As I think of all the men and women who have dedicated their entire lives to the betterment of society, I get solemn. Think of all the horror, the pressure, the fear, the unknown and the courage that had to exist for someone to push for something that didn’t exist.
So why do I often neglect in sharing my opinions on female equality? Feminism seems to have taken on such a negative appeal that nobody wants to be associated with it. It’s certifiably uncool. Feminism, unshaved legs and Birkenstocks go together very nicely in a mustard yellow backpack with Save The Earth buttons.
In University I took a bunch of equity studies classes and there were many a lesbian and un-manicured lady there. I was also there. I was enthralled with the content that I was being taught. My point is that feminism doesn’t look like anything as it so often gets dressed up as. Never did I shout my beliefs from the rooftops of campus. Declaring your allegiance with feminism creates an opportunity for someone to dismiss you. Feminism equates anger, and once you’re seen as an ‘angry’ woman your contribution is no longer welcomed. Why does our value get removed when we align ourselves with issues of human rights?
I don’t have the answers for you. I can’t claim to be an expert on anything, and certainly not feminism. Hilary Clinton is right: women’s rights are issues of human rights. So then why are people so eager to join one club and not the other? Why do women all over North America pull back when somebody asks them if they’re a feminist? Why have countless people used, “But you’re a feminist” as a rebuttal?
I have been on this world for thirty years (!!). I have, for years, tittered around people who are uncomfortable with the term feminism. I have kept my mouth shut many times when I didn’t want to appear too intense in my views. I have rolled eyes when boyfriends of my close friends laughed as they ordered ‘girlie’ drinks. But now that I’m of an age, I don’t care if I upset ignorant people. Because, guess what? I’m upset. Women all over the world are upset.
I’m upset that there are people all over the world who get mistreated. I’m upset people are murdered because of their sexual orientation. I’m upset that my four nieces are going to experience discrimination in their lives, not because of who they are as people but because of their predisposed gender category. I’m upset that this exists. I’m upset that we’re not supposed to talk about abuse. I’m upset that victims are expected to internalize their horror and not make a scene when they weren’t the ones who instigated it.
Identifying with being a feminist now has taken on a context that you’re an irrational, overbearing, man-hater who has no concept of reality. If this puts Gloria Steinem and I in the same pool, please, please, please…let me swim there.
Why would believing in and arguing for the rights of women all over the world be upsetting for some? For those who have told me that they are not feminists, do you believe that the hundreds of thousands of women in India who are at risk of rape EVERY day of their lives not deserve a different treatment? Do you not support the education and safety of women in India so that they may avoid traumatic experiences involving death, rape, torture, etc?
Take, for example, immigration. Many people have told me, posted about, or publicly argued against those coming into a country and not sufficiently taking up the language, cultural beliefs and gender norms of their new home. This is especially heated now because of the issue of the niqab in the Canadian citizenship ceremony.
As economist Jeffrey Sachs argues, those of us who were born in Canada won the lottery. There is no special reason why you were born here and not elsewhere. If you were born in Syria, and you were trying to flee for your safety would you not want the option to be elsewhere? Why do we get to live in a safe country and not anyone else? We’re not special. We’re just extremely lucky there’s no war here (yet).
I apply this same rationale to feminism. Who are you not to promote the ideals of feminism? Who are you to decide that you don’t like this term? If you’re a human, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be for the advancement of a woman’s opportunity in the world. (Or LGTBQ rights, for that matter.) I love the UN campaign HeForShe as it promotes the use of BOTH female and male genders to fight for the equal treatment of each sex. Women’s rights aren’t women’s issue. They’re a human issue.
When I’ve said ‘you’ I include myself. I am to blame for not always speaking up for what I truly feel. I often have kept quiet because of the shame I’ve felt. My wish is that I will speak with more courage. I will be bold. I will articulate how I feel in moments of weakness. Let’s talk about how we feel. Let’s communicate with each other what we want, and yes men, this means you too!
Women, we make ourselves so small we have eating disorders of epidemic proportions. Feminism isn’t about whether or not you want to stay at home and simply be a Mom. The beauty is in our ability to decide for ourselves. Isn’t the POINT that we are all different? I don’t yearn for children, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have empathy for the rights of Mothers.
Let’s be big! Let’s take up space! Let’s fight for what we want and deserve!
We are all human beings.