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'We are living in dangerous times and feminism is our best hope of resistance'

Women still have to deal with sex-shaming, slut-shaming, victim-blaming and zero reproductive rights, writes Sophie Kane.

Sophie Kane

I AM A YOUNG woman who is told to walk the long way home in order to avoid dark streets or alleys.

I am a young woman who once mentioned the need for consent to be taught in schools, and was told that consent was a grey area, as if consent isn’t already a very low bar, and maybe it is enthusiasm we should strive for.

Boys, clothes and #Repealthe8th

I am a young woman who, last year, read articles about our Minister for Justice having the audacity to wear the same outfit twice. I am a young woman who wonders why my generation asks girls why we are single, as if we are only partially complete without the presence of a boyfriend.

I am a young woman who has been taught by society to see other women as competition for the attention of men. I am a young woman who, if sexually assaulted, will be asked what I was wearing, why I walked alone, if I provoked him. I am a young woman who is not trusted to make my own healthcare decisions, because of the Eighth Amendment.

I am a young woman who first experienced men shouting at her on the streets at the age of 12, the year I started secondary school.

I am a young woman who is told to be careful walking home, to hold my house keys in my hand while I walk from the bus stop to my house, for fear of being attacked.

We’re living in dangerous times

shutterstock_411926074 Source: Shutterstock/pixelrain

Above all, I am a young woman who believes that we are living in dangerous times, one who believes that feminism is our best hope of resistance.

America has elected a racist, sexist President who wants to curtail reproductive rights, who believes comments on sexual assaults are locker room banter.

To those of us who believed that having a history of sexual assault accusations against you should prohibit you from being elected to public office, it felt like the clock had been rolled back 50 years.
100 years after the 1916 Easter Rising, who could have pictured this world?

In terms of equality there is so much more to be done, and an overwhelming sense of urgency to it, there is no time machine to fast forward to an era when we have achieved this.

The US elections are a stark reminder that although progress, by its very nature, can seem forward moving, we can never take women’s equality for granted.

Boys need feminism too

A strong, inclusive feminist movement is more important now than ever before. We need more feminist women and men as role models, for not only our daughters but our sons.

Equality is always hard fought, we’ve been infamously overlooked, ignored and written out of history.

Feminist wins – from women getting the vote; to removing the marriage bar to lifting the ban on contraceptives – have never come without collective action and strong campaigning.

We need to shift the focus from blaming the victim, to blaming the perpetrator. We need to trust women. 

Domestic abuse is not something which just affects older women; almost 60% of people who were severely abused said that the abuse started when they were under 25 years old, yet this is not something which is widely recognised.

There is so much to do in Ireland to make the feminist future a reality for my generation and the time is now. We need to start by tacking the huge issue of men’s violence against women.

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Another important issue is a repeal of the Eighth Amendment. The cost of travelling is a major barrier for young women in accessing abortion services, and young women want to be involved in this important campaign.

We deserve better from our State and our Government.

Building our feminist future

In 100 years’ time, when a social historian looks back on the year of the 1916 centenary celebrations, what will they be able to say about my generation of young women?

I want history to speak of the campaign we were heavily involved in for marriage equality, and our growing mobilisation around repealing the Eighth Amendment.I want these historians to write not only of our involvement but of our successes in ending sexual violence, of how we finally smashed the concrete ceiling to become heavily represented in all decision-making positions.

I want to be remembered as the generation who made that feminist future into the feminist present.

Sophie Kane is one of the participants in NWCI’s #FemFest conference for young women. For more information, see NWCI.ie. #FemFest is part of the State’s official programme to commemorate the events of 1916 – the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme.

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About the author:

Sophie Kane

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