In celebration of International Women’s Day one must reflect on the recent furore surrounding the BBC documentary India’s Daughter. I read an article that stated that approximately 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales annually and that more than 35 women are raped daily. This amounts to the rape of about two women every hour on our little island “while in India, a nation of 1.25 billion people, three women are reportedly raped every hour.” (Prabhu Chawla Indias Daughter Needs Respect Not Ugly Display of Violations by Western Media)
Clearly this hegemony is not merely cultural. As a country that promotes freedom and individualism and introduced rape laws, though somewhat unclear, in 1956, the UK seem to be portraying India as a completely separate and almost undeveloped world, nay country. Yet, as a supposedly forward and feminist state, we still appear to have this male hierarchy ingrained in us, whether it’s a flippant comment like: “I don’t really like girls, we just don’t get on” or a backhanded swipe at a stranger: “She looks like such a slapper” we seem to accept this oppression.
Why do we think it’s okay to still define things as a “man’s job” or refer to ourselves as “I’m just a woman”? Further so, why is ‘feminism’ still a shameful and dirty word, conjuring up images of butch girls with short hair, deep voices and angry attitudes? Do we really have to reduce ourselves to the stereotype of a ‘manly man’ in order to define ourselves as proud feminists?
Globalisation and feminism
Being a woman shouldn’t just be about embracing your exterior self, however lovely you or others think you look. I highly disagree with this attempt at Westernising other cultures through the sexualisation of women. Globalisation has, if anything, continued this oppression, through the free trade of erotic and stereotypical produce such as porn films, pink baby girl clothes, girls’ and boys’ gifts…the list is endless. I remember that in Secondary School I was an avid football fan and I loved everything Arsenal. The boys at school would always question me on the squad; on all their vital statistics. I was a 14-year-old girl who knew all of the ins and outs of The Invincibles, just to prove to some vacant Sunderland fans that I really was a Gooner.
“One is not born, but rather, becomes a woman”
Simone De Beauvoir’s critical analysis is more relevant today than ever. The idea that women are second-class citizens through natural factors is even more dismissible today with birth-control and medication which means that a woman doesn’t have to stop everything at the start of a period. It is certainly, as De Beauvoir analysed, a case of social factors, and as long as we continue to have unfair wages, unfair employment rates and gross sexual behaviour in the workplace this oppression will continue. It’s a sorry state for a country to be in when an unprecedented number of young women will accept a sleazy boss, who has problems understanding personal space, in order to keep a zero-hour, minimum-wage job.
In the UK it is acceptable to make a crude comment to a woman on the street or grab a cheeky feel in a club, the street harassment video when a woman was recorded walking 10 hours through New York just shows the lack of development within Western culture. The age-old stereotype of the ‘Gentleman’ has near-on vanished from our sights and we can no longer rely on someone kindly opening a door for you or giving you their seat. But isn’t this more of a problem with compassion, or even basic manners? The amount of times I have almost head-butted a door because the person in front of me (whether male or female or transgender) has been too busy staring idly into their smartphone, vowing themselves to complete level 85 on CandyCrush so as to justify treating themselves to a McDonalds Double Cheeseburger (with fries, thankyou). It seems that we have managed to advance light-years when it comes to technology, but are still stuck in the 19th century when it comes down to sex equality.
A man’s identity
The argument that increasing women’s rights reduces the identity of the man is merely an illusion of identity in itself. Can we really continue to say that the stereotypical man is muscly, un-emotional and immune to housework in a society driven by individualism, by technology and by a free trade fraught with consumerism? If we continue to live in our four-by-four wall, one-bed flat, watching the biased Channel 5 ‘exposé’ on some new down-trodden socio-cultural group and adhering to the oppressive expectations of society, then women will never reign as equals to men.