I am a feminist.
There I said it. Loud and proud. And I don’t know why you wouldn’t be. I know lots of feminists. Some are little girls. Others are middle aged women. Some are men. Yes, men can be feminists too. Then I know lots of people who visibly shudder at the word. Women too. Shudder. Are you a feminist, I ask. God no, is their response.
And I can’t help but raise an eyebrow. How could you not be? I think. But I try so hard not to judge. So instead I posed the question to over 300 women that I have regular contact with (thank you internet). I asked these women if they would identify themselves as being a feminist (and why or why not). And the response I got was surprising.The majority of women who responded (well over 180 women) said No. But it wasn’t the No that surprised me most, as by looking around me at the world right now, it’s blindingly obvious that there are so many women out there who are not. It was the reasoning.
I would never burn my bra. I’m not really into all that stuff. Not all women can physically do what a man can do – equal work for equal pay doesn’t always make sense. I’m a humanist. Not a feminist. I’d rather be called an equalist, not a feminist…
And perhaps the most honest of all.
… I don’t even understand what it means.
And I think that’s where the primary problem is. There are hundreds of beautiful, educated, independent, strong minded and interesting women in my life… and the majority of them balk at the idea of feminism because they don’t understand what it means. The discussion on each of the threads I posted became focused on comparing a woman and a man and how much they are paid. Feminism is about so much more than that. Like general equality, having a voice, having the freedom of choice (no matter what that choice is), reproductive freedom, open conversation, awareness, education, forward thinking. It’s certainly not man-hating. There are many women out there that hate men, but that doesn’t make them feminists. Like so many other things in our life the media has controlled our understanding of something that is, fundamentally, so important.
As a young woman I was filled with doubt. I was told that I was dramatic. That women are emotional. That women are stupid. That a women should be afraid. I was taught by the world that women should have equal rights as men on paper, but that reality is different. That a woman’s opinion is not as valid as a mans. That a woman uses her body to get what she wants. That when a woman is impassioned about something, she is being emotional and it is most likely “that time of the month.”
As a young woman I was called a tease, I was taunted, I was bullied like most girls (and boys). The young women around me called each other sluts and whores and bitches. They hated on each other because women were the enemy. It was us against each other. Life was a competition. High school is a competitive place where girls line up to compare their clothes, their fashion, their bodies. Where boys wolf whistle and grope and laugh with their hands up the short skirts of their female classmates. Classmates who don’t know any better. Girls who think boys groping them somehow makes them popular. It makes them win.
In the adult world, I’ve found, girls are much like they were in high school. Life seems to be a competition. Who is bigger, better, thinner, pettier, richer. We still use those awful names for each other. It’s the media, yes, but it’s also our culture. It’s also us.
I had bad things done to me. By men. By women. I lived it. I blamed myself. It was my fault. I was young. I was stupid. I was female. I felt worthless. I called myself a feminist before I even understood what it meant. I wasn’t. I wanted to be, but I wasn’t. I used to say, it’s my body, I’ll do with it what I like. I told myself I was being strong and in control. Saying yes isn’t always right. I thought if I always agreed, if I also went along, if I always did it… that no one could hurt me. But I was wrong. I could hurt me. I wasn’t free. I was being used by myself. I knew better. But I didn’t know how to be better. I was young. I was lost.
I’m not so young anymore. And even though I’m still lost most days. I know how I am and I know that I want to be better. Better for myself. Better for the world. And better for Bo.
Feminism is defined by the oxford dictionary as being: the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. To anyone who says that we live in an equal opportunity world, I call bullshit. To anyone who says that feminism isn’t needed any more, I want to show them the truth. The world is not an equal place. Australia, even with all of its equality is still patriarchal. It is still controlled by the male voice, even with a woman as the prime minister (just look at what WOMEN say about our FEMALE leader – look at the comments on her fashion, her dress, her hair, her relationship – where is the equality in that?). Women are still not taken as seriously. We have a long way to go. Even if the Australian system was perfect, and it is not, you don’t have to go far to see that women are still being treated as lesser creatures in many countries across the world. Is the well being, the safety and the basic human rights of these women not our responsibility. If you even have to question it, IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY. Not just us, the women, but us, the men and women, the people of the world. It is our responsibility to make change. Because that woman, she could have been you. If only you had been born somewhere else.
It’s a long road to learn to love ourselves again. To love the women around us. To change the voice in our head and the voice in our heart.
Feminism isn’t about man-hate. I love men. I have loved many men in my life, in many senses of the word love. Most of my close friends are male. Feminism isn’t about hating men (for hate of any kind is not something I would ever attach myself to). It is about loving women. Now, as a woman you might think that all women love women… because how can you not love what you are? Sadly enough this is not the case. The most women-hating behaviour I see? It comes from other women. Because women, in general, are not feminists.
A new wave of feminism is needed. A wave where we reestablish a sisterhood. We need to learn to love ourselves. Our sisters. Our children. To teach our sons and daughters that what’s between your legs doesn’t define you. I know this now.
I’ve never been much for labels. In fact I despise them. I push against them. But this label, Feminist, is one I’m proud to be attached to. I’d be happy to wear across my chest every day of my life if I thought it would make a difference.
I am a feminist.
For her. For me. For us.
Because standing up for ourselves, is the very first step to standing up for the world around us. For those who don’t have a voice. Because women matter. Mothers matter. Daughters matter. Men matter. Sons matter. People matter regardless of gender, religion, race, age, education, economic status. And to be complacent to that fact is not good enough.