Embarrassingly, I didn’t realise I was a feminist until university. No one had ever told me what that word meant, and the few off-handed comments I had heard in high school suggested something controversial. I knew I believed in gender equality- but never could put a word to it.
Often the word ‘feminism’ gets a bad reputation. However, it’s simply defined as the “the belief in the quality of the sexes”. Yes- there are women who take it over the top, but feminism and gender equality are basic human rights.
As I’ve gotten older and started to read more about gender equality I’ve noticed we’re constantly being presented with the dilemmas of being a feminist and it makes it seem pretty complicated. “Help! How do I date as a feminist?” “Can I get married as a feminist?” “How do I have a feminist birthday?” “How to use social media as a feminist?”. I am a little puzzled that at least once a week I seem to be told that believing men and women are equal means I need a special set of tools to approach everything.
However, bringing gender equality into your life doesn’t have to be difficult! Here are 5 small changes to bring gender equality into your life.
- Watch your mouth. A lot of common slang terms have gendered meanings that most people don’t even think about. Look at the term ‘stop being a pussy’- it’s essentially a slang term said to men to stop acting weak. However, ‘pussy’ is another slang term for women’s genitalia and implying that women are weak. By using this term you’re enforcing the idea that men are better than women. There are dozens of common terms like this! ‘Grow a pair of balls’, ‘ball-buster’, ‘wears the pants’ are just a few more.
- Encourage Kids to play with any toy- no matter what gender it’s marketed for. If you go to any toy store, the section marked for boys has sporting equipment, action figures, and race cars. The section for girls? Princess dolls, kitchen sets, and play vanity sets. What messages do we send when these are the general choices we give our kids? Encourage youth in your life to make their own choices – not choices based on societal expectations of gender.
- Share the workload at home. My mom always made my dad’s lunch and dinner for him. Not saying my dad wasn’t a hardworking man, he was, but I never understood why he was unable to pack his own sandwich. Even when my family had dinner parties it was expected that the girls of the house would cook and clean while the men just chatted. This reinforces the gender role of woman as ‘happy home makers’ and in the long term is damaging to both genders. This issue leads to less woman in the work force and less men getting custody of their children in divorces. All it takes is splitting household duties!
- When it comes to issues that directly pertain to women’s bodies and experiences, be quiet and listen. For people who have penises and a male reproductive system, they will never know what it’s like to have a period, go through menopause or bear children. Men are much less likely to encounter street harassment and sexual assault or be told that their gender innately makes them unfit to fully participate in various aspects of the workplace.
- Have progressive name politics. The idea of a woman needing to change her last name to match her husbands is extremely outdated with deep roots in sexism. A woman would take her husband’s name as she became his property. While woman are no longer considered their husbands property the idea of a woman taking a man’s name is still the convention. Be willing to think about why this is important to you and be willing to both keep your existing surnames.