It's an article for the York University Women's Committee magazine, The Zine, which was released on Tuesday, and I am so proud to see my name there, in print, for the first time!
So, I will shre my article with you! I decided to question the future of feminism, the purpose of it, etc, and at the time I was writing Caster Semenya and her gender were all over the news. It was my first time writing something which would be potentially recieved by a large audience, so be nice!
The role of women’s organisations in today’s society
As far as it is possible, I consider myself to be “anti-gender”. That is to say that I am against any male/female segregation in society, and that, for me, the idea of gender is simply a biological one, without any innate social construct. Simone de Beauvoir famously described this idea in the first line of her book The Second Sex (1949), when she states that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”; we are typically “male” or “female” in the sociological sense because of the way society has built us, not because of any innate set of “female” or “male” characteristics which we may possess. As far as I can philosophically allow, I consider gender in the social sense to be a matter of preference, not really any different from preferring tea to coffee (especially if you bear in mind that even a group of tea-drinkers would all choose to drink their tea differently). For this reason, the fact that I also call myself a feminist often surprises and confuses me when I come to think too much about it. And when questioned on my involvement with women’s organisations I sometimes struggle at first to defend my interest in feminism against its stereotype of being a man-hating and old-fashioned ideology.
Of course, the majority no longer sees feminism in this way, rather, I get the impression that it is perceived as a somewhat apathetic and outdated struggle for something we still call ‘equal rights’. As far as female suffrage goes, the feminist movement has by-and-large succeeded in reaching its goal of narrowing the gender gap, to the point where it is now a mere crease in society, lying undetected until pointed out by someone intent on ruffling the feathers of cross-gender harmony. So why does feminism exist today? Why do universities across the country have Women’s Committees when the Struggle as it was has been overcome? Indeed, many people have pointed out to me the sexist implications of a Women’s Committee – a committee which includes only 50% of the university’s demographic is surely hypocritical when it is based on 100 years of struggling for gender-equality. Really, there is no longer even a ‘struggle’ as such; women have a voice, an outlet and an equal-footing with men. The feminist movement has opened all the doors for a fantastic, novel or simply unusually ‘masculine’ career. Women have a tight grasp on their sexuality, an understanding of their bodies and a voice to say no or to call for help. A male ‘other’ is no longer necessary in a woman’s life for her to feel satisfied or whole. Women can have a marvellous career, a large family of sticky-faced children, a team of cats, a live-in female companion, a house-husband – all of the above and much more. But the fact remains that feminism in some form is still alive today, be it third-wave feminism, post-feminism, womanism, ecofeminism, libertarian feminism... the list goes on. And it is not only a woman’s plight. When asked if he was a feminist, a male friend of mine responded with “isn’t everyone a feminist?”, and although I wouldn’t say that gender equality is a constant in our society just yet, I would argue that it has come as far as being the norm, and that sexism, rather than feminism, is the anomaly. Of course, no one can deny that women still suffer at the hands of their gender; sexual abuse, violence, religious discrimination, political under-representation, the list goes on. But likewise, men suffer at the hands of their gender and sexuality, and such issues must be resolved with unity between the sexes, rather than distance. The word ‘feminism’ is indeed misleading when it comes to giving a title to a movement with gender equality as its centre point, especially today, when the feminist plight is no longer what it was. The gender gap is closing, and individual identity, independent of historical tradition and what’s “in your pants” is taking over as the priority for women and men alike. Take the case of Caster Semenya, the South African runner who was recently made to undergo a gender verification test to confirm whether she could compete in female athletic events. The result of this test, which involves complicated DNA testing, will take several weeks to determine, and this case proves how deep the issue of gender runs in society and in science. What is “male” and what is “female” is not always as obvious as appearances would suggest, and so separating the sexes in this categorical way simply widens the apparent gap between “male” and “female”, deepening the root of many of the problems central to women’s issues. It is for this reason that we need women’s committees in our society; not to protect the rights of a single gender, but to bring the issues of gender and sexuality together, and to break the boundaries for men and for women set by past societies, which need no longer exist today.
There is no link to an online version, so an extra long blog post will have to do!
Anyway, I've become quite addicted to journalism now, and so will hopefully be appearing in the GSA GradMag in the coming months!