International Women’s Day 2020 – What is a Feminist Anyway?
Hand on heart, I haven’t always considered myself a feminist; even as recently as 5 years ago I would have defined feminism as a lot of pearl-clutching by angry women devoid of humour – Ouch! Pretty harsh, right?
I’ve been on a bit of a journey since then. I do need to make it clear that I don’t see myself as some sort of feminist Tsar – far from it – but in keeping with this year’s International Women’s Day theme of #eachforequal I wanted to share what I feel is the single biggest feminist revolution I’ve had to date.
Sexy, or just plain sexist?
It’s harder to maintain a narrow view of what a feminist is these days, thanks to social media and the increased number of people stepping up to discuss women’s rights. But still, it’s evident that women are under the spotlight at every turn.
Judgement is everywhere and you don’t have to be an expert researcher to discover hugely differing views on how feminists – and women in general – should look and behave. Just take the uproar after J-Lo and Shakira’s recent Superbowl half time performance (which you can watch here if you haven’t seen it.)
Some reactions hailed the show as empowering and defiant; two women of 42 and 50 years old showing there is no such thing as being past your prime. But others, unsurprisingly, branded their skimpy outfits and booty-shaking routines as a step back for women’s rights; a hyper-sexualised display made for the male gaze. So who’s right?
My Feminist revelation
In my opinion, the answer is both and neither; the real enemy, in this case, is the argument itself.
By arguing to try to reach a good/bad conclusion, we’re missing the point; we have to respect a woman’s right to choose, even if our personal choice would differ.
I promised up top that I’d share my biggest feminist revelation, and this is it: feminism, like everything else, is not the same for everyone – and that’s totally OK.
It’s not our duty or right to tell women how they should act and behave – we’re not here to police the sexy or demean the modest – feminism is about creating a world where every woman can be what and who she wants to be. Simple really.
What’s not simple is putting this line of thinking into practice, because we all have ingrained ideas and preconceptions which have been finely formed and reinforced throughout our lives.
Now I’m not here to tell you what to think. But, if you, like me, want to be an advocate for all women I would love to encourage you to adopt one practice; notice your opinions and ask yourself, ‘if I were able to enforce that, would I be enabling, or denying women the right of self-determination?’.
It’s not our duty or right to tell women how they should act and behave – we’re not here to police the sexy or demean the modest – feminism is about creating a world where every woman can be what and who she wants to be.
Don’t panic – it’s a process!
I heard someone say once that your first thought is what you’ve been conditioned to believe and what comes next is the real you. I found that powerful and hugely reassuring.
Pulling apart what we’ve been conditioned to believe is not easy and takes practice. Initially, you may struggle to unpick your biases – change is hard, and this is a process – but focus on what energy you want to bring.
This practice has made it abundantly clear to me, that many of my opinions on other women have been shaped by unhelpful and often, damaging or demeaning societal ideals of what women ‘should’ be.
None of them has ever benefited me personally, or the women around me, so why remain wedded to them?
Empowerment through support
Women supporting women is the one action I genuinely believe could cause a seismic shift in women’s rights and how we experience the world. We’re 50% of the population – imagine what we could achieve if only we stopped judging and did more supporting:
No more bitchy comments about the Mum who works full time and misses sports day – you go earn that money, Queen! No snide comments about the curvy woman in a bikini – you rock what you’ve got, beautiful! Stay at home Mum raising kids? Superwoman. Childfree? Treasure that freedom! All choices are valid, whether you’d make them or not.
Flipped around, how would your life improve if you could step out of your front door each day, knowing you have the backing of every other woman you meet? Think of the endless possibilities of what you could do, be, achieve and feel knowing your sisters have your back! It’s a beautiful dream and so within our grasp. We can make this happen.
So that’s my message for this International Women’s Day – I’m not a feminist because I want to tell women how to become worthy, I’m a feminist because I believe that women are worthy. You are worthy, and I am worthy.
We all deserve the right to self-determination. To live safe, fulfilling and happy lives – and those lives can be as unique, individual and beautiful as each of us are – that’s the magic of it.
That’s my #eachforequal.
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