Today’s feminists are nothing like their predecessors. No longer are the majority classed as bra-burning hippies (despite what some media outlets would suggest) as feminists now come in all shapes, sizes, social standings and sexualities, a group made up of women (and men) who’d just like to see the two genders put on equal footing.
For all of the ‘man hating’ that today’s feminists are said to do, the existence of bisexual and heterosexual feminists seems to disprove that and those who do still insist on setting their underwear alight or protesting the inferiority of the male species at least have the decency to do it when there aren’t any cameras around. So with all of the negative stereotypes surrounding the call for the women to be equal, we ask the question ‘what do today’s young gay women think about feminism?’
One young, gay woman I spoke to, ‘M’, candidly told me of her own experiences with feminism, explaining that to her, the importance of the movement is bigger than herself and is rather a stepping stone for the the next generation. “I think [feminism is] so important and I feel so strongly,” she tells me, “because of younger girls and even boys. I think about my niece a lot as even though [women’s causes] are getting a lot of visibility now, I feel like it’s still not enough.” M also spoke of how the younger generation is actively affected by feminism, explaining that “my nephew always tells my niece she can’t do certain things because she’s a girl. He’s so young and repeats a lot of things he sees, just like the rest of the world. People are still so very backwards and associate men with power but women with weakness, I just want my niece to know she can do anything she wants and shouldn’t feel ashamed or think she’s weak because she’s a girl.”
M’s response was emotional and passionate and it’s clear that despite the movement starting so many years ago, before the Suffragettes successfully got women awarded the right to vote and before the time of now, when women and men across both sides of the pay scale fight a bitter battle to have wages increased for women, things are still not as they should be. M is also right in mentioning how this can effect future generations, with patriarchal stereotypes actively effecting a woman’s self worth, not by necessarily outwardly stating that a woman is incapable of doing what a man can, but instead portraying this by denying her a seat at the boardroom table or simply by not giving her a job in the first place on account of her female identity.
What if Barbara Askins had never found a way to improve the photos taken in space? There would be entire galaxies and parts of our universe left unexplored or undiscovered without her work. What if Stephanie Kwolek had never invented Kevlar? Countless lives would have been lost without her invention. And what if Hedy Lemarr, a pioneer of wireless technology had never worked to invent a way of affecting radio waves during the Second World War? Not only did it help the Allies win the battle but it lay the foundations for the wireless technology (such as Wi-Fi and cellphone signals) that we know and use today.
Now imagine how many more of these female inventors today’s young women could have grown up to be like if feminism was a supported movement (or one that wasn’t needed entirely, due to an level playing field)? The results would be phenomenal and it’s a world that M rightfully wants her niece to grow up in. But how can this happen when feminism as we know it today is constantly marred and held back by the aforementioned ‘men hating, crazy women’ stereotypes? It isn’t helped that “besides misogyny and nothing being equal, people still don’t know what feminism is,” M tells me, suggesting that half the fight is the dictionary definition of the word. “When they hear [the word] ‘feminist’, [people] automatically label you as a lesbian or a man-hater so they disregard what we have to say. They also think we’re angry al the time and are so called “RADICAL feminists” and because of that I feel like we’re stuck.” Radical feminism, a subset of people in itself, has come to blows somewhat with lesbian feminists, both old and young, due to the overtly radical nature of ‘rad-fems’ that has been known to offend and exclude queer identities, particular those of trans* men and women, who often find their gender identities questioned or lambasted.
In truth, anyone can be a feminist, whether young, old, gay, straight, bisexual, male, female, or eschewing the gender binary together, because feminism is the support of equal rights for women, which is something anyone can get on board with if they believe in equality.‘ J’ also echoed this with her response, saying that “feminism is very important to me, it’s something I strongly believe in and agree with. [Although I’m] not sure how my queerness effected it though. I knew I was all about feminism before I was gay.” Because feminism and lesbian are not synonymous of one another, nor are they words that necessarily go hand in hand. If looked into, there’s a strong suggestion that many young gay women are feminists because identifying as L, G, B or T already means that there is an impassioned battle for your rights taking place around you and, in many cases, feminism is such a stepping stone.
So how do young, gay women view feminism? Plenty are all for it, it seems, though on the flipside, like many who don’t want to be associated with a movement that battles stereotypes, many may not be. It’s not a question of how someone identifies, not even if they identify as a feminist or not. But feminist ideals? As the responses in this article show, are all the more important, because if things don’t change for women’s rights in the future, it won’t just be young, gay women who are at a disadvantage, but everyone else in the world too.