I have a profound obsession with words and language. I believe words, do in fact, mean things and it is important to understand them. Sometimes, stereotypes exist because people do not understand the language, lives, experiences of others that differ from themselves. Sometimes people do not care to believe the person speaking their truth. This is especially accurate when women speak up. Being a TCK means that I grew up in a culture that differs from my parents. Which also means I experience multiple differing norms. But, what is true in both cultures and across the globe is that women are not treated as equals.
In my first piece, I touched on bias and how certain words bring certain connotations to one’s mind. For example you learn that your neighbor is a black woman, what thoughts come to your mind? Are they negative, positive, neutral? That is implicit bias. It is everyone’s personal responsibility to analyze their thoughts. Questions like; Where do these thoughts stem from? How does this affect the way I treat, react, and respond to my neighbor, who is a black woman. These questions are required to address your own personal bias. So with that said, what comes to your mind when you hear the word Feminist? We have all heard words like man-hating, lesbian, and angry used as an insult towards women who identify as Feminist. Rarely is the word feminist used as a compliment. In a TED Talk titled, We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Adichie reminisced about a professor who read her book and said it “sounds feminist and you should not call yourself that because feminists are unhappy women who cannot find a husband.” I recall an experience with a male stranger who told me that women who dress a certain way deserve to be raped. Now, from a feminist perspective I am certainly not thinking about finding a husband. I am wondering where in the hell did this man learn that a woman’s clothing warrants sexual assault. I also think about how many women have been victim to men who think as this one does. As always, these thoughts led me to research the statistics about being a women in today’s society, here is what I found:
Women account for 70% of the population living in absolute poverty (less than $1.00 a day)
603 million women live in a country where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
53% of the world’s out-of-school children are girls and ⅔ of the illiterate people in the world are women.
We live in a world that does not yet see women as humans. Instead women are seen as sexual objects or the weaker gender. Even if women navigate through endless challenges and make it to high ranking positions, they are so often looked over when it pertains to promotions and positions of power. This is true globally. Bottom line is Feminism helped me understand the world around me. So, to minimize feminism to a “man-hating, angry woman thing” speaks to why it has to exist in the first place.
It is typical to hate, criticize, and silence women. Early on, girls are taught to hate each other and ourselves. Through media and society women are taught to hate our bodies, silence our voices, and take up as little space as possible. With these realities in mind it is easy to see why women are susceptible to mistreatment because as an added bonus; men are taught to hate and abuse us as well. Look within cultural norms and traditions to learn of the poorly hidden misogyny and sexism. Open your eyes and see how women and girls are treated by media, the narrow representation of womanhood is rarely highlighted in our society. All you have to do is listen to the experiences of women to hear the pain we experience. Through Feminism, I learned that so much of my life is no crystal stair, but it is not my fault; this system was not built for people like myself.
So if women and girls have to live in a world where they are viewed as objects, weak, and incompetent don’t you think it would be necessary to have a support system that tells them the exact opposite? A support system that tells them women are smart, determined, visionaries who are more than their bodies and should be treated with respect and dignity because they are human. But, for whatever reason, when people hear feminism all they do is judge it from their incorrect understanding they have of the word. I am not okay with that because Feminism in necessary for women to thrive in this world. Women offer fresh perspectives and a wealth of knowledge yet universally we are treated as if we do not deserve a space on this earth unless it is for the benefit of men.
Feminists such as Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, Toni Morrison and so many more have made enormous sacrifices so that I can live a better life. I am in awe of every woman who has come before me to ensure that future generations of women can simply exist in the absence of harassment and violence. Diminishing feminism based on absurd extremism is similar to judging all Christians by the standards of the notorious Westboro Church. How absurd and utterly wrong would that be?
Feminism: the radical notion that women are people.
Feminist: a person that believes in the social, political, economical equality of the genders.
These are the definitions I use to describe feminism. Of course, when you speak to the inequalities of genders those who have male privilege will feel attacked, guilty,and targeted but it is not about you. Alerting men of their privilege is not about guilt. It is about awareness so that you can take action to call out unfair practices against women and girls. It is about creating an environment where women are valued and respected. It is about women who see, hear, experience hatred in a multitude of ways. Feminism is about using our voices to address injustice happening in our lives. Women should be represented in positions of power and influence, and afforded the same opportunities as our male counterparts. Women should be able to simply live in peace and not in pieces.