On violence against women, and why we need feminism…
In the UK, one in seven female students are victims of sexual assault or physical abuse.
Around the world, 1/3 of women are physically or sexually abused.
On the 14th February, women and men all over the world took part in the One Billion Rising campaign, aiming to raise awareness of and help tackle violence against women and girls. From flashmobs to dance shows to plays, to lobbying elected officials to elected officials putting forward legislation, across the globe activists played their part in this incredible movement.
I went down to London to take part in a flashmob outside Parliament and a dance show at the South Bank, and also went to see Yvette Cooper and Stella Creasy speak about legislation they’d been helping get through Parliament that day, calling for compulsory sex ed in schools, with a focus on non-violence and consent. Although the support from some MPs wasn’t as strong as would have been liked (I’m looking at you Michael Gove…), most were incredibly supportive and this legislation will be a huge step in changing our culture of violence towards women.
The event was truly one of the most inspirational things I have ever taken part in.
And if anyone was left in any doubt as to why movements like this are necessary, The Sun provided a handy reminder that evening, with their front page about recently deceased model, human rights activist and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp.
Except, if you’d just read The Sun’s front page, you wouldn’t know she was any of these things. You wouldn’t even know her name.
To eroticise and dehumanise Reeva’s death in this way isn’t just sexist it’s completely without any kind of human decency. People calling The Sun to complain were told that, as she was a model, this is just a picture of her working. Just because a picture was appropriate when advertising swimwear does not make it an appropriate picture to use when talking about a woman’s death.
That so often women who suffer from violence and abuse are not looked at properly as real, complex people is part of the problem that One Billion Rising aimed to tackle.
LUU’s Femsoc recently launched an “I need feminism because…” campaign, which got students from across the university discussing why they need feminism. Feminism is so often dismissed now as old fashioned or unnecessary in an era where women are legally equal to men (which is rather UK-centric, since many women around the world still face legal inequalities). But we all still need feminism. I need feminism because her name was Reeva Steenkamp, and she was more than just beautiful and she was more than just someone’s lover. And that even after her death large parts of society don’t seem able to see that is why feminism is still as relevant as it ever was today.