If You Believe In Equality, You Are A Feminist: Stop Saying You're Not

Anonymous Anonymous in Single Women Bad Women on 18 April, 2017

I am a 28 year old woman. My biological make up apparently comes with a manual. There are guidelines on how to speak, how to dress up, what kind of tasks I would naturally be good at, the activities I should engage in and even the opinions I must have.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am hardly oppressed at home. I am an independent, modern woman of the 21st century who is an educator, a professional. I am free to walk around, earn a living and engage in whatever the world offers but all within a set limit.

Herein lies the problem, I am told to pursue my dreams, learn to be independent and have a mind of my own but I should not overdo it because it is very unbecoming of a girl.
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On a personal level, I am luckier than most women. I was raised by parents who are not trailblazers in ensuring gender equality, but they allowed me to grow. They never curtailed my learnings. But I am still struggling. On one end, there are conversations that women are equal to men and on the other end, women are also conditioned to ensure that they don’t cross boundaries that challenge patriarchy. 

I speak from personal encounters where I have been expected to exist within societal norms and have experienced the subtle and sometimes, blatant sexism. Out of countless incidences, I shall recollect a few.

I have been taught to view certain tasks as responsibilities like cooking, cleaning and anything that remotely relates to homemaking. Is ‘home’ only for women? If not, why can’t we share responsibilities? We are depriving our boys from basic life skills.

This extends into the idea that I must be dressed a certain way to be considered as ‘respectable’. I remember wearing an outfit where my bra strap was visible. I had women, who had no business entering my personal space, adjust it for me. It is a bra strap, not a slithering snake. Attaching a sense of shame and importance to a common article of clothing is absurd. I have had men be surprised that I am able to drive a manual car, or be able to park really well. 

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Out of all these experiences of subtle sexism, there is one that really hurts me. It is when I am mocked at because I call myself a feminist. I am looked upon as someone who hates men, and has zero respect towards my culture. I get labelled as an opinionated young female who has yet to experience the “realities” of life. The word feminist has such a bad connotation that I am instantly deemed as difficult.

I struggle to tell my story without someone who has enjoyed the privilege of patriarchy shut me down as an "angry young female". It hurts more when fellow women fail to stand together. It is so important, especially now, to admit that our gender colours are experiences in life. In the course of my limited years of existence, I have stood up against sexism and I have also succumbed to it to ensure I don’t anger the people around me.

It is stifling to pretend that this does not affect me or million others. We, as a society, need to ask ourselves, “How have I allowed gender to shape experiences of women in my life?” We know women are capable of handling greatness yet we ask them to shrink their spirit, to fit a mould that is no longer relevant.

I don’t ask for much; only to be viewed as an equal. I am aware that there are laws allowing women to be as successful but the real change will occur when we change ourselves as individuals first. I am aware that there are physiological differences between men and women, but the world has evolved. We no longer need strength to live, we need intelligence and knowledge to thrive. Those are not gender specific qualities.

Let’s stop encouraging patriarchy by nurturing boys to have a fragile ego and teaching girls to cater to that. Lastly, for those who use the culture argument, it is about time we realise that culture is about preserving people, it should serve both men and women. We make culture, if not the other way round.  

This story was submitted by Jamuuna.

Author's Note:

To women who don’t identify as feminists,

Take time to understand the movement. There are girls in many parts of the world who have no access to education or economic independence just because of their gender. I request you, join the movement because we need you, identify yourself as feminists.

As for the men who have not thought about this, start now. You make half the world, so we need you to evolve as well. Identifying as a feminist is critical because that’s the first step to equality. Men who believe in and practice equality are attractive and masculine. #iamafeminist, are you?

Editor's Note:

The word feminism is thrown around too often, too casually in the digital space. It is still somehow misunderstood. Share this story and give your opinion because it's important.