to be the primary caretaker if they so choose it. So that women are able to either stay or re-join the workforce without feeling guilt that our society has placed on her. We need feminism to eradicate socially constructed gender roles that teaches men that they should go off to work and take home the bacon and preaches to women that their place is in the private sphere.
We need feminism because, as a woman, I still feel unsafe to walk around my own city – and I use my bicycle as a sort of mental defence mechanism. I have never felt safe since I can remember. I have always had the fear of men drummed into me since I was a young child. And as an adult I have had people ridicule or hate me for said fear of men. And I have good reason to. I have many stories of casual everyday sexual harassment from the age of 10 onward. We have all heard that 1 in 3 women over the age of 15 have experienced physical violence and that 1 in 5 women over the age of 15 have experienced sexual violence. We still need feminism because the leading preventable cause of death, disability and illness in women over the age of 15 is domestic and family violence.
The statistics are clear. The stories are clear. Every woman, non-binary person or trans person I know have stories of harassment, abuse or assault by the hands of men. Whilst, yes, men are assaulted too, the majority of perpetrators of assault are men. 99 per cent of rapists are men and 97 per cent of rapists will walk free and receive no punishment. We need feminism so we can feel safe in our own society.
We still need feminism because femme presenting bodies are constantly policed by the media, our society and people around us (and even ourselves).
We still need feminism because women’s healthcare still isn’t taken seriously with many of my friends and people I know suffering from endometriosis, PCOS or other pain that doctors refuse to take seriously.
I could go on for why we need feminism for our social rights but then we will be here until the morning.
One of the most important reasons why we still need feminism is because we still need to fight for our sisters that have multiple intersecting oppressions. White middle class cishet women are still oppressed, but they too need to fight for the rights of all.
We need feminism for our queer community who experience misogyny and queerphobia. The LGBTQI community have up to 14x higher rates of suicide attempts than their heterosexual peers. We are more than twice as likely to experience anxiety and three times as likely as straight people to experience depression. 60 per cent of us have experienced verbal homophobia and 20 per cent have been physically assaulted due to their sexuality or gender.
We need feminism for People of Colour who experience misogynoir or the combination of racism and misogyny. Women of Colour are still fetishized by white men. They are still seen as lesser because of their race in our white supremacist society and then even lesser because of their gender. And we white women have historically held up this type of racism and misogyny. It is extremely important for our historically racist feminist movement to constantly question itself and reflect in order to be inclusive of PoC and to listen to them and to support them.
The feminist movement is needed but our movement also needs to be inclusive to those who have intersecting oppressions. We need to fight for women and trans/queer/nb people, people with disabilities, people with mental illnesses, PoC, etc. If we don’t fight for all women then who are we really fighting for?
We still need feminism because the capitalist, white supremacist, ableist, heteronormative, gender binary patriarchy still has not been dismantled yet.
So to conclude,
We need feminism because men are still abusing us.
We need feminism because men on the internet think that it is OK to call us ‘two-holes’ and ‘meat wallets’ whilst joking with their mates that feminists should be raped.
We need feminism because we should be able to walk the streets at night.
We need feminism because some of my friends are afraid of having kids in case it is a daughter who will have to experience everything that we have experienced.
We need feminism because women are still seen as lesser than men.
We need feminism because we are still being victim blamed.
We need feminism because our bodies and lives are being policed.
We need feminism because we are still not respected.
We need feminism because women are seen to be automatically less competent than men.
We need feminism because women are subjected to great deals of misogyny.
We need feminism because our political, social and economic rights have not yet been won.
We need feminism because we need to make sure that our rights do not go backward.
We need feminism for all the women, PoC and queer people who have lost their lives due to their oppressions.
We need feminism because we need to respect that women can make their own choices about their bodies.
We need feminism because having sex or being a sex worker doesn’t make you dirty.
Lastly, if you believe that we don’t need feminism I have two words for you.