"It's not about whether you shave your legs or wear high heels": The ongoing fight for equal rights

It seems feminism has had resurgence in the last few years, but it is a much different wave of feminists rallying for equality than we saw in the 70s.

Following the civil rights movement and protests again the Vietnam War, there was a new social movement…the feminist movement. “I am woman, hear me roar” was the catchphrase of those times and it was the catalyst for a revolution in women’s rights. Feminists demanded fairer work conditions and pay, as well as more female role models in the media – ones who weren’t confined to the kitchen.

These strong women paved the way for us and while we have come a long way, there still seems to be more done to have true equality between the sexes, and to get rid of stereotypes and stigmas…and any situation where women are treated differently to men. A recent instance in Australian media was Julia Gillard’s press tour for her newly-published memoir: Ray Martin and Rove McManus were both criticised for their questions to the former Prime Minister, focusing on her sex instead of her time in the country’s highest office, gender notwithstanding. It is sad to think that two seasoned interviewers could hit below the belt when talking to someone who, regardless of what you think of her, deserves to be spoken to in a much less sexist way and with a bit more respect. Would a man have been asked if his partner would present him with a naked surprise for his birthday? Probably not. It’s almost as if pointing out that Julia and other women in a “man’s job” is a talking point, when in fact it is not. Julia Gillard seemed only to notice she was female when it was brought up…every single day.

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Overseas there have been plenty of mentions of feminism in the past month alone, with popular Harry Potter actress Emma Watson addressing the UN on the 20th of September. She is only 24 years old, but her thoughts on what it is to be a feminist in our world today should be applauded and considered by people of all ages. She offered a sensible view of what the actual definition of feminism is and how, male or female, you can stand up for equal rights for your gender or the opposite. She said, “Feminism by definition is: “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes”.

“I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive”.

She went on to invite men to take a stand against gender inequality as well: “Gender equality is your issue too…I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s. I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less “macho”…I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either”. And how true that last statement is – men have unfair stereotypes attached to them too.

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So is feminism just for the younger women to worry about? Should we as 60 year-olds just stay out of it? Not according to the Eurythmics front woman Annie Lennox, who turns 60 in a couple of months’ time. In a recent interview with Yahoo!, Annie discussed feminism – she was a strong role model for millions around the world; she is still a feminist. “I’m quite happy to take that label and run with it… What it means for me, is I [have seen] women that don’t even have the absolute basic [human] rights that we have taken for granted. In the Western world, women have the vote. We have the possibility to be lawyers and doctors and to have careers that we never would have dreamed of in our grandmothers’ time. And our grandmothers and women before us sacrificed so much to help the future generations. And what’s happened is the word “feminism” got trashed, it got completely devalued”.

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She raised another great point: feminism has done a great deal for progress for women’s rights in developed countries, and now it must move to those places that “don’t even have the [same] rights [as us] — sexual rights, reproductive rights, health rights, educational rights, all of these issues. It’s so important that we wake up to what the real issues of feminism are. It’s not about whether you shave your legs or wear high heels”.


What do you think about feminism in the present day? What do you remember about the rallies and movement for women’s rights in the 70s? Were you a supporter? And do you classify as a feminist? And men – do you identify with being a feminist? Tell us below!