Just when I thought that Margaret Atwood couldn’t get any better, she has. In an age where feminism is becoming a kind of marketing concept (‘the future is female’ tee-shirts ringing any bells here?) she has publicly challenged the idea that women aren’t always right just by virtue of their femaleness. This idea should seem fairly obvious to many of us, after all, feminism is about equality, rather than women being superior. But current feminism often seems to forget this. Slogans like “who runs the world? Girls”, and David and Goliath’s infamous “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them” serve to perpetuate myths that feminism is about some kind of superiority. As Atwood said in an interview with Emma Watson, “[Feminism has] become one of those general terms that can mean a whole bunch of different things”.
Overall, I think that feminism is a force for good, but let’s be honest, there are some very different and sometimes opposing branches of it. My own particular brand of feminism relies on the definition that many dictionaries give; “political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” (Merriam-Webster). The second definition given by the same dictionary is perhaps the one that causes controversy, “organised activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests”. While feminism does predominantly focus on the rights of women, this is because women have historically been the marginalised group. But let’s not forget that many prominent feminist issues which seemingly aim to benefit only women, also benefit men. Getting women into higher positions in the workplace? Great. This also reduces the pressure for men to be the main breadwinners. Ditto for equal pay. Accepting that ability isn’t dependant on one’s sex? Also great. Being born with particular genitals doesn’t make you magically better or worse at a task. Challenging any suggestion that women are more emotional than men? Well, that also reduces the stigma for men showing emotion, who are statistically more likely to commit suicide. So you see, while issues appear to centre on women, they benefit society as a whole.
Let’s not forget what feminism is really about. It’s about equality, not reversal of roles. Thank you Margaret Atwood, for reminding us of this and being a consistent voice of reason.