I've been asked before if I consider myself a feminist, and the answer has always been yes. I get two different reactions: either the questioner cringes and slowly inches away, or they grin and say “good for you!” I always find this pretty entertaining, but for the purpose of my blog, I thought I would define what I believe to be true when I call myself a feminist.
First and foremost, the belief that women should be advocated for at the expense of men is wrong and does that align with core values of feminism. To put it simply, we believe that all people should be treated and respected equally, regardless of gender. The numerous ways women are objectified is also protested. We fight for emphasis on the whole person rather than her physical attributes or her inherently 'female' functions.
Now, many of you may be saying that there are feminists out there that hate men, and I will not disagree with you. Sadly, this type of feeling can be directly compared to racism- hate comes in all forms. These women are taking the stereotypical attributes of a misogynistic, undesirable man, and projecting it onto every man they ever encounter. They use these characteristics to shame, insult, and bring down the male gender, instead of bringing up women. Needless to say this is wrong, and makes more barriers than it breaks down. Just like there are bad apples in every group of individuals, the feminist movement is no different. We need to use love and positive rhetoric, not generalized statements against an entire gender.
We believe that men and women are equal, simple as that. I usually like to take it a step further and say that every person is equal, regardless of gender, since I believe that gender and gender identity is a spectrum. That is a subject for an entirely different post. Now, stereo-typically, are women better at certain things than men? And men better at certain things than women? Of course. Generally speaking, women are less physically strong than men, and we are more nurturing. Note the word- generally. The idea that we are all equal is accepting the fact that there are many exceptions to societal gender norms. Ever watch American Ninja Warrior? There was a woman on there that was five feet tall and conquered physical challenges my brother could never dream of at 6'5.
I enjoyed watching that episode, because the crowd and commentators were cheering and focused on her physicality and strength. They weren't sitting there analyzing the fact that her face was flushed and her hair was coming undone. This is another issue I feel very strongly about- the objectification of women- specifically our looks. There is this unspoken rule in society that in order to be taken seriously, you must be beautiful. You must dress sexy, and paint your face. If you don't wear makeup, suddenly you are considered unprofessional. If you are not “pretty”, then you are deemed less-than, the ugly duckling, something to feel sorry for and throw a bag of makeup at.
Of course, society's definition of beauty is very specific, and one that ever only applies to a small minority of women. I would say about three years ago, it was 'in' to be tall and super thin, like Taylor Swift. My tall frame could get down with that, except I have the curves of an Arab lady, and frankly, don't want to be that thin. Now I would say we are in the phase of big butts and boobs, overly curvy with a teeny-tiny waist. I know a few women that look like that naturally, but for most of us that is unattainable except by plastic surgery. Not only is beauty being defined very specifically and with the exclusion of everyone else, it is constantly changing! No wonder its considered normal for women to have self-esteem issues.
All of this- defining what a woman should be and what she should look like, is what I stand against as a feminist. This also includes the objectification of women when it comes to our function in the world. It is changing slowly now, but for a long time a woman who didn't have kids was somehow supposed to feel unfulfilled...as if her entire purpose on earth was to bear children! This makes me chuckle. We are such strong and diverse creatures. There are already so many children on this world that need love and help, so if a woman decides not to pop out another, that is her own choice, and she should not be made to feel guilty about it. That same woman could start numerous non-profit organizations, be an author, or a teacher. Just because she doesn't want children doesn't make her a cold-hearted person.
We must look beyond what society tells us women are supposed to be and do and look like, and observe the individual human we see before us. When you approach something with a bias and expectation, you will always be disappointed, because no one will ever fit a mold perfectly. Only when we remove these barriers can we truly see clearly. Then we can embrace people for their strengths and faults that exist because of who they are, not because of their gender.
You don't have to be pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not your co-workers, especially not random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female"