Do you identify as a feminist? Would you like to see more women in China's communist Party? What would be different if women rule the world.
Here is what Beijingers had to say on the 'F-word'.
“I’m not a feminist, but I believe in gender equality and I support women's rights,” said Zhang Deng, one of my Chinese colleagues at work. She's 25, has studied in the UK, and one of the most spirited and also spiky Chinese young women that I have met.
Although the scope of this project was about China, I couldn't help but think that Zhang's statement was not exclusive to her country.
While working on the project about 'Feminism in China' I have had discussions on gender equality with foreign colleagues, journalists, interviewees and friends too. Our conversations were about feminism in and out of China. Many of these interlocutors, female and male, mostly in their late twenties and early thirties shared similar opinions. Many foreign men didn't admit their were feminists and many foreign women disregarded female feminists. Many others, well-educated and accomplished, seemed to have never given a thought about the matter of feminism.
Zhang's statement reveals a disconnect and a confusion that inhibits a massive support of feminism that is common around the world. While the underlying ideal of gender equality is openly, proudly supported, there is a general aversion to being identified as a feminist.
Feminists have commonly been described as bra-burning, man-hating, liberal women, cold ugly bitches. Even amongst the more radical women’s liberation groups throughout history, the 'feminist' term only applied to a minority of those women fighting toward gender equality, and they were often described as those giving a bad name to feminism. But feminism isn't about obliterating sexual differences or ignoring the potential that women and men can contribute with to society. Feminism is not about retrieving male rights or disregarding men in favour of women.
"If you believe in gender equality and support women's rights, do you consider yourself a gender equality activist?" I asked my friends. Unfortunately, 'no' was a recurrent answer, not because people don't support gender equality, but because they do so little to protect and promote it.
Semantically and pragmatically, a feminist really is a gender equality supporter, however, only some of these supporters are also activists. While in China, feminism is hindered by a century-old patriarchal society and the domination of male chauvinism; in many Western countries, feminism is thwarted by a general belief that women and men are equal and therefore, the fight for equality is over. Outside China, this seems to be the big mistake.
Statistics from worldwide renowned institutes stating that gender gap is tightening tend to comfort policy makers, and when compared with the context in Muslim countries or extreme poverty-stricken areas like Africa, Europe and the US, or even China, are seen as 'as good as it gets' for women. More women are getting higher education degrees, a rising number of females is entering the work force, and more women are demanding equal partnership in marriage, household work and childcare. Women have never had better opportunities to take control of their lives and overall well-being, both financially and emotionally.
But the fight is far from over, despite the positive statistics and developments. Being a white, caucasian woman, born in Europe is probably the best female condition to have in the current world and even so, we experience discrimination on a regular basis. Women still earn lower salaries for the same work and position performed by male peers, only a small percentage of women has access to top management position in companies and politics, domestic violence at home and sexual harassment at work are rampant, the sexualization of young females and the objectification of women in the media remains a widespread reality. Women have won many public policy battles and statistics prove that equal societies are economically more efficient and peaceful, but in both the public and private arenas, equality has not been reached by most females in the world. And until all girls are born equal and all women have equal opportunities, the fight isn't over.
This is why we all need feminism and why the F-word needs to make a positive comeback.
Women and men must accept the word and the label, only then feminism will grow stronger. Women and men must unite for other women, specially to help those who can't help themselves. Women and men must promote and pass on the word to future generations, only then feminism will progress and linger. All feminists must understand that movements welcome different voices and styles of action, only then will feminists become a united front.
If you have doubts, maybe you can start by answering the same questions that Beijingers were confronted with. Email me your answers at firstname.lastname@example.org and find your opinions published on this website.
Do you identify as a feminist?
Would you like to see more women in politics?
What would be different if women rule the world?