Why is feminism still important? Why do you still get feminist activists out there? Surely women have equal rights to men? We can drive, we can work, we can vote, why do we still need to go out there and fight for rights that we already have?
Let me address this in two ways, firstly by saying that we are not as equal it seems and secondly by saying that not all women have the same rights as we in the privileged west have.
The position of the Privileged West
Let me preface this by explaining what I mean by the Privileged West. First of all the west is broadly Europe and the US, but it’s really anyone of what are classified as first world countries; ones where we have a liberal democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These are generally countries that also have equal rights enshrined in law. Privileged in my context means those who have more than others; people who are not underprivileged; those who have an advantage in society. I realise it’s not a brilliant description, but you know what I mean.
Although equality is enshrined in law there are still some fundamental areas where the darkness of oppression and inequality bleed through.
Women at work
According to the UK Office of national Statistics, in April 2012 the gender pay difference was 19.7%, that means that women earn 19.7% less than men overall. This is for both part-time and full time employees. For full time employees the gender pay gap was 9.6% in 2012, and for part-time employees it was -5.2%; this means that women, who are more likely to work part time, earned 5.2% more than men (based on a % of men’s earnings) (Source).
The fact that women are more likely to work part time, can also be used as an indicator of inequality because women are more likely to be carers of children and elderly parents (Source).
Women are also less likely to be on the Boards of companies, on the FTSE100 companies for example in January 2012 only 15% of the 1,086 director positions were held by women (Source).
And those are the statistics for women at work. This doesn’t address some of the just as or more important issues such as rape culture, gender violence and other discrimination that women have to tolerate. This is just the position of women in the west.
Some scary statistics from the rest of the world
11% of women 15-49 married or in union wanting to avoid a pregnancy did not have access to or are not using an effective method of contraception. 800 women died due to complications of pregnancy and child birth, including severe bleeding after childbirth, infections, hypertensive disorders, and unsafe abortions (Source). In South Africa, the country of my birth the Health Minister reported that more than 25% schoolgirls are HIV positive compared with 4% of boys because “sugar daddies” are exploiting them (Source).
I think you get the picture. Activism is important because we are equal, but not quite. Over the course of the A-Z challenge, I plan to write about some of these topics in more detail and hopefully give you a view on why feminist activism is still important, not just for each of us as individuals, but the female experience as a whole.