Let me be real, I used to never consider myself a feminist. I wanted to be as far removed from the word as possible, so much so that way back when I dedicated a whole blog post to explaining why I was against feminism.
This is not to say I opposed equality between men and women, I always believed that women could do anything men could do, and they should always be treated as equals. My view on feminism however was incredibly constricted to the extremist point of views , where women burn their bras and hate men for being men. I found this frustrating and hypocritical. I asked myself, how can feminism be about equality if it is all about hating men?
As open-minded as I have always considered myself, I now look back at my feelings about feminism and have come to the realisation that I had an incredibly ignorant view on it that was being fed by the first-world and Western world I lived in and continue to live in. Although I grew up in a third-world country, I lived in a very first-world and privileged bubble within the country. I never had to fight to get a spot in school, and while I never took my education and the opportunities it provided me with for granted, I never had to fear (or even thought to fear) that my right to education would be taken away. I grew up with a younger male sibling, but we were always treated as equals and the fact that he is a man and I am a woman was never an issue. I had parents who always encouraged me to do whatever my heart desired, and a who always made it clear that when it came to my body, it was my choice. I am so fortunate to have grown up with a family that nurtured a mind set where I can do whatever I want in life and achieve anything. This is despite living in a third world country where machismo (aggressive masculine pride), sexism, and strong opinions on how women should live their lives continues to be well and alive. Abortion is illegal, the use of birth control is controversial, and generally the woman is expected to look after her husband and kids. Like I said though, I lived within a very privileged bubble where I did not have to face this.
This is not to say that I was unaware of the injustice that girls and women faced. I was aware that females are getting their genitals mutilated in Africa, women aren’t allowed to drive everywhere (cheers to Saudi Arabia finally dropping this legal injustice), women aren’t allowed to vote everywhere, girls don’t have access to education everywhere, or that some places will criminally charge a woman who has been raped- and that just scratches the surface of how much inequality our world is facing.
However, while I was aware of these injustices, I continued to have a very constricted definition of feminism and in no way associated it to the importance of battling the many inequalities girls and women face in the world. I was purely looking at feminism within the first world western society I was living in, like I said, my mind immediately linked feminism to bra burning and hating on men.
I remember the first time my animosity towards feminism started brewing was when I was sixteen, during my English Literature lessons. Our professor was a woman who was very vocal about being a feminist. She used to write a ‘quote of the day’ on the whiteboard each morning. Often, these original quotes would use the word ‘he’ to describe a person. This didn’t mean the person was male, but ‘he’ was used simply to describe a person. My professor was very against this as she truly believes this is a prime example of sexism (and I now agree with her), so she would change ‘he’ to ‘they’ or ‘one’.
I remember thinking that it was so stupid to focus on such a tiny thing- a word, that shouldn’t mean anything. There are bigger problems in the world than the improper use of the word ‘he’ in a quote. And yes, there are definitely bigger problems in the world. However, I now look back on this and see the importance of my professor changing the word from ‘he’ to ‘they’ on the whiteboard- it is a small but important step in how we change our mentality towards equality. Something about using the word ‘he’ is subtly granting more power to the male sex.
At the time, I could not see that though. It’s hard for me to write this because I look back at myself and am disappointed in how I was allowing myself to become hostile to a movement that ultimately stands for what I always preached I was about- equality. Referring back to my experience with my English Literature professor, I remembered how annoyed I was at her, and I also vividly remember how annoyed the guys were. It was a running joke that when we would transcribe the notes into our journals (which we were required to do), we would purposely write ‘he’ instead of ‘they’, as she had changed it to. The male students also felt adamant that she was a man-hating capital F word, and seeing how much the guys were against her approach towards changing a word in a quotation made me believe that feminism was unattractive.
And no, my epiphany about the true meaning behind feminism did not occur shortly after my English Literature class. In fact, it happened all the way through my first year of university in London, when I wrote that now infamous blog post defending my stance not being a feminist. Until that point, my view was still that everyone should be treated equal but that feminism was about bra burning and hating men.
Let me elaborate my thoughts on bra burning as I keep brining it up. For me, bra burning symbolised the depiction of how women should behave. Once again, I thought: Bra burning is so hypocritical. So you’re saying that women can’t wear bras because it is symbolically giving your power to the men? Again, this is of course not what it was about. It is about liberating yourself from the stereotype and societal expectation of what it meant to be a woman, an expectation that ironically was more often that not decided by men. However, for me, bra burning on a larger level symbolised that in order to achieve equality, women were setting themselves back by dressing in a ‘girly’ fashion or being a housewife. I believed that feminists only respected women who were pant-suit wearing CEO’s who left their husbands at home to take care of the kids (and there is nothing wrong with this either). I just had the very backwards view that feminism was hypocritical because it was telling women how to behave- which defies the point of achieving equality. Yes, now I know this is not what is is about, but I find it important for me to reflect on my previous thought process behind the feminist movement.
When it comes to the media, I now find myself dissapointed that a conversation that still exists is whether people, especially women, consider themselves feminists. A few years ago, I remember reading an article about Kaley Cucco on why she didn’t consider herself a feminist. She was basically saying that she doesn’t consider herself a feminist because she has never faced inequality and she likes being a housewife- that she likes the thought of women taking care of their men. I see myself a few years ago in that statement, and not because I personally have the desire to be a housewife, but for some reason by saying we don’t personally face inequality and because we may partake in actions that feminism has opposed only as a symbolic point, we frown upon feminism and ultimately lose it’s true simple one-worded meaning: equality. Buzzfeed even had an article a few years ago about various women and their reasons for not being feminists, and most of them were because they believed feminism prohibited from being themselves or because it hated on men. In fact, a lot of women in these articles spoke up against feminism because they believe in equality and feminism represented sexism against men- how ironic is all of this? And I know the thought process behind these statements because at one point I would have whole-heartedly agreed with all of them.
I also recently discovered that actress Shaliene Woodley did not consider herself a feminism because she thinks the movement is about taking power away from men, and how are men meant to respect women when women don’t respect each other. She says she instead believes in sisterhood. I do agree that in society, especially first class western society, women are constantly pitted against each other and there needs to be more empowerment between women. Heck, there needs to be more empowerment between everyone, that is what feminism represents. It is not about taking power away from men, it is not about women becoming ‘better than men’, it is about equality.
I am sure you will find that a lot of people, for example me circa a few years ago, that say they oppose feminism because they believe in equality and having the power to make the their own choices and live their own lifestyle. Well, if that is your reasoning, you like me will discover that you are a feminist.
Say that F word loud and proud my friends! 🙂
Please let me know your thoughts about this in the comments, I am always open to listening to all opinions!