Photo via Flickr user Charlotte Cooper
(Top photo: Charlotte Cooper, via)This article originally appeared on VICE UK.Feminism might have a dictionary definition, but that doesn't mean everyone agrees on what it means to be a feminist. Understandably, different people have different takes on the word and what it represents, depending on their own place in society.So because it's International Women's Day we spoke to a bunch of people – men and women – to find out what feminism means to them.
I've always been happy to describe myself as a feminist. For me, it's pretty simple; feminism is about the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. Lots of people I know object to the label feminist because they think it means something more than equality, or that it's no longer relevant. This ignores the fact that, despite recent advances, society is still patriarchal and privileges men over women is numerous ways. Misogyny is still widespread, and playing sport, I regularly encounter fairly sexist attitudes that should not be acceptable, and show that feminism is still important.
Rory, 23, a rugby lad
To me, to be a feminist is to believe that you should not be denied opportunities solely because of your gender. It is the freedom to choose how you live your life rather than having those decisions made for you because you have a vagina. Feminism is having the option to be a boss lady running the show, but it doesn't mean that women should feel uncomfortable about opting to be a stay-at-home mum, for example, or a housewife, if that's what suits you best. The key driver behind your decision making should be what you want, rather than what society tells you you ought to want as a woman.
Leonie, 24, works for a city law firm
To me, a privately educated white woman from the South East of England, I don't worry about not being able to drive, or being able to vote. But feminism to me is being able to be a CEO if I wanted to, and not having to tackle extra hurdles to get there. It's being able to wear what I want and, if the worst happens, a judge not using my clothing against me. It's being able to go out on my own without having my car key in my fist and my phone in my pocket, with my hand hovered over 999. It's my black and LGBT friends all getting jobs in – and freely moving around – public spaces in which they would previously be shunned. Feminism in 2017, for me, is about micro-aggressions. I'm lucky to have it that way, but the way things are now isn't enough.
Amelia, 20, privately educated
A lot of people – both inside and outside the church – don't believe that Christianity and feminism are compatible. Sadly, the anti-feminist wing of Christianity is often the loudest and gets all the attention, even though Jesus stood for equality and against oppression. It's so important to me that feminists have a voice in the church and that Christians have a voice in the feminist movement. Feminists have a lot of work to do challenging misogyny and patriarchal structures in Christianity, while the wider feminist movement benefits from the input of women of faith.
Hannah, a Christian
I know that sometimes men say that they, and not women, are the best. I'm not getting any of that yet, but I think it's upsetting that women have to listen to it. Feminism to me is being able to do the same things as boys. I don't know what job I want to do, but I want to be able to have the same one as a man. Even though I'm still young feminism matters to me, because when I get older and I have men saying those things to me, I don't want to feel like I'm in a box.
Mia, 11, a tween
I am a proud black feminist woman, and to say so publicly means taking a huge personal risk in many spaces. Black feminism – to me, as a black American woman navigating one of the most racist, misogynistic countries in the world – is an inevitable way of life and critical to my survival. Black feminism centres the voices and lived experiences of people who have, for centuries, been silenced, exploited and denied the right to access equality as women and as black people. Black feminism empowers me, as it does others, in that I know there is a paradigm that feels like "home". There is a rich, diverse sisterhood among us.
Feminista Jones, an activist
Farming doesn't exactly jump to mind when you think about occupations that are "feminist". After all, the term "farmer's wife" is probably enough to make most feminists grind their teeth. Yes, the farming industry is a bit sausage-heavy, but there are plenty of brilliant women who are inspirational farmers. At the end of the day, it's about choice – women farmers have chosen to farm because they could do anything, and that's what they landed on. It would be nice if more women chose it, but until people understand that farming isn't all about wellies, mud and early mornings, things won't change.
Emily, 31, a farmer
If I had a pound for every person I've met who has admitted to being a feminist, I would have enough money for a Greggs steak bake to suppress my hot egalitarian tears. I'm queer and trans, which means I'm supposed to have a unique perspective on feminism, but I don't really. In my mind, there is a simple question: do I have the same socioeconomic opportunities as a man? The answer is no. If you don't believe in feminism, you're essentially saying that you are satisfied with second-class citizenry. I'm not satisfied with inequality.
Rebecca, 25, a trans woman
People are often surprised when I identify as a feminist, as many hold the belief that one cannot be a Muslim and a feminist. "Doesn't Islam encourage the inferiority of women?" and, "Isn't hijab simply another form of oppression?" are questions I face often – and to answer them simply: no. Religious teachings have taught me the importance of equality, and by opting to wear the hijab I am empowering myself by taking control of what I wear and show to the world. I strongly believe that women should have the right to act and dress however they wish. To me, that's is what feminism is all about.
Yasmine, 18, a Muslim
I'm a woman, a feminist and I love sport. I like to show that I'm no weaker or less accomplished than anyone else just because I'm a woman. To me, it has been vitally important to have strong female role models – my secondary school PE teacher always believed in girls' sport, and I've carried that determination ever since. Looking forward, it is important to me to continue to inspire young girls to take up sports, and I hope that the increasingly loud voice of sportswomen will continue to champion female sporting greatness on a level playing field with men's sport.@marianne_eloiseMore from VICE:A Glimpse Inside the World of Muslim Female FightersLina Scheynius Will Make You See Fruit and Flowers DifferentlyThe Long, Strange History of Women Wearing Deadly Clothing