Is Feminism making progress?
Alex Burgar | 20 March 2016

I'm a feminist. Anyone who knows me can testify it. Often, feminism is met with distaste - I've lost count of how many times I've been told to 'just chill' and even that 'boys don't find it attractive' (which is, admittedly, often the 'wisdom' of the older generation) - and it makes me unbelievably sad that people don't seem to see that in reality, they're feminists too. (They believe that men and women should be equal. Feminism in a nutshell).

 

 

Naturally, I was more than excited to see that Emma Watson had given a speech on the matter (at the UN). She's a famous, intelligent woman, with a fan base of millions, including young girls who are growing up in a world where they're still paid less than men doing the same job, where they're still expected to conform to an unattainable standard of beauty, achieved with professional makeup and Photoshop. Good, I thought. Maybe she can show them they shouldn't have to live in that shadow.

 

 

It seems that I overestimated the basic decency in people.

 

 

Within hours of the speech going live on the Internet, a website was set up entitled: 'Emma, You're Next'. Next for what? Last year, innumerable female celebrities had nudes leaked online, and they were - wait for it - blamed. 'Shouldn't have taken them if they didn't want them exposed to millions worldwide on the Internet.' The website threatened to plaster private pictures of Emma all over the Internet, and even featured a countdown. I shouldn't have to tell you just how creepy that is. Not only that, it's manipulative and is actually legally considered sexual abuse. Just so you know.

 

 

Even though it later transpired that the website was a hoax, would you like to have that kind of threat hanging over you? It doesn't matter that it was a hoax. It was a hoax built on sexual abuse, and that is not acceptable.

 

 

Twitter exploded, too. Twitter seems to have a habit of exploding. Some Tweets were supportive, congratulating Ms Watson and applauding her for her inclusive and educated speech. Others called her a variety of charming names, and bombarded her with stereotypes, such as the laughable 'man-hating', which doesn't exactly show the eloquent commenter in the best light (in the speech, she literally lists ways in which feminism helps men. They're numerous, believe me). Even #RIPEmmaWatson began doing the rounds. And then I thought of Lewis' Law.

 

 

Lewis' Law came about in 2012; an eponymous law observed by Helen Lewis, which states that 'the comments on any article about feminism justify feminism'. You know the score - all manner of offensive jokes and insulting names, telling women where to work (kitchen), what their private lives entail (take your pick - anything from virginal to promiscuous), and of course, that they're ugly. If that doesn't justify feminism, at least on a small scale, what does? I began to wonder if Lewis' Law doesn't necessarily have to be applied solely to articles. Surely the abuse directed towards Emma Watson in response to her speech justifies the message of the speech itself?

 

 

Essentially, it seems to me that every feminist point is met with whining and exclamations of, 'But not all...' Yes, yes, we get it. Not everyone is like that. But there those who do whine, and make threats, and seem to think that someone claiming that maybe it would be justified to pay women the same amount as men is a personal insult.

 

 

To cut a long story short, there are times when I wonder if we are making progress. And then there are times when I think we are simply too scared of other people. 

James Routledge 2016