What the word 'feminism' means to me

What the word 'feminism' means to me

What does it mean to be a feminist in 2018?

For as long as I can remember I have always felt a little anxious while walking past groups of men when wearing a short skirt with my legs on show. I would always try to seek out alternative ways of passing them (even if it meant adding an extra five minutes to my journey). I am ashamed enough to say that I would even pretend to be on the phone just so that I didn’t attract any unwanted attention. But this didn’t always work, and I would still hear the classic wolf whistles and ‘cringey’ remarks: “What's your number, love?”

Perhaps this sounds familiar? Or maybe, you don’t really understand why I’m complaining? And this is one of the main problems I have with the ‘F’ word (aka feminism).

So many people still consider cat-calling and vulgar, downgrading comments as acceptable behaviour. But why should women accept these derogatory remarks and continuously allow men to get away with it?

A study carried out by Ipsos a global research company, showed that “while 87% of both genders say equality should be norm between the sexes, only 55% of women say it’s happening”. So why is it that we live in the 21st century and women still feel like equality is a far cry away?

No two people experience feminism in the same way

To me, in an ideal world, feminism equals freedom. It means the freedom to ask questions without being judged, the freedom for self-liberation and exploration, and the freedom to be unapologetically ourselves. There’s been a huge shift in the feminist movement with the recent #MeToo movement taking centre stage.

Among the many celebs who have spoken out during this movement, for me one story really stood out. Alexa Chung told the Oxford Union how she was once ordered to strip by a movie producer whilst auditioning for a role. “He told me to strip because he needed to see what I looked like naked for a scene that required it,” she recalled. “I didn’t say anything at the time because I didn’t want to rock the boat. Afterwards, I was like is that weird?”

Speaking out about the challenges you face as a woman takes great courage, especially when you are in a position of authority such as that of Alexa Chung. I sincerely hope that her bravery in sharing her experiences with the rest of the world, inspires other girls to speak out about sexual harassment and assaults that have happened to them.

Meghan Markle said the F-word

Meghan Markle’s recent speech in New Zealand to celebrate 125 years of women’s suffrage was incredibly inspiring. Markle said: “The achievements of the women in New Zealand who campaigned for their right to vote, and were the first in the world to achieve it, are universally admired. Yes, women's suffrage is about feminism, but feminism is about fairness.”

Markle is among the famous few who have helped shape what feminism is today, however, the fight for equality is still not over and that there is still a long way to go for the feminist movement.

Men can be feminists too

As females can be hurt by the harsh inequalities of society, so can men. Research from Goodmen Project shows that men are often branded as ‘weak’ if they show any signs of emotion and they are constantly told to ‘man up’, this has underlying issues for their self-esteem and personal relationships, not to mention the influence they may hold on the rest of their lives.

From childhood, men and women are told how they should ‘be’ and how they should ‘act’. In particular, men are told that it is not acceptable to cry, ‘being a man’ has connotations with power, strength and even wealth, much to popular speculation patriarchy can affect BOTH genders and BOTH genders can feel oppressed and be treated as outcasts in society. It is important that men feel loved, cherished and valued as much as women do.

Feminists can wear pink

Some feminists wear pink and other feminists wear blue, it is important not to stereotype and categorise all feminists into one box because although we share similar attitudes in what we advocate for, this does not mean that we all ‘look’ the same. Feminists come in all shapes and sizes, and it is crucial that we unite to lift each other up instead of knocking each other down. It is all too easy to scroll down our Instagram feeds and to make comments and comparisons about strangers that we do not know, but in reality, who does this actually harm? Will it harm the stranger who cannot hear what you are thinking or will it harm you for making these comments?

Feminism means something different to everyone. For some, it’s about suffragettes and burnt bras, for others it’s about being treated – and seen – as equals. For me, being a feminist doesn’t mean disposing of my short skirts or rallying at protests, it’s about learning to be a little kinder to other women. To understand that we all have voices and opinions and how important it is to inspire other women to make theirs heard.


  • Leah Richardson studies Marketing at the University of the West of England and is typically found binge-watching Astrology videos.