Gemma Cairney's beginner's guide to feminism, including a recommended reading list, an exclusive extract from her book, Open: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be

A lot of people think it’s a little grumpy, but feminism is pretty awesome. It’s essentially a powerful belief  that  we  live  in  a  patriarchal society (a society essentially run and governed by  men) and that this ain’t cool.

To be a feminist in the most basic of terms means to believe in equality. Some feminists campaign for it societally,  domestically  and professionally  in a number of ways. Feminists believe that the objectification of  women,  which  has  very  much  been ingrained in us, is damaging, disturbing and undermining.

Feminists do not believe that men are evil or that women are better than men. They believe that women are equally as valuable and important in society as men and should be treated as such, and not be valued or judged by their looks – or feel that they have to dress any particular way – or judged by their ability to reproduce, but by their equal contribution to the workplace and beyond.  

Feminism makes sense. Calling yourself a feminist does not tag you as a man-hater or someone who does not like to be feminine – it tags you as someone who believes in equality. Women can be beautiful and powerful, they can be leaders and carers, they can be loud and wild if they choose or just one or none of those things if  they  choose.  Women  are  almightily dynamic. Being a feminist means you are a champion of the rights of other women to achieve all that they are capable of. Many men are feminists too.

There is a fascinating and rich tapestry of feminist movements out there, not one size fits all. We  all have different reference points  and experiences. There so many sections of feminism for this reason. Research them for yourself and enjoy finding out which thread of activism/campaign/literature  works for you. Once you start to look, there will be thousands of entry points to a wonderful and fulfilling feminism that appeals to you.

I warn you, though, it can be overwhelming. Don’t exhaust yourself thinking you are the only warrior having to think about it all, all the time. There isn’t enough time in a lifetime to right all the wrongs. Feminism isn’t about one person being the saviour, it’s about respect and togetherness and fairness. Don’t forget to have some fun too.

Great books on feminism

Girl Up

Laura Bates

How To Be A Woman

Caitlin Moran

Bad Feminist

Roxane Gay

My Life on the Road

Gloria Steinem

We Should All Be Feminists

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie