“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world”. This is the wisdom of the then 16 year old Taliban survivor, now Nobel prize winner, that will undoubtedly characterise an era. Yet this era has seen attitudes towards women in all its perplexities, becoming ever more subverted under a myriad of stereotypes, misconceptions and alienations. Because of this, the word feminism has lost its original and fundamental orientation around human rights.
Angelina Jolie, Emma Watson. Jennifer Lawrence…the mere mention of these golden girls is enough to make any tabloid salivate. Yet throw in a visit to the UN and the press are practically cutting off an arm to record their (admittedly well meaning) expostulations about how “It should be illegal for someone to be called fat on TV”. Dubbed “famenism” the recent rise of tweets, blogs and internet memes have given the face of feminism a glamorous makeover. But does it need it? Some may argue yes... The ghosts of the “radicals” of second wave feminism, still brandishing their burning braziers, haunt public perception- even the name “Germaine Grier” can spawn a frenzy of violent expurgations of horror. Yet a simple truth underlies both of the images. That they are just that, an image, another “wave of feminism” to identify with.
An even more pugnacious representation of women’s rights is that it is merely an economic strategy. Empowered women undeniably are less likely to marry early and have children before they are ready. Economically, that means healthier, more productive families and greater earnings potential. Yet the benefits are often exploited. When the long-held feminist ideal of mother’s choice manifested in the corporate proposal for egg freezing (in the interest of financial incentive for the company) an uproar ensued. This exposes its status as a narrow articulation of empowerment that fails to recognise wider concerns about inequality and women’s rights.
Whilst I have no answer to gender inequality, Malala is setting us in the right direction. The only definition that she does not defy, is herself. We must act not out of admiration to a celebrity, nor allegiance to a long convoluted movement and certainly not for economic gain. We must act because we owe it to ourselves as humans, humans with fundamental and undeniable rights. This status is more powerful than any other definition.
“I am Malala”.