It shocks me that many people I’ve met, from all over the world, think that feminism’s work is done, that men and women are on a completely level playing field.So, is feminism dead? Is it’s mission over? Certainly not, if recent events are anything to go by. It wasn’t long ago that Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior catwalk famously proclaimed ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, and recent events in the world have underlined this more than ever. From sexual harassment scandals to the death of the founder of Playboy, they have shown that women are still heavily objectified in our society.
The first thing that got me thinking about all this was the death of Hugh Hefner, and, perhaps more importantly, the public reaction. This may seem like a random event to relate to feminism, and of course it’s sad that a man died, but I was shocked by the praise for him that flooded social media. Apparently his work had been ‘pioneering for women’s reproductive rights‘ and he was a ‘champion of free speech‘. I do agree that he was a part of a huge liberation in the media, in which it more acceptable for women to express themselves in a sexual way.
However, he became a billionaire by teaching women that their greatest honour was to be a ‘centrefold’, spread-eagled and naked in the centre of a magazine. As memoirs of Playboy Bunnies have revealed, they were essentially treated like sex slaves in the Playboy Mansion – where Hefner tried to give them Quaaludes (which he famously referred to as ‘thigh openers’), and having regular sex with him was an ‘expectation’. In what way was he pioneering freedom for women when, despite him practicing polygamy (at one point he had a wife and children, three girlfriends, and still slept with most of the Playboy Mansion), the women he surrounded himself with had a strict schedule every day, down to having their wardrobes and meals regulated, and weren’t allowed to have relationships with men outside of the Mansion?
Not to mention the fact that Hefner was accused numerous times of sexual assault, from Bunny Dorothy Stratten to pornstar Linda Lovelace. Hefner was also an advocate of bestiality, featured girls as young as 11 years old in his magazine, and published nude photos of stars (including Marilyn Monroe) without their permission. Hefner’s magazine and others like it served only to objectify women and teach them that they are nothing more than their looks. A ‘hero’ for women’s rights? He’s nothing of the sort.
Another event that made me think about how women are objectified in everyday society – and most people don’t think anything of it – was when Dutch Student Noa Jansma created the Instagram account @dearcatcallers. She took selfies with the men who street harassed her and captioned them with what they’d said, demonstrating how women experience harassment on a daily basis. I’ve previously written about street harassment and how, and I’m sure most women agree, IT’S NOT A BLOODY COMPLIMENT (compliment (n.): ‘a polite expression of praise or admiration’. There’s nothing polite or nice about a man yelling ‘NICE ARSE’ at you down the street).
But the most worrying thing that Noa’s Instagram account revealed was that most of the time, the men were so unaware that they’d done anything wrong that they were HAPPY to take photos with her. They never even questioned it. She never responded or engaged with it except to ask for the photo and while the men were always smiling she kept a straight, unhappy face. While the account quickly gained followers and a lot of people reached out to her in support, many commented that she was ‘asking for it’, calling her a ‘slut’ and even coming out in support of the guys in the photos – saying she was a ‘stupid man hater’, and that she’d ‘faked it for likes’ as they ‘knew the guy and he was actually a nice guy’. Apparently not, if he was harassing a young girl…
And finally, there’s the Harvey Weinstein accusations that sparked the #MeToo movement. If you haven’t heard about this (seriously, where have you been?!), women from Gwyneth Paltrow to Angelina Jolie have come now forward accusing the Hollywood producer of sexual harassment. Still, he ‘unequivocally denies‘ all allegations and is still to be charged with anything. And yet, the #MeToo movement demonstrated that Weinstein is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s demonstrated that sexual harassment is still an everday event for women, not just in Hollywood – but across all industries. I’m sure most of us have experienced sexual harassment at some point in our lives. I certainly have – from people grabbing my ass on the tube to dates gone wrong with the guy trying to pressure me into having sex. The truth is, sexual harassment is so engrained in society that some of the time people are unsure whether it’s harassment or ‘just something women have to put up with’ (as I’ve been told many times in my life). More to the point, many are too embarassed, nervous, or scared to speak up.
So, that’s something to think about for those who say that there’s no need for feminism anymore. In fact, we should all be feminists, because all that’s happened recently has demonstrated that there’s still a hella long way to go.
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Photos are by the lovely Hollie xoxo