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The F Word: The question of feminism

Jodi Morrell

At the moment it seems that women, particularly women in positions of power and influence, are at pains to distance themselves from being labelled as feminist. Whether we should label people or not is a whole other conversation but I thought that this was an interesting development ripe for a hearty discussion. From young Hollywood starlets to powerful politicians like Julie Bishop, it seems the term feminist has become a dirty word. Why?

Let’s start with the question of what feminism actually is.

At its core, feminism is a political movement advocating social, political and all other rights of women being equal to those of men. Equal to, not the same as. As with any movement, fringes and extremes have developed as the movement has progressed and achievements been made, but equality for women remains at the heart of feminism.

A feminist believes women should have the opportunity to earn the same salary in the same job as a man.

A feminist believes women should do the same amount of housework as men.

A feminist believes women should share child rearing responsibilities with men.

A feminist believes women should share the burden of paying the bills with men.

A feminist believes that a woman should be able to work in a male dominated field without being subject to harassment.

A feminist believes a woman in a boardroom is not automatically there to serve coffee.

And most importantly, a feminist believes in equality for women.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of what a feminist believes but it highlights the fundamental concern of any feminist.

So, has ‘feminist’ become a dirty word because we have already achieved {some} equality for women? Is it that we no longer need a feminist movement?

It was reported recently that Charlize Theron received a salary equal to that of a male actor for her latest movie with Chris Hemsworth, The Huntsman. Theron negotiated the salary bump after a discrepancy of pay between men and women in Hollywood was revealed by Sony emails leaked publicly in December 2014. That such a pay discrepancy in such a high profile industry still exists suggests that we still need feminism.

The statistics about pay gaps in Australia are widely contested and subject to interpretation. The ACTU claims a 4% pay gap between men and women in the same roles while the Workplace Gender Equality Agency has used information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to put the pay gap at 17.1% over the duration of an individual career. But rather than manipulate the statistics, perhaps we should be focusing on the fact that a pay gap still exists. Trying to justify this pay gap is simply unacceptable and the fact that it is regularly attempted suggests once again that we’re not done with feminism. There are still people to convince that women should be paid the same as men to do the same jobs.

Rates of pay are not the only issues where inequalities still exist; it’s just the easiest one to talk about. But how are we to address these issues if it’s no longer okay to identify as a feminist, or support feminism? Perhaps there’s an alternative movement that will deliver the results we need to progress as a society. If so, great! Let’s talk about it. Or, if the issues that feminism was created to deal with are still there, can we talk about why our powerful and influential women are so determined to avoid identifying as feminist? What do you think?

Feature image of feminism definition courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Jodi Morrell

Jodi Morrell recently abandoned her long-term public service career to pursue her passion for writing full time. She is passionate about politics, federal and local, and loves to explore and understand opposing political standpoints. Jodi loves travel, good food and wine, fitness and obstacle races (the muddier the better) and books. More about the Author

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