BY HANNAH LEWIS
A friend recently came out to me. I was as outraged as I was surprised.
She’s a human rights lawyer who works in a university. She wasn’t the sort of person I expected to be having that conversation with.
The conversation we had is one that I’ve had before. It’s a conversation that I’m more than a little bit over.
“Well, Hannah,” my friend told me, “of course I believe in women’s human rights it’s just that feminism is irrelevant. Besides, I don’t want to tarnish myself with a label that implies hairy legs, lesbianism and militant ranting.”
For a lesbian who is prone to eloquent, but forceful discussion, her take on feminism was disappointing and surprising. I’m sure, dear readers, you’ll understand my outrage at her ‘outing.’
This conversation is so utterly old that sometimes I think I should carry feminist business cards around with me. The card would look something like this:
If I had such a card, I’d use it to vet prospective friends, lovers and employers. On the flip side of my magic feminist card (for those who wanted to take it away) I’d explain the need for feminism.
There are so many issues that women face and feminists must fix that it is hard to know where to begin. In Australia women are still paid less than men, their reproductive rights are threatened and we’re the only Western democracy without a human rights act. 1 in 3 women also experience some form of sexual violence in their lives.
When I cast my eye abroad, the need to be a feminist is equally apparent. Recently, I’ve been campaigning for Miriam Lopez, a Mexican woman who was raped by soldiers and denied justice. Her case is just a drop of water in an ocean of misogyny. In Iran, a woman’s testimony in court is not equal to a man’s and in Afghanistan 87 per cent of women experience domestic violence.
This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg in Australia or abroad. It’s a tiny shaving of the right hand corner of an iceberg the size of Antarctica. The abuse of women’s human rights is a global phenomenon.
But I’m not just a feminist because of the issues that women face in Australia and abroad. I’m also a feminist because I believe that feminists (and yes, I mean men and women) can change things for the better for women.
Feminists fought for the right to vote for women. And they won. Feminists are fighting to safeguard abortion rights in Australia. And, at the moment, we’re still winning. Feminist activism also led to international law dealing with women’s rights issues.
So friends, it’s time to come out as feminists. It is only through telling people what feminism is and countering the myths that we will be able to recruit and organise together towards women’s equality.
Hannah Lewis is the Activism Coordinator at Amnesty International Australia and a proud feminist. She hopes that by the end of this article you too will be a proud feminist. These views do not represent the opinions of Amnesty International Australia and are the opinions of the author alone.