Some people seem to be under the mistaken impression that feminism means women above men. I personally have no clue where such an assumption comes from and frankly, I am sick and tired of having endless discussions with male (and even sometimes female) colleagues and friends about that belief.
Feminism does not mean women above men. Full stop. There are no ifs and buts. It means equality. It means men, women, and people with ethnicities that differ from the one prevalent in a given society, should expect to be treated the same and should have the same possibilities. And it is time we accept that definition for what it is.
Now you can, of course, make the argument that we live in a society that doesn't keep women from running for political office or from becoming CEOs. You can argue on those grounds that feminism is obsolete. You can say that, according to the law, there are practically no obstacles. And that might be true. There is, thank whatever gods may be, no-one keeping women or people from different ethnicities from profiting from opportunities that are given to them by a society that is becoming more and more open and inclusive. And you can, of course, say women and/or people from other ethnicities can do whatever they want to do.
But can they?
This is an open question, because society has changed significantly within the last ten years alone and some of the things I experienced as a child and a teenager (I am approaching the age of 30) that tried to mould me into a stereotypical and traditional woman are not so present anymore. Society is changing. It's changing slowly, as is normal, but there is change nevertheless.
A couple of simple facts, however, remain.
There are not a lot of women in politics. Now some say that women have 'different priorities' and that that simple fact has nothing to do with inequality. At least not in our society. I disagree for a couple of reasons, but let's talk about one. Let's say that's true and we have different priorities. If we live in complete equality and there is no difference anymore, why is it that only women should have such different priorities? Shouldn't there, using that logic, be equally as many men having those different priorities and therefore deciding not to enter political office? Using that argument just does not make sense to me, because it inadvertently admits to the same inequalities it denies.
To me, the reason the situation looks as it does, is that women have primarily been raised as women (and everything that goes with that) and not as individuals. The same goes for men by the way, but I don't want to get into that at this point. So it's time to turn the page and look at our children primarily as individuals rather than reducing them to their gender. As long as people are seen solely through the glasses of their gender rather than individuals who can contribute and have a lot to say, equality has not been reached.
Another point is that I don't know one single woman who has not been sexually harassed. Not one. In fact, 3 of my close friends have even actually been raped. By men they know – and know well in some cases. Out of the many men I know, not a lot have had that same experience. And if we are past the age of feminism, why is that so? Whenever I mention that, male friends tell me I exaggerate and that that's not possible. Official numbers say otherwise. Of course they do, because the 3 women I know for instance never reported any of it, because they were ashamed of what had happened, blamed themselves, knew the men, and were simply just afraid. For good reason, by the way. Who has the strength to sit through an examination that proves someone has been raped, a police questioning, and face their rapist in court? Those who do, I salute you. But I also understand those who don't.
The reason for the fact that this happens as much as it does, to me, is very simple. In every such case, be it sexual harassment or rape, the perpetrator thinks of the other person's body as something they have a right to and something they want to possess. A no to them doesn't actually mean no, it's something they want to negotiate and if they cannot negotiate it, they will use sheer physical force to get it. The assumption behind that logic is that the person who says no does not know her own mind. She only thinks that she doesn't want this, but actually I know her better than she knows herself and she does want this. As long as every single woman I ask about this tells me that she was sexually harassed and/or raped, respect of a person's power over their own body still does not exist and the issues have not been addressed enough.
Let's get over false assumptions and let's see the problems for what they truly are. Feminism in this day and age is far from obsolete. In fact, I very much regret that, although they have their own difficulties with the ways in which they are brought up, not many men fight for equality in domains in which they are not treated equally.
What feminists today are trying to say is, we want equality. In fact the same that feminists have asked ever since the beginning. To smear a good cause accusing its advocates of actually promoting inequality by putting women above men, simply is not fair. Because what it actually tries to say is: do what you want to do, follow your own interests and not what society and other might think is right for you. You are worthy and allowed a voice, don't be afraid to speak up. And you are allowed to be yourself. Don't feel bad about what others may think is appropriate for to say or do. You can make your own individual destiny without adhering to what others might think is right for you. That holds true for men and women alike. It encourages equality and breaking out of stereotypes – it's time we finally accept that.
Katarina Ivesic is a writer and occasional editor, interested in literature, pop culture, women’s rights, and politics.