Today, identifying as a feminist seems to have negative connotations. It is associated with bra burning, men hating women who spend all their time bashing the male sex and being angry all the time. And I don’t blame them for being angry, I am also angry. But, I also think its important to note that these women are not a true representation of what feminist is. Yes, there are feminists who fit into this description, but there are also a lot of feminists who do not. So, what is feminism? I think the International Women’s Development Agency describes it best in the following:
- It is about all genders having equal rights and opportunities.
- It is about respecting diverse women’s experiences, identities, knowledge and strengths.
- It is about levelling the playing field between genders and ensuring that women and girls have the same opportunities in life that is available to boys and men.
- It is not about determining who is “worse off” but rather it is about learning and understanding the ways that inequality affect both men and women. That true equality is about leaving no one behind.
So, I am a feminist.
And I don’t feel like it is a dirty word.
As a feminist, and a woman, I want all of us to have the following opportunities.
I want us to be able to walk into a room and be treated with the same level of respect as the men at the table. We do not need to be labelled as “aggressive” or “argumentative” when we don’t agree with what someone is saying. We want to be able to voice the same opinions or ideas as the men around us and be considered and listened to rather than dismissed or ignored. We do not want to be told that we are “taking things personally” when we speak up about being treated differently. We know that he would never tell his male colleague to “calm down” or “don’t be so sensitive,” so why do he think he can say it to us? We are planners, logical and smart, and if you gave us a chance to have a voice at these meetings, we are a huge asset to the team.
I want us to be able to make decisions for our own bodies. Yes, I mean large decisions like our choice whether we do or do not want to have children. Without a need to explain, justify or determine why we are making those choices. We want to be able to have choices when it comes to birth control and if we decide we want to have our tubes tied, or our breasts reduced for that matter, we should not have a doctor, usually male, tell us to wait “in case we change our mind.” We want to be able to bring legitimate health concerns to our doctors and not be told that it is in our head or maybe it is just anxiety. We deserve to voice ongoing female reproductive problems, such as extreme cramps, heavy periods or sore breasts, without the medical professionals telling us it is not that bad or that we are normal. If it does not feel normal, it is not normal. And yes, periods are gross and disgusting, we know that, but we also don’t want to be shushed if we are having issues with it.
I want us to be paid the same as our male colleagues. Period. Gender is not a distinction that changes someone’s entitlement to income, so there is no reason for there to be any sort of wage gap. This is straight up dumb.
I want us to be able to walk down the street or go out for a night with friends without being harassed. Heaven forbid, if something did happen while we were out, I want us to not have to justify. Justify how much we had to drink, what we were wearing or why we decided to get in the car with that man. It doesn’t matter. I want us to know that men are going to be better and not put us in an unsafe position just because we are female. I want the police and judicial system to adjust to accommodate that and instead of victim blaming, or assuming she is lying, focus on the person who attacked her in the first place. They are responsible, not the woman.
I want us to see more women in places of power. Women make good leaders too. I want us to be given the chance to be employed in the same positions as men. Engineers, doctors, directors, or CEOs to name a few. And, when we are in those positions, we don’t want our gender to be the label in front of it. She is not a great female director. She is a great director. Period.
I want us to stop using porn or mass media as an indication of the regular female body. Just like men, we are all different. We come in different shapes, sizes, colors and forms. Some of us have large breasts and some of us have small breasts. Some of us have flat abs and some of us don’t. It is okay. Rather than tell us that we need to achieve this specific image, maybe just let us be us. A woman who is scarred and shapely and real.
Finally, I want us to start lifting each other up. Men need to acknowledge that they are part of the solution for creating equality for women, but at the same time, so are women. We should not be calling each other down or creating a competition amongst ourselves. It is hard enough to find equal footing without fighting against the same individuals we are wanting to be successful. We all deserve the chance to feel powerful, sexy and empowered and all us women and girls need to help as well in achieving that goal. Don’t be catty. Don’t slut shame and don’t allow yourself to feed into the same bullshit we are receiving in society. Be thoughtful. Support each other. And most important of all, remember that she is just like you. Deserving and needing respect.
I am a proud to say I am a feminist. And, in having these conversations, maybe the word feminist won’t continue to be a dirty word.