Has Today’s Feminism Gone Too Far?

A common critique of today’s feminism is that it has ‘gone too far’. Some say that we’ve ‘created’ a gender ideology, that we hate men, that we cook up harassment stories, and that we’re easily offended, angry or radical. Others want to belittle feminism by calling it a fad.

‘Today’s feminism’ implies that, once upon a time, there was a more acceptable, amicable and effective feminist movement. When people criticise ‘today’s feminism’, they assume that ‘yesterday’s feminism’ was preferable. And I wonder, was it?

The first wave of feminism took place between the 19th and early 20th centuries. It focused on achieving women’s suffrage among other basic rights. These feminists were known as the Suffragettes. The right to vote, to property and to divorce may seem like obvious demands now, but they were met with ridicule at the time.

Suffragettes were depicted by media outlets as disgusting, boisterous and radical.

Men who supported them were publicly mocked. Anti-suffragists claimed that women’s ability to vote would grow radicalism, increase domestic terrorism, and generally turn the world on its head.

Anti-Suffragette Cartoon from 1908


A second wave of feminists emerged in the 1960s. These women fought for sexual and reproductive freedom, against strict beauty norms and for their right to work outside the home.

Second wave feminism suffered a tremendous backlash.

Society declared them ‘petty’ for discussing bras and body hair instead of ‘real problems’. Feminists at this time were heavily stereotyped as being humourless, hairy-legged, man-hating and unhappy women. Media outlets censored their fight by using the past tense when referring to feminism and falsely declaring that feminism was ‘dead’.

As a backlash to the backlash, a third wave of feminism sprouted in the 1990s – largely influenced by punk and underground trends. Third-wave feminists fought for social justice and focused on increasing the intersectionality and inclusivity missing from earlier forms of feminism. However, once again, they were demonised with the same arguments: man-hating, ugly, crazy, going too far.

I make these brief historical references to point out that no feminism has ever been fully celebrated. And in the current fourth-wave of feminism, which uses digital tools to strengthen the fight, anti-feminist voices are as loud as ever.

Anti-feminists have been critiquing ‘today’s feminism’ for decades.

Doing so allows them to acknowledge that widely-celebrated changes from the past were good, while simultaneously attempt to halt current and future progress.

Most people today will agree that to vote is a basic right and that women deserve economic independency and sexual agency. But not everyone understands yet that trans women are women, that sexism is an everyday problem and that the pay gap exists.

In 30 years time, we will look back and think of the #MeToo movement as a crucial point on the feminism timeline. It will be recognised as a necessary step on the way to equality – in the same way that no one now doubts that women’s suffrage was worth the fight.

One day in the future, 2019’s feminism will be normalised and seen as worth the fight. But for this to happen, we must never let them tell us that we’ve gone too far.

The Girls’ Globe Reading List

The Girl’s Globe Reading List is an introduction to some of the most important and pressing issues affecting society today. These are the voices, perspectives, ideas and opinions of women and girls from all over the world. Read, learn and feel inspired to take action!

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)

1. Campaigning for Care & Compassion in Ireland

“In the final weeks leading up to the referendum, the most important conversations were happening at the school gates or at kitchen tables over cups of tea.”

by Áine Kavanagh for International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)

2. The Victory of Imelda Cortez in El Salvador

“This is an amazing victory in a country widely considered to have the most extreme abortion ban in the world. But Imelda’s story is a reminder of the misogynistic justice systems we live in.”

by Lorena Monroy

3. Teenage Girls in Argentina Deserve Better

“Adolescent maternity rates are higher in communities living in poverty, where girls are also less likely to go to school or have access to healthcare and contraceptives.”

by Maria Rendo

4. Women in Rural Zimbabwe are Being Left Behind

“The fact that young women and adolescents in rural and remote communities are still struggling to access modern family planning methods – or even comprehensive sex education – is overlooked.”

by Yunah Bvumbwe

5. Breaking the Silence on Vulval Pain

“For years I thought painful was how sex was supposed to feel. Other women must experience this pain and just get on with it, right?”

by Sophie Bryson

Mental Health

1. These Tools are Helping me Handle Depression

“None of this is easy, I know. I am still trying and learning myself, but here are a few tools and tips I would like to share.”

by Chloé Sénéchal

2. My Not-So-Easy Mental Health Recovery Journey

“I don’t regret getting help for my mental health, but I do wish someone had told me how long and difficult the journey of treatment and recovery could be.”

by Gabrielle Rocha Rios

3. Tips for Supporting Someone Experiencing Depression

“Try not to make assumptions about your friends, some people are really positive and enthusiastic, but it doesn’t mean they are at peace within themselves. Some of us have become masters at hiding pain.”

by Chloé Sénéchal

4. Are You at Risk of Burnout Syndrome?

“Burnout syndrome is a form of chronic stress. It is an alarm clock to a more serious problem and needs to be addressed as early as possible.”

by Tariro Mantsebo

5. Postpartum Depression: the Danger of ‘Bad Mother’ Syndrome

“As I conversed with more mothers who had suffered from postpartum mood disorders, each one of their experiences cut deeper than the last. Every woman mentioned having to bottle up her emotions and recalled blaming her own self.”

by Chaarushi Ahuja

Menstruation

1. Nepalese Women are Dying in the Name of Tradition

“After hearing each news report on the death of a woman or girl in a menstrual shed, I ask myself: how many more women must die before social mindsets and attitudes change?”

by Pragya Lamsal

2. Why Sanitary Products Should be Free for Girls

“I believe that it’s imperative to provide free sanitary wear for disadvantaged girls in order to help secure a brighter future for all.”

by Yunah Bvumbwe

3. Menstrual Pain is a Public Health Matter

“I believe many other doctors, both male and female, have harboured similar thoughts. As a result, women to wait longer for medical attention and sometimes receive inadequate pain management.”

by Tariro Mantsebo

4. Menstrual Cups: Breaking the Bloody Taboo

“The menstrual cup has gained a lot of traction over the past year. By some it is seen as an eco-friendly hipster trend, but for women across the world it provides a cost-effective, safe way to manage periods.”

by Terri Harris

5. Taking Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder Seriously

“But PMS can turn into a debilitating and even life-threatening disorder that is unfortunately not nearly as well-known as it should be – premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

by Gabrielle Rocha Rios

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and are not medical advice. If you are interested in raising your voice with Girls’ Globe, you can apply to join us!

My Menstruation is not a Sin!

Throughout the world, menstruation shares a common universal feature; women have historically been shamed because of it.

Although female sexual and reproductive health has started to become more important as a topic of study and discussion in the last few decades, many women to this day experience an overwhelming level of stigma around menstruation.

In many low-middle income countries, access to sanitary products such as pads and tampons is extremely restricted, forcing young girls and women to use inappropriate products, such as a piece of old cloth or banana leaves. A dire consequence of using unsanitary products is the development of genital and urinary tract infections that can, if unimpeded, cause severe complications.

While this is a truly worrying situation, it is not highlighted enough as a public health issue – primarily due to the stigma and shame surrounding menstruation.

The lack of proper sanitary products and/or facilities often forces girls and young women to miss school. This in turn affects women’s long-term economic development. This is not only seen in low-middle income countries; in the UK for example, girls and women often cannot afford the sanitary products they need – a problem known as ‘period poverty’.

In many countries across the globe, menstruation is considered dirty and repulsive. In some cultures, it’s even seen as a sign of ‘loss of virginity’ – insinuating moral and ethical depravity. In many countries, women and girls are ordered to leave their homes for the duration of their menses to prevent ‘desecration’ of their homes. In all these scenarios, girls and women find themselves ostracized, humiliated and expected to accept this without question or debate.

Even in parts of the world where the situation may not be so extreme, some degree of stigma remains around menstruation – large enough to prevent girls and women from seeking medical care because they feel too ’embarrassed’. Within the bounds of such societies, menstruators may not seek medical help and may not be able to recognize important health-related problems should they arise.

In the UK, almost 80% of adolescent girls have experienced a distressing symptom relating to their menstrual cycle but have not approached a medical professional for advice.

A large contributor to these misbeliefs is the lack of education and awareness on menstruation. This leads to an inundation of false conceptions and misrepresentations. Due to the restrictive social norms in many parts of the world, it is a topic rarely discussed within the family structure.

Not only does this mean an uneducated society when it comes to female sexual and reproductive health, but it also means that many young girls have no or very limited knowledge on what to expect and how to react when their menses start. Instead, they become more confused, isolated and unable to manage their menstruation in a safe, clean and dignified manner.

Many countries have addressed several of these demanding issues. In Kenya for example, free sanitary products are available and in neighbouring Ethiopia, menstrual hygiene clubs have been established in many schools.

How we are trying to help

The Swedish Organization for Global Health (SOGH) – in association with Uganda Development and Health Associates (UDHA) – has launched a project titled Ekibadha: Our Periods Matter, in recognition of this extremely important matter.

The UDHA Dignity Project

The project aims to understand and highlight the difficulties women and girls in rural Uganda are facing regarding their cycles. The project is in its first stages, but our goal is to develop a community-based initiative that involves the entire community which will be sustainable – economically and environmentally.

“Men should be more involved” said one of the women we interviewed last summer in one of the rural villages in Muyage District. We agree! Men need to be part of the conversation, this is not just a ‘women’s issue’.

To learn more about the project, please visit www.sogh.se/ekibadha-our-periods-matter/

How you can help

You can help us take this project forward. We are currently raising funds to support preliminary data collection, which is fundamental to shaping and guiding the project. Data will also give us the basics to apply for institutional funds. Click here and help us out, every penny is worth it! https://www.gofundme.com/MHproject-Uganda

Interview with a woman in Muyage District about menstrual health by SOGH and UDHA.

For any further information or to get personally involved please email us at MHproject@sogh.se. You can also help by spreading the word, sharing this article on social media.

#OurPeriodsMatter #BloodyIssues

Have we Forgotten what Feminism Really Means?

Feminism: a controversial word that still makes many people’s eyes roll.

There’s a misconception about feminism and so in my first blog post, I’d like to share my point of view. 

Feminism is NOT a movement aimed at destroying men, but at destroying the patriarchal ideas that are cemented in society. Feminism is NOT aimed at making men lesser than women, but at improving the status of being a woman so that it’s equal to that of being a man.

Feminism is NOT about treating men as trash, but rather pointing out the ‘trash’ things that some men do that increase the degradation of women. Feminism is NOT about reversing the status quo and oppressing men, but about challenging the status quo to stop oppressing women.

I’d like to talk about an important issue within feminism: gender-based violence. This is a sensitive topic all over the world, because the idea of rape, in particular, has been non-existent in the past. Rape was not rape. Rape was a woman who had ‘asked for it’. It was shameful and women were resented for being abused. Rape was not a topic up for discussion.

Recently, with movements like #MeToo, more and more people have been sharing their experiences of sexual abuse. It has become a more openly discussed topic now than ever before.

Many women have spoken up and made accusations, and in response (to no one’s surprise) came comments such as “she’s lying”, “why only come out now?”, “she’s trying to sabotage an innocent man”, “what was she wearing?”, “she was drunk yes, but she consented so it’s not rape”. The list goes on.

To anyone asking the question, if a woman was raped 30 years ago, why only come out now? I can give you an answer – rape was not up for discussion in the past. As soon as it became a topic that was no longer so much of a taboo, and as soon as more people were supporting women who sought justice for the offence committed against them, women decided it was time.

Time to stop holding back and to stop feeling guilty for someone else’s wrongs. Time to use their voices and turn the tables on the powerful men who thought they could get away with abuse because “she was asking for it” or “she consented” (even though she had been underaged or intoxicated), or “how could I have controlled myself with her looking like that?”.

Men who don’t rape, don’t abuse, don’t seek superiority, it’s also your job to stand up against those who do.

If you are a man who supports equality for all, doesn’t support patriarchal views on sexual abuse, doesn’t treat women as objects, doesn’t stereotype women as emotional and unfit to be in charge, then YOU ARE A FEMINIST.

Being a feminist is not just for women, but for all who support equality. 

If you are sexualizing a woman because of what she wears, and if you think that it gives you the right to sexually abuse her, the problem is with you, not with her.

If you see intoxicated consent as consent, you are mistaken.

If you think that an underage child’s consent gives you any rights over her, you are wrong.

And if you think that the patriarchal ideas of society will protect you from justice, then again, you are mistaken.

The movements will not stop, feminism will not stop and you will not beat them. So, educate yourself on equality for all, on the accurate statistics of rapes and sexual assaults, on the reality for women in the world. You might surprise yourself and find that feminism is not a tool to defeat the male species, but rather to empower all people in the world to enjoy equal rights and freedom of choice.

Who knows, whether male or female, you might just find that you are a feminist.

When Women’s Rights Are Not Enough

Ninety-eight years ago, the women’s suffrage movement kicked off a century of progress for women’s rights in the United States. The 19th amendment. The Equal Pay Act. The Civil Rights Act. Title IX. The Gender Equity in Education Act. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The Violence Against Women Act. And many more pieces of legislation designed to thwart discrimination against women.

So when millions took the streets during the Women’s March, some people dismissed the event as a pointless political stunt. After all, the battle for women’s rights in our nation was fought and won already, right? Not quite.

For every women’s ‘right’ there is a shadow side of women’s ‘reality’. Lack of enforcement, power imbalances, social stigmas, and inequity – simply having so-called equal rights is not enough.

The reality is most women have – at some point – felt silenced, ignored, disrespected, or unsafe, just for being a woman.

Women in the workplace are undercompensated and overlooked, and their intelligence is routinely discounted. At home, women are saddled with the second shift of housekeeping and caregiving. Women are catcalled and harassed. Women are physically and sexually abused, trafficked, and murdered.

Women are more likely to live in poverty, overpay for everything from razors to mortgages, and carry student loan debt longer than men. Women’s choices about their bodies – how they care for them, dress them, use them – are judged and policed. Women are underrepresented in STEM, and told they can’t succeed in politics.

This list represents but a small sample of the dark side of #WomensReality.

Rights matter, of course, and many people – including men, women, and non-binary folks – still do not have them. We ought to continue to push for full rights for individuals of every gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, ability, class, income, religion, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, or nationality. But we also must acknowledge that human rights do not guarantee equality if people and institutions continually fail to enforce them.

Ending violence against women, closing the wage gap, achieving fair representation in leadership and politics, deconstructing harmful stereotypes – these issues can’t be boiled down to a simple matter of human rights.

What we need is a culture shift to examine our reality. We need to wake up to the discrimination that’s happening on a daily basis, to our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, friends, and colleagues. The work of gender equality is global and local, too.

That’s why LiveYourDream.org has launched an awareness campaign called #WomensReality. In the spirit of similar social media movements, we want to expose the gap between stated rights and the harsh realities women face.

Our theory is that if all the women who have experienced hardship simply for being a woman could talk about their experiences, it might illuminate how big this problem truly is. The #WomensReality campaign is a rallying cry to acknowledge that gender inequality happens in complex and nuanced ways that the promise of ‘equal rights’ can’t and won’t solve. We have a long distance to go before we actualize full gender equality.

Join the conversation by sharing a time when you felt silenced, ignored, disrespected, or unsafe just because you’re a woman, and tag #WomensReality.

Together, we are a force for truth.

LiveYourDream.org is a movement – an online community of nearly 100,000 volunteers and activists addressing some of the most serious challenges women and girls face today, such as gender-based violence and lack of access to quality education. LiveYourDream.org is powered by Soroptimist, an international nonprofit of volunteers that economically improves the lives of women and girls through its Dream Programs. Learn more and join the community!

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

Every year in March, South Africans celebrate Human Rights Day, paying tribute to those who challenged the apartheid laws and fought for democracy and equality in our country.

This year, I’ve been thinking about how remarkably far South Africa has come on this front, but also about how equal access to rights is still an undeniable problem in the world. These rights include living free from slavery, violence and discrimination, access to education, and the right to earn an equal and fair wage. In essence – being treated fairly and justly.

On September 5th 1995, Hillary Clinton gave a speech at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing: “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.”

If ‘women’s rights are human rights’, why are so many women around the globe still unable to access these rights in 2018? Why are so many girls and women denied their rights just because of their gender? 2017 – 2018 brought many monumental movements and uprisings against inequality. These movements highlighted that there is still copious amounts of work to do, but also that there is a power and determination to fight.

#MeToo proved that laws around sexual harassment must be strengthened to protect everyone. The BBC pay scandal unveiled that laws need to change so that women can exercise their right to equal pay, and that organisations have to come together and fight discrimination in the work place. The Women’s March on 21 January 2017 was the largest coordinated protest in the history of the US. It had a massive impact, taking women’s rights go beyond focus groups and into a global arena, and gave a rise to a new era of activism.

These monumental moments were publicly broadcasted and celebrated globally, which contributed to worldwide awareness of the vital issues at hand. However, there have been many other achievements by women all over the world in the past year, which are not always as publicly available. These achievements and movements show copious amounts of bravery and courage within female communities, and demonstrate how strong the fight for equality remains.

In September 2017, Mexico was hit by the strongest earthquake in a century. Two weeks later, a second quake hit. Among the devastation and loss this disaster caused, Semillas, an organization building a powerful movement of women’s groups across the country for 25 years, instantly began addressing the needs of women and girls. Semillas developed a reconstruction and rebuilding campaign for the country.

Thanks to years of persistence and determination by women’s groups, in August 2017, Lebanon’s Parliament abolished a law that allowed men accused of rape to be exonerated and escape punishment if they married the individual they raped. This major legal win came just weeks after Jordan’s Parliament voted to revoke the same law. Tunisia did the same in July. These law abolishments were massive wins for gender equality, but there are still multiple laws that need to be amended.

Another monumental moment for women’s rights was when Chile’s Constitutional Tribunal voted to legalize abortion under three cases. At the heart of this legal victory was Chile’s resilient women’s movement and many other women’s groups.

And there are so, so many more examples..

I can only hope that these movements keep on highlighting issues and encouraging people to take a stand. Inequality and discrimination are not acceptable and people are no longer willing to tolerate them. 

Every single person’s rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a woman’s right to decide if and when she has children, and to have high-quality health care for pregnancy and childbirth. Female genital mutilation is a violation of girls’ rights, and must be eliminated. Every woman has the right to live free from discrimination.

Only when women and girls have full access to their rights – from equal pay and land ownership rights to sexual rights, freedom from violence, access to education, and maternal health rights – will true equality exist.