Women’s council reaches big audience with #WhyINeedFeminism

Patrick Butler
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Special to The Telegram
One week and 40,000 hits later, a St. John’s feminist organization’s foray into a social media debate on the importance of feminism has garnered a lot of attention.

Natalie Martin displays a message she wrote as part of the St. John’s Status of Women Council’s
 #WhyINeedFeminism campaign. — Photo courtesy of the St. John’s Status of Women Council

Following a popular anti-feminism campaign by Women Against Feminism on Tumblr, the St. John’s Status of Women Council released its own #WhyINeedFeminism social media campaign on Aug. 5, posting pictures of its employees holding signs explaining why they feel feminism is important.

In the pictures, women at the St. John’s Women’s Centre held messages such as “I need feminism because between 1855 and 2014 we have only had one female head of government” and “I need feminism because we still teach women how not to get raped.”

St. John’s Status of Women Council executive director Jenny Wright said since launching the campaign on Tumblr, the council’s Facebook page has received more than 40,000 hits. She said public reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and she has received responses from people as far away as Banff, Alta., and England.

Wright said at its root, feminism is about equality and a just society, but Women Against Feminism’s Tumblr posts “represent a kind of dumbing down of feminism.”

“What we really wanted to achieve was an alternative message and an alternative voice for people who felt they couldn’t do it,” she said.

Memorial University’s gender studies department head, Patricia Dold, said the Women Against Feminism campaign and the reactions it prompted from groups like the women’s council have helped spur a conversation on feminism and how it is being misunderstood.

“Some of the characteristics (of the Women Against Feminism campaign), to my mind, represent a misunderstanding, a skewed perception … that feminism is about hating men, that it’s about denying men their human rights,” she said.

“It makes me wonder where that’s coming from. When did we get to a place where there are people out there that think feminism means women hating men?”

Dold said many people are picking up on the disjunction between how Women Against Feminism and other groups and organizations like the St. John’s Status for Women Council define feminism. She said it’s important for groups like the council to address the issue head on and clarify what feminism means.

“The worry is that the kinds of skewed definitions, very unfamiliar definitions of feminism by Women Against Feminism, would reinforce misunderstandings of feminism,” she said.

“It’s really important that feminists speak up and say, ‘Listen, what you’re talking about is not what I understand feminism to be.’ ”

But Dold also said feminists have listened to criticism from groups like Women Against Feminism, particularly from women who say feminists bullied them because of their beliefs, and has evolved as a result.

“Feminism, on the whole, as it’s moved into current times, has really rethought what it’s doing in response to people that were criticizing,” Dold said.

“I think that there are some criticisms in the Women Against Feminism posts that feminists are looking at and (they) will look for ways to correct misunderstandings or adjust their own practices.”

According to Wright, the underlying problem remains that many people, especially young women, simply don’t understand why feminism still matters.

“Unfortunately, I think there are some people that think that women have reached equality,” Wright said.

“I think there needs to be a larger, broader understanding of where those inequalities still exist and how it’s important for men and women to work towards a just society.”

Wright said an important lesson from the Women Against Feminism campaign is that many women feel alienated from feminism.

“It’s an important message. … In many ways, it’s kind of a call to arms for us to find more engaging ways to help them understand what feminism means, its history, who it is it’s working for and how it’s relevant to their lives.”


Organizations: Women Council

Geographic location: Banff

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Recent comments

  • Duffy
    August 14, 2014 - 19:37

    Our one and only female leader (and I voted for her) was a complete disaster and set back the chance of another female for years to come. She showed no concern for the people, made bad decisions and her only cause was that of her failing party. Would I vote for another female in that position - not in my lifetime. Bill 29 secrecy, Muskrat Falls which will bankrupt NL by 2020, Electric failures and her support for the CEO's who were responsible, fisheries failures, McGraph 8 million forgiveness to a party friend. Folks it is time for ABC !!!

  • Bridget
    August 14, 2014 - 17:28

    Thank you P, for your commendable clarification of pay inequity, gendered employment, and systematic oppression. Unfortunately some fellow commenters are blatantly tainted from a lack of education around definitions and the factual realities of inequality in the world. To J, Steve, and Mark - although I appreciate your opinion and experiences; please refrain from subjecting judgement and discrimination against a group of people or movement based solely on your personal experiences with women or your limited interpretation of feminism. I gladly entertain all ideas, so long as they are respectful and educated. However, your bitter (and might I add, highly disrespectful) comments seem to reflect more upon your own negative perceptions and realities than they do the nature of feminism or women's groups.

  • DHW
    August 14, 2014 - 11:27

    Feminism does NOT mean woman are better then men, or should be treated better, it means EVERYONE should be treated equal! Are you a man who has ever been told to "man up" or to hide your emotions? Have you ever felt like your body is not big, or strong enough? Have you ever been ashamed of your interests because you were told it makes you "gay" or a "woman"? Are you offended by the media representing men as helpless who can't take care of themselves? Have you been told men can't be raped? Then you can benefit from feminism. Feminism is about changing gender roles that limit and punish us when you deviate from said roles. It's not about holding woman in a greater regard then men.

  • Red
    August 14, 2014 - 10:44

    Only one woman was head of government, and how did that work out LOL.

    • Sarah
      August 14, 2014 - 13:46

      This statement is totally an accurate and fair representation of women in politics!!!! We had almost all men and see how that worked out, LOL! Discrimination still runs rampant.

  • Kris
    August 14, 2014 - 10:39

    Feminism means career opportunities, funding and prestige for lot of women and men. They will defend their gravy trains with all the gusto. On the ground realities of Feminism are nothing short of disastrous for men, women, children and families. It is high time this ideology is thoroughly challenged by women. Thank you Women Against Feminism! You rock!!

  • Kris
    August 14, 2014 - 10:38

    Feminism means career opportunities, funding and prestige for lot of women and men. They will defend their gravy trains with all the gusto. On the ground realities of Feminism are nothing short of disastrous for men, women, children and families. It is high time this ideology is thoroughly challenged by women. Thank you Women Against Feminism! You rock!!

  • Owen Wilscon
    August 14, 2014 - 09:49

    To the young lady holding the sign in this article, blame women for the fact that only one head of government has been a woman, after all, women are the majority of voters.

    • Natalie
      August 14, 2014 - 11:59

      Where are the women for me (and other women) to vote for? I will vote for who I believe is the best candidate but in no way should all those (or the majority of those) candidates be male. We need to encourage women to run for political roles that have typically been filled by men.

    August 14, 2014 - 08:43

    To the geniuses inquiring about men's rights movements - simply look up any activity that does not have Women's or Female in front and it is a Men's Movement. In your spare time, of which I'm sure you have lots, although in your position you would make more than a woman, why don't you look up the unbalanced statistics about Men vs. Women being raped etc, then seek to join a "Men's Movement".

    • J
      August 14, 2014 - 09:57

      Given that you had to result to ad hominem attack you have no argument. Men are systemically discriminated against in the justice system (family court), the hiring process (employment equity act) - ie. let's not hire the best person for the job, let's hiring on a quota system, and on and on. Are you suggesting that men should not have equal rights but that women should have more rights than men until they themselves are satisfied that the playing field it level? You know as well as I do that that will never happen, activist groups would never admit to the fact that the cause has been reached and now the group can be disbanded. They'll just seek out some other grievance to take up the mantle for. You want to talk about equality. Go into the Health Science and count how many male nurses you see. Try to reason why that is the case and then apply that to each gender in all other fields of study.

    • JAMIE
      August 14, 2014 - 11:07

      Whose fault is it that there are not more male nurses? Stigma's, perhaps? I highly doubt a male candidate would be overlooked for a woman, whereas the opposite is easily done in the majority of professions. In fact, what I'd like to see more males in Gender Studies programs - of which there are few, clearly males have little interest! Your family court argument is baseless as well - as aforementioned by myself, look at how many men are raped vs women raped - the same goes with instances of domestic violence in which often a male physically overpowers the female. P.S. It is easy to attempt to make profound statements, all the while false, under an initial - not even having the guts to use a name. Insecure?

    • Chantal
      August 14, 2014 - 11:08

      Men are fairly represented in family court, thanks to feminist values that recognises men as equal and nurturing parents. Oh, how many women are on the oil rigs? The few that are in the trades are there because of.... well, feminists.

    • J
      August 14, 2014 - 12:25

      Again the Ad hominem attack. Is this how they teach debating in gender studies? Typical. And you keep reverting everything to rape and domestic violence. I won't argue about those because, yes, there is definitely more women than men being abused. But men are still abused too. What does that have to do with me being discriminated against. You might not remember but the RCMP had a hiring campaign once up on a time that targeted only Women and Aboriginals. Men need not apply. So, if males have no interest in Nursing why isn't the Provincial Government campaigning high and low to get more males into the Nursing faculty the same way other faculties are recruiting more females on quota systems (engineering and trades come to mind). If women have that little interest in engineering it should be left alone given that males have no interest in nursing. That is the essence of your logic is it not? The very definition of Feminism is to improve life for women and not men and at the expense of men. What is the 'Status of Women" but nothing more that institutionalized discrimination. What about Employment Equity. The family court system is broken. Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin released a report on it. Google it and read.

    • Jamie
      August 14, 2014 - 13:07

      PLEASE tell me where in the definition of feminism it is stated that equality is needed at the expense of men. YOU WILL NOT FIND IT. Your point about the RCMP only proves my point further - they were targetting women and Aboriginals because there is a LACK of them at the time - meaning overrun with MEN! Sheesh, common sense please! Ironic that you're playing the victim card, when again that is usually the female...

    • P
      August 14, 2014 - 13:43

      I think where we differ is that you believe women choose not do be in certain careers. There is more social barriers against women entering certain feilds (trades, STEM careers, etc.) because of their perceived ability, workplace discrimination, and other factors. It is very wrong that some employers still don't hire women because they are "less of an investment" because they will have to take time off to raise a family. This is one example of where the inequality comes from. We don't need programs to help men get into nursing (although we SHOULD encourage men to take on jobs that have classically been female) because there is not social barriers keeping them from pursing those careers. Just as feminists want more women in male centric jobs, they desire more males represented in female centric jobs. It's just that this doesn't require government programs because men have not been systemically oppressed out of those careers. Also, claiming that programs the government enacts are a successful representation of what feminists want is not fair. To achieve equality sometimes you need to treat people differently. Feminists DO NOT hate men or want them to be oppressed. Instead, they want both sexes to have the same opportunities and rights. Also attempting the RCMP to hire people from other sects of the population ISNT DISCRIMINATION. Because if you look at the existing force it's COMPLETELY male dominated.

  • Bren
    August 14, 2014 - 07:22

    Yes, I remember in 2001-when the Newfoundland government told girls they could not play hockey in the Nl Winter Games. It required months of campaigning by the teams, a Freedom of Information request (long delayed) and a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. Just in time for the girls to participate. In February 2002, females were included in hockey in the Newfoundland Winter Games, and the Canadian women won gold in the Olympics for the first time. Equality still takes work.

  • J
    August 14, 2014 - 06:14

    Dear Telegram, In keeping with Equality can I assume that you will feature an article on the Men's Rights Movement soon?

    • Observer
      August 14, 2014 - 07:27


    • S
      August 14, 2014 - 07:43

      Is the local chapter of the Men's Rights Movement holding an event or campaign anytime soon that warrants an article like this one for the St. John’s Status of Women Council campaign?

    • Chantal
      August 14, 2014 - 08:30

      Yes, and there should be a movement for the rights of whites too. Sheesh! Are we feeling threatened by the specter of equality?

    • J
      August 14, 2014 - 10:11

      Chantal, equality for women should not come at the price of institutionalized discrimination against men.

    • Jamie
      August 14, 2014 - 11:11

      Good point J - let's institutionalize the men who believe it's okay to rape and assault women!

    • Steve
      August 14, 2014 - 14:28

      let's instituionalize women who think it's fair to expect their husband to be the breadwinner for 40 years, provide a house for them a lifestyle, vacations, clothes all so she can sit on her rear watching soaps and clipping coupons. Wait, that's called marriage. Nevermind. When she decides it's time for her to ''retire'', she will file divorce and argue she deserves half of everything she never once paid for.

    • Mark
      August 14, 2014 - 14:54

      Feminism….yes, the right for a woman to claim that half of her ex husbands fortune is hers by right, even if she didn’t do anything to earn it. Yeah, kind of like how Robin Williams 2 ex wives drove him to the point bankruptcy where he had to accept bit tv gigs and make sequels he had no interest in doing because he was left financially ruined. Yup, feminism, should be renamed the lottery…or maybe Lotta-Gimme-Gimme-Gimme

    • Jamie
      August 14, 2014 - 15:24

      Mark, you are ignorant (and bitter?!) to bring a recent late celebrity into the argument you're trying to make against feminism. The breadwinner pays alimony. If the ex-wife was the breadwinner, she'd pay the ex-husband. BUT as has been argued because of discrimination within the workforce the male is often (not always I know!) the breadwinner.....