International Women’s Day today this year has given me a range of mixed emotions.
While I absolutely and fully support any fight for equality in this world and have spoken on many occasions about women’s issues I have to say I feel quite detached and alienated from the women’s movement.
I was one of the lucky people in life, I was brought up in a household where being strong, confident, opinionated and ambitious was not only normal but celebrated.
From a young age I was educated on all sorts of women’s issues – everything from abortion to equality at work. In fact so much so that I reported my grammar school to the Equal Opportunities Commission for building a technology block with no girls toilets – they became unisex as a result.
I attended various International Women’s Day events and I’ve organised many many more.
But never, not once, during my life have I felt comfortable labeling myself as a “feminist” and therefore I don’t.
This is a hard one for me, my mum is a well known feminist who sacrificed most of her adult life to fight for women’s rights and she’s my idol, my hero (or heroine if we’re going to get pedantic), the one person I will always look up to in life.
Without her I would not be who I am today.
However, I feel that she fought hard so that I could grow up to feel equal and to not be affected negatively by the fact that I was a woman. She taught me to be proud of my gender, my sexuality and who I am and therefore I do not feel unequal in my world.
I acknowledge that throughout the globe and even closer to home there are women who do not feel equal and who are not treated equally and I will always fight for their rights where I can. But I don’t feel the need to label myself a feminist to do this.
I am a human, I am a person who believes in fairness, right, justice and equality.
I also believe in disability rights, race rights, religious rights, class rights, LGBT rights, animal rights and more and more and more…..
Does this mean I have to adapt lots of different labels of ‘isms to make me fit in? Do I have to become “one of us” in every movement I believe in?
Over the years I have been berated, insulted, laughed at, shouted at, judged and more because I refused to label myself a feminist and today is no different – people will accuse me of not understanding the principles or the history or whatever they have made up to make themselves feel more superior to me.
I’ve fought with my mum and I’ve even had another well known feminist tell me she thought my mum had turned me into a “post-feminist”. I’d rather just be me.
For the launch of International Women’s Day the NI movement released a picture that I found offensive. It was weak, badly executed and stereotypical. To me it showed the International Women’s Day movement in Northern Ireland in a bad light – and I told them this. They blamed the “man” behind the camera.
I struggle to understand why a “man” was behind the camera in the first place given the wealth of extremely talented and creative female photographers we have in this country. On top of that I received the press release from a man too. Now, I happen to work with some incredibly strong, confident, talented women in the PR industry here – why were none of them considered to convey this message? By the way, an industry that just happens to be dominated by women.
I’m not saying men cannot convey the message of International Women’s Day – far from it. I’m simply asking that if the picture was supposed to convey “equality in the workplace” as highlighted by two of the strongest, most confident, most glamorous Hollywood actresses at the Oscars (as referenced in the press release) then why was the job given to a male PR executive and a male photographer?
Regardless of how the International Women’s Day movement here decided to represent themselves one thing is for sure we have a fantastic movement full of people who genuinely fight for the cause, who work hard to eradicate inequality and who fight hard for the rights of women throughout the globe….women like my mum who do it without a second thought because it’s truly part of who they are and it’s for a cause they truly believe in.
On the flip side I want to ask those people out there who label themselves as a “feminist” how many labels they accept in their lifetime. I want to know how comfortable they are being pigeonholed and categorised and locked in a box of specific political ideology?
I want to know how many “feminists” out there want to feel comfortable expressing their sexuality and their femininity without feeling guilty or wihtout fear of being accused of not being “feminist enough”.
I’ve spent my life in the media and I’ve seen an incredible number of strong women represent women’s rights. But if we’re going to fight for women’s rights we have to also fight for the right for women to be allowed to decide that instead of segregating themselves from a society they deem themselves to be equal in that they don’t have to label themselves “feminist” and that they can be a supporter, advocate and fighter for women’s rights without being villified by their peers.
I’m proud to be a woman, I’m proud of where I came from, I’m lucky to feel equal and confident and I’m proud to say I’m a supporter for women’s rights. But I’m also refusing to label myself, I won’t put myself in that box and I won’t allow people to make me feel bad because I won’t get in.
I will fight for the rights of women to live an equal life without pain, suffering or hurt. I will also fight for the same rights for children, men and animals. I will also fight for the right for a woman to choose her own path in life, even if that is Page 3 or porn – the question for feminists should be not what is right or wrong but who needs fought for because they cannot make a free choice.
Because I truly believe in a Women’s Right To Choose – I choose not to have a label. I choose to be a part of an equal society in which I will continue to fight for that equality for everyone.
(c) Tina Calder