• The Only Space

The Importance of Feminism

Throughout the course of this month, TOS would like to champion the work of feminist academics. In doing so, we asked Dr. Fauzia Ahmad to explain why feminism is important. Here is her response.

Gender-based discrimination, inequality and abuse are unfortunately still an endemic part of every society, and like all inequalities and abuses, regardless of whether one identifies as feminist or not, needs to be challenged at every level, whether it is at a structural, public level or the domestic and private sphere until we have achieved equality and fairness in our societies.

Whether we are talking about the persistence of the gender pay-gap across employment sectors, the de-valuing of women’s work, the experiencing of domestic and sexual violence in all its forms, very often with limited statutory protections, the sexualisation and objectification of young girls and women and their bodies, all examples of everyday sexism, a feminist perspective allows us to bring these disparities into sharp relief and gives us a platform from which to challenge and critique these inequalities. It enables us to give a voice to women who have been dis-empowered to become empowered, and it centres women’s voices to enable them to be heard on their terms.

It is also vitally important that we look at these inequalities through an intersectional lens to further enable us to see how the lives of women of colour, women from differing faith backgrounds, women from differing class backgrounds, women with disabilities or impairments, our sexuality, and age, and all variants of these subjectivities, are experiencing their lives under patriarchal social structures.

We have only to look at our recent experience of lockdown and having to negotiate several ‘new normals’ in our lives to know that Covid-19 has had a disproportionately profound effect on women’s lives. Women are more likely to be carers – either as paid carers or within their personal lives; neither role is valued within Western societies and yet the role of carers – the designation of formal carers as ‘key workers’ has only just been acknowledged by the Government while they remain structurally positioned among the lowest paid workers and are among the most exposed to Covid-19 for many months without Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Lockdown has highlighted how the sexual division of labour – the burden of caring for children, elderly relatives, partners and domestic responsibilities, while also maintaining their own occupations - has largely fallen on women’s shoulders. The fact that for some women, far from being a place of refuge and safety from the dangers of the virus, lockdown at home represented further imprisonment with their abusers.

A feminist perspective enables us to critique media and government discourses around what ‘family’ and ‘households’ represent as inherently narrow heteronormative and patriarchal definitions that bear little resemblance to lived realities – and we are seeing this in the multiple ways people have chosen to define ‘family’ in relation to Covid-19.

Challenging patriarchy is beneficial to men too as they are also subject to objectification and damage through societal representations of toxic masculinity and the setting of unrealistic expectations.

Ultimately, feminism also allows us to recognise the socially constructed, and performative nature of gender.


The Writer Behind the Writing

Find more of Dr. Fauzia Ahmad's work here. You can also follow her on Twitter.