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Opinion

My century of feminism: what lies ahead for the next wave of women’s rights

What’s to come in the next 100 years of women’s rights? New voter and feminist Harriet Hards, 18, is Member of the UK Youth Parliament for Cheltenham and Tewkesbury

I’ve always been a feminist but I’ve been really lucky, I’ve not really been affected by any sexist occurrences personally. When I first got social media, Twitter especially, seeing the vitriol that female MPs get, seeing people recount their stories of being followed home, or someone on the Tube touching them in an inappropriate way, it woke me up to the fact that my safety in public is not guaranteed. I’m always going to have to think, if I’m walking home at night do I need to be with a male friend so that I’m not alone? Bad things happen, and bad things happen proportionally far more to women.

I was brought up to believe that whatever a man could do I can do too, but there’s still this lack of respect. Seeing things like catcalling on the street, seeing my friends and myself subject to random men on the street telling us to smile – it was a wake-up call for me. A large proportion of society think they hold power over women in that way.

I’d like to see a different type of equality emerge, not just politically or changing legislation, but changes in attitude

Over the last 100 years, priorities switched a little. The main thing I noticed from my studies of history and politics is the way that it changed from equality; having equal rights recognised and being an equal citizen, to liberation – making sure that women can go into whatever career they want, do whatever they want, not feel constrained by gender roles of having to stay at home. That shift, from the Sixties, is what I as a young woman definitely benefit from today.

As a white woman myself, I feel that even though I might be less likely to get a promotion in comparison to a male peer, a BME woman would be even less likely. Feminism should speak for all of womankind. Any movement from here has to address all rather than just a select few. That’s the direction I want to see the women’s movement move towards in the next 100 years, so there’s no race or class boundaries in equality between men and women.

I’d like to see a different type of equality emerge, not just politically or changing legislation, but changes in attitude. You can legislate against sexual assault, you can legislate against the pay gap, but there’s always going to be attitude changes needed.

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We’ve very much seen progress, but not enough

A hiring board may subconsciously not be actively looking to hire a man for a job, but they will automatically see the man as more qualified than the woman. It can be helped by legislation but ultimately we need to have a wider societal shift.

Things like the wage gap are still issues, but they do seem somewhat peripheral in light of the uptick in allegations of sexual harassment, the Weinstein allegations, a collective realisation that we need to examine the power structures of how men at the top can take advantage of their power and keep women quiet when they abuse that power. Some women wouldn’t agree with feminism because they feel they’re already equal in many ways. However, with the issue of violence and violence against women, I think we’ve very much seen progress, but not enough.

That’s the main direction I see the priorities of feminism shifting towards, making sure that in the workplace and in the private sphere women can feel safe and not just equal.

They’re a little bit before my time but the Spice Girls taught young girls everywhere that they can be their own person. In my own lifetime I think feminism has come to the forefront. There are some seriously strong female role models emerging, encouraging women to be their own person.

@HarrietHardsMYP

Harriet’s story appeared in Issue 1293 of The Big Issue. If you can’t find a vendor near you – you can purchase the magazine online here.

In this week’s Big Issue we celebrate a suffragette century with our oldest ever cover star – 104-(and a half!)-year-old Freda. But it’s still clear today, that 100 years after the right to vote was won, some women are more equal than others. We hear from the women striving for equality, still.

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