*DISCLAIMER*: Okay, it’s not much of a disclaimer or a warning. Just to say that, this post was inspired by the video below. We didn’t fully agree with their answers, so we decided to do a post of our own…because, we’ve dropped the word “feminism” in our convo, more than once, for one reason or another. Enjoy our commentary, and feel free to leave your own comments. Thanks!
I’ve gotten some flack about this over the years. A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle. It’s a yellow poster, on the wall, directly on top of my workspace.It’s to remind boys not to mess with me. Just kidding.
In fact, I don’t fully subscribe to the saying. For me, it says, “A fish has a bicycle? Cool! A fish is sans bicycle and likes it? Cool too!” If that’s too abstract for you, I’m basically saying that singlehood (singledom?) is no better, or no worse than couplehood (or coupledom?) However, some of my friends and acquaintances read much into the poster. I’ve been called everything from “men hater” to “Feminist” (for some reason, meant as an insult). Yes, the F-word. Many (especially guys….and yeah…African guys) say it like it’s a disease. What do you mean you don’t agree that women should stay home and raise the children? Some would even say jokingly, “You’re a feminist? Great! Now, get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich!” She’s a feminist! Oh no, don’t mess with her. She’s…you know…. Protect your privates…if you know what I mean…
So, we start off our “Thoughts on” segment with…the F-word. What does Feminism mean to you? Do you consider yourself one? Why?
Credit: NC State Community Wikis
For me, Feminism is about women’s rights, women’s empowerment and the realization that, compared to men, women are vulnerable, in many aspects. From ever since I could remember, the women in my (direct and extended) family have made sure that I got the message: “Life as a woman in this world is hard….Better get used to it”. The more I read, the more I see, the more I hear, the more I realize that they weren’t exaggerating. Feminism is standing up for women, and being able and willing to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly.
Do I consider myself a feminist? You’ve probably figured out the answer to that one. Yes, I would consider myself a feminist. No, I’m not going on any campaign to eradicate men. And no, I don’t think women are more valuable than men. I’m just blatantly aware of that most of the world holds the exact opposite view. I’m a feminist because Injustice angers me, because I say “why get used to it if you can change it?
Credit: A blog of our own
Sometimes this discussion seems like a big misunderstanding to me– a game of semantics and unnecessary assumptions. Does it really matter if I’m called a “feminist” or not as long as I care about women’s rights? As long as I make it known that we must acknowledge and change the disproportionate burdens and unequal opportunities for women worldwide? What about women’s rights activist–is that a less loaded or threatening term? How can we portray the image of a feminist who’s NOT radical (bra-burning), NOT only white (a “feminist” like me, or like Mak) and NOT “man-hating”? Or is the contention actually over caring too much about women’s issues?
You might think I’m kidding about the bra-burning bit but there was this one time I was describing my FGSS (Feminist, Gender & Sexuality studies, as the department is called here) class to someone (yes, a gentleman) … and he jokingly started teasing me about the bra-burning, white feminists of the 60s. I have no doubt this same person would agree with me on the importance of a number of related topics- overwhelming maternal mortality stats in the developing world, unequal pay and workplace treatment for example- and the need to do something about them.
I remember another instance with a young man during my summer in Tanzania who also jokingly asked me if I was one of those “American feminists”. Funny enough, with the way I usually use the word feminist, I would have labeled him as one. He’s a fifth year medical student whose spent hours delivering babies as volunteer work, aspires to become an OB/GYN and stay in his country to fight the serious issue of maternal mortality. Although we held many similar views about the role of gender in our respective African communities and especially in our interests in global health/medicine, our perceptions about this trigger-like word were very different. His sentiments echoed those I’d heard before in the African community, most likely from both men & women.
Maybe my use of the word is incorrect. Maybe “feminist” should be reserved for those more political than myself or the medical student I mentioned above…I’m sure this has to do with why so many women shy away from claiming the word, thinking it’s part of a larger, more politicized movement with an agenda that doesn’t really serve them. Though we all probably really can’t say till we read enough bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Alice Walker or many more scholars…
At the end of the day, I don’t care as much about labels–it’s more about defining the issues & working for change.