Being raised by a woman that is the epitome of capability and strength should have given me an early taste for feminism. However my foundation of faith was more dominant and growing up in church meant traditional gender roles were clarified early on. I liked Barbie and all things girly, and was told that it was a ‘tragedy’ if a girl wasn’t taught how to be a girl from a young age; God made us this way and we need to own our femininity with pride.
And if I’m painfully honest, there was a big ‘damsel in distress’ part of me that wanted to be rescued. It’s what Disney taught us and let’s be honest… Romantic.
Needless to say, Feminism slipped far under the radar of my child-turned-adult consciousness. It went in the same camp as the tree-huggers and all I knew is that it most probably involved daringly hairy legs, which ruled out my interest. It was unfeminine to stand up and fight, after all no one likes a forward-thinking, opinionated loudmouth, do they? Females should be ladylike and making a fuss about anything, let alone women’s rights, is certainly not that.
And yet, having never been of meek and mild disposition, I never felt ‘feminine’ enough as a woman. Despite not fitting the mold and feeling uncomfortable under the weight of society’s expectation of women, I certainly didn’t contest them, and in not doing so, I inadvertently accepted them.
However, when I really think about it now, sexism matters have always made me angry…
Like rape, and the fact that plenty of people think that women invite unwanted attention in their clothing or behaviour; reading news reports about child brides and honour killings; that there are more sex slaves now then there ever have been in history; knowing that a male acquaintance gets paid £11,000 more than his female counterpart per year.
In many parts of the world, women are considered second-rate citizens. They aren’t considered worthy of education or the vote. They are merely valued for their abilities in homemaking and childbearing. It makes me feel sick.
These are things that, when I really think about it, ignite outrage within me. And that’s just the problem – some of us aren’t thinking, or feeling, enough about it because it’s just the “way things are”. We turn a blind eye; I’m the guiltiest of them all.
Until, upon finally being ‘rescued’ by my knight in shining armour, I realised that I didn’t need to be saved. For someone to be rescued it suggests they are in a situation of desperation and despair. I had assumed a lacking and weak position when in fact I was a strong and capable woman, and I was selling myself short by expecting a man to lead me – a man as every bit as human as I.
Screw the romance, that’s a tragedy.
I don’t want to be led; I want and deserve to be considered equal – as someone with a strong mind, voice and heart that can contribute to the world, and to be a partner in crime instead of a damsel in distress. It’s said that in relationships, ‘men need respect and women need love’. I’ve always been a sucker for a well-quipped phrase, but is this really true? Last time I checked, I needed love AND respect, thank you very much. And to think that a man needs a woman to admire him, respect him and even (sometimes) submit to him, more then he needs to be loved?
If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that our need for love is inherent within us from the moment we are born, men and women alike.
I love it when a man pays for my dinner, but I’ll make sure to pay the next time. When he opens the door for me or carries my heavy bags for me, I’m appreciative. Can I appreciate chivalry and be a feminist? Yes, because it’s not about being anti-man, it’s about being pro-woman.
I once read that every woman is a feminist because of course we all care about equal pay and equal rights, but I certainly didn’t for a long time. I put it in the ‘too hard, don’t understand’ box. Until I read, listened and challenged the status quo in which I had believed for so long. That’s when my eyes were opened. Women feed the misogyny in society just as much as men do by accepting our positions, and not challenging them and asking difficult questions. I’m not automatically a feminist because I’m a woman, I’m a feminist because I’m choosing to care and speak up about equality.
Yes we are different but that doesn’t mean unequal. It absolutely doesn’t mean that men don’t have feelings and women don’t have brains. We can all have both and treat each other fairly – as human beings. That’s what it’s about, not gender.
Hell yes I’m a feminist, and I’m raising the roof about it.