No, not that F word.
Recently, I’ve been asked the question “Why are you a feminist?” quite frequently. It has cropped up more and more since I created my blog. After a conversation over dinner with a few relatives, I’ve decided that I ought to answer it. This is for my own peace of mind, really – I don’t feel like I articulated myself too well when the topic arose.
The simple answer is: I’m a woman. It would be foolish not to be on my own side. It would be foolish not to participate in a movement that directly seeks to put me on a level playing field with men. Of course, this is gross over-simplification; feminism is a much broader spectrum than that. But, in its most basic and original form, that was its purpose. The long answer is much more complex and personal. Feminism is a part of my political ideals. It is a set of ideas and a school of thought that I have adopted. It seeks to highlight injustice and to question the social norm. It investigates problems that I, as a young person, care about.
People I respect and admire are feminists. I watch Emma Watson (x), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (x) and countless others stand up and speak about their passion for feminism and I cannot help but feel an inexorable pull towards that. I know that is the kind of woman I want to be. I want to contribute to the global community. I want to use my voice to advocate for others. I want to be totally unabashed, unashamed and uninhibited. Feminism gives me that.
I also firmly believe that feminism can benefit men too. It is not “man-hating” or “misandrist” to be a feminist; I know men who are feminists. They understand that the movement’s purpose is not to shame them or to put women on a pedestal. Instead, it defies the patriarchal structure of our society, which puts men in a position of power and privilege. This has an adverse effect upon them as well; it affects the way they perceive themselves and the way they perceive masculinity. We call this “toxic masculinity”. Emotion and sensitivity are not signs of weakness, no matter how much of a “lad” you’re encouraged to be. Our society sees femininity as degrading. Why do you think “you (x) like a girl” remains an insult? I’m not suggesting men and women are the same biologically; I’m merely suggesting the radical notion that we should be equal socially.
Fourth-wave feminism is technologically active and, as a person who spends no small amount of time on the internet, I’ve been able to experience online activism first-hand. It’s easy to connect with blogs – like my own – along with online campaigns and websites. There is no excuse for people to be ill-informed about feminism. All you have to do is type “feminism” into a search engine (not Bing though, for f*ck’s sake. Bing is for peasants…) and you’ll be greeted with thousands upon thousands of results. Obviously it takes a while to sift through the sh*t, but a simple Wikipedia search will give you the entire history of feminism. Educate yourself. Educate your friends. Educate your enemies.
Being a feminist gave me the motivation and the courage to stand up in front of 250+ students and teachers every morning for five days in order to spread the word about International Women’s Day in March this year. I laid my innermost ideals bare before them. I stood with the weight of the movement’s history on my shoulders. I stood in solidarity with my sisters, both past and present, and I knew I was part of something influential. Feminism has taught me, in stark contrast to what I’ve been told by the people around me, that I am not confused in my identity. I am a young woman, with opinions and strength and confidence, and these are not things to be ashamed of. I don’t have to hide that I am a feminist (although it has become something of a dirty word in some circles) nor should I hide any other aspect of my identity. That is why I am a feminist. Perhaps you can understand why I couldn’t articulate that over sausage and chips.