The Principle of Equality – A Simple Guide to Feminism

When Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered her famous TEDTalk, We Should All be Feminists in 2014, she captured perfectly the “negative baggage” that often comes with identifying as a feminist. What she said beautifully paints a picture of gender inequality with day-to-day real-life examples; from the gross disrespect that women face in patriarchal communities, to the oppression of gender roles.

A feminist is a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Whereas some women who genuinely believe in equal rights shun referring to themselves as feminists and prefer to call themselves ‘supporters of equal rights,’ womanists or humanists instead, the reality is that feminism is fundamentally about equality. In this post, we share an outline of the guiding principles of feminism that can support the fight for equality in modern society, from our perspective as domestic abuse support service providers.

Listening to women: Women are often silenced in spaces where their voices are most needed. This is one of the biggest problems with sexism – the idea that women are inferior and have nothing valuable to contribute. This type of idealogy breeds abuse with the need to constantly cut women to size and put them in their place. But it also means that we lose out on potentially change-making contributions to society. READ: When Women Speak, Do People Listen?

Believing women: When women disclose long after their alleged abuse, many ask why they didn’t speak up sooner. What is often ignored is the burden of proof and survivors of abuse and violence are often stigmatised, blamed, and shamed into silence. We can break the wall of deadly silence when we listen to and believe women when they speak their truth. It is concerning that many peddle the notion that too many women lie about abuse and it is, therefore, dangerous to believe women. Though the statistics on false allegations vary – and refer most often to rape and sexual assault – they are consistently low – only 4% of cases of sexual violence reported to the UK police are found or suspected to be false. In Europe and in the US the rates fluctuate between 2% and 6%. READ: Deadly silence: What happens when we don’t believe women.

Women tend to judge other women harshly. We should be kinder to each other, accept that we’re all different and can make different choices. Not go for some kind of stereotypical idea that we’re perfect. Frankly, I’m not perfect.

Cherie Blair

Refusing to judge women: Judgements stem from bias and in this case, gender bias which is usually fuelled by sexist stereotypes. Stereotypes are dangerous, especially when they are used to change narratives and replace reality. We need to stop echoing stereotypical sexist tropes like women gossip, women are bitchy, women are the weaker sex, e.t.c. as they only reinforce and widen the gap of inequality. READ: 10 Tropes About Women That Women Should Stop Laughing About

Amplifying women’s voices: Women, especially those at the top level, need to identify where it is necessary to give other women less powerful or with less of a platform the opportunity to speak up and share ideas or expertise. We need women’s voices now more than ever. We need women at the top to ensure that they are doing all they can to ensure that women’s voices are heard and not ignored. READ: Amplify Women’s Voices

Being aware of our bias: Change can only come from a place of awareness, so it is important that we are very honest with ourselves about our biases. We treat people differently based on our biases and we can miss out on opportunities to build meaningful relationships, learn from each other, and grow if we choose to exclude others based on a bias. READ: Why Gender Bias Still Occurs And What We Can Do About It

Recognising our privilege: Men are not the only ones with privilege. Different factions of society benefit from advantages that are not afforded to others. For example, a white woman may suffer from discrimination and oppression because of her gender. However, she has a different set of privileges than an Asian or African woman, who may be discriminated against and oppressed because of both her gender and ethnicity. Privilege can come through ethnicity, religion, class, birth and sexuality. It is important to acknowledge this is not to shame people with privilege but to ensure that we are centering the varying experiences of all women. READ: Why It’s Important to Think About Privilege — and Why It’s Hard

Understanding intersectionality: Intersectionality is what differentiates between misogyny and misogynoir – a combination of misogyny and racism. Without understanding intersectionality, we run the risk of continuing systems of inequalities that are sexist, racist, classist, ableist e.t.c. because we have not taken into account the unique struggles of those who are marginalised. READ: She Coined the Term ‘Intersectionality’ Over 30 Years Ago. Here’s What It Means to Her Today

Intersectionality is such a vital framework for understanding systems of power, because ‘woman’ is not a catchall category that alone defines all our relationships to power

Zoe Samudzi

A quick glossary of key terminology that you may come accross:

Allyship: efforts by members of a privileged in-group to engage in social justice activism; standing up and speaking out for the marginalised and oppressed.

Equality vs Equity: Equality means everyone is given access to the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognises that everyone had different circumstances and makes allowance for this by allocating the required resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

The glass ceiling: the social barriers that prevent women from climbing the career ladder and being promoted to toplevel jobs.

Intersectionality: the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression based on gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc.

Mansplaining: a man speaking in a condescending or patronising typically to a woman.

Manspreading: the act or practice by a man of sitting with the legs spread wide apart in a way that intrudes on the space of others.

Misandry: dislike of, contempt for or prejudice against men. Often incorrectly conflated with feminism.

Misogyny: hatred of, aversion to, or prejudice against women.

Parity: being equal, especially as regards status or pay.

The patriarchy: a social system in which men hold power and control and are predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. Some patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.

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