“I believe feminism is grounded in supporting the choices of women even if we wouldn’t make certain choices for ourselves.” ― Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist: Essays
I’m not here to talk about feminism or gender equality, but to talk about its ideals and how its ideals can be for everyone… right?
Incorporating specific aspects of feminist ideals including equality, choice and independence has meant the little things that I used to ignore or once consider normal, I notice as being down to the patriarchal attitudes that society functions around.
My perception of the world… as I am, has completely changed and I believe that I have a better understanding of society, how it functions, what’s around me and I’m able to use the better understanding that I have to my advantage.
It can be hard… choosing whether to ignore that micro-aggression, that “racist” comment or that homophobic one as “banter” when you’re joking with friends and family. Choosing not to listen to a song you love because you’ve realised it’s a bit rape, or not wanting to watch a movie because it’s problematic. Being the only one in your circle of friends who thinks about this… Once I began unlearning the internalised racism and misogyny that was thrown at me as a child and teen, it opened my eyes and liberated me completely.
I think it’s fair to say in the past 1-2 years we’ve seen a rise in what I call “social media activism”. The increase of bloggers, social media and technology pushing the “Feminist agenda” at others, while we see a rise in “celebrity feminism”: Beyonce, Emma Watson, Amber Rose, Nicki Minaj and Zendaya have almost made the label “cool”. But at the same time criticisms of it being unnecessary, radical and not respective of real issues began.
Everyone loves to give off the very lazy definition of feminism as “equality of the sexes economically, politically and socially” or “women and men being equal”. I think that’s an outdated version. Men and women, at least in the western world in many areas are equal and statistically many men are actually fall victim to institutional sexism.
But that isn’t entirely what feminism is about. It’s about choice.
Most importantly, it’s about critiquing the social constructions of gender which limit both genders in acting and behaving certain ways. And it’s called “feminism,” because historically women have been the oppressed and are still at a disadvantage to men. When we understand it like this, it takes into account the institutional sexism men face (suicide rates, paternal rights, domestic violence and rape against men) because of the social constructions of “masculinity”. Feminism seeks to dismantle the harmful structures of gender which not only affects women, but men too.
“Feminist thinking teaches us all, especially, how to love justice and freedom in ways that foster and affirm life.” – bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics
The most important thing I learnt from feminist ideals is:
Understanding that I internalised racism and misogyny and projected it in my everyday language and actions unconsciously. It changed my politics and how I view things “socially”.
Owning and taking back my sexuality, beauty, and body as something that I own, is for me and not the gaze of others. I’ve learnt to defy patriarchal standards and claim it as my own and not something that is for or should be under the scrutiny or discretion of men.
But most importantly, I feel liberated not only as person, not only as a woman, but as a black woman. I’m starting to feel like the phenomenal woman that Maya Angelou talks of and I believe I am much more content and happy with my femininity than I have ever been.
P.S. I’ve turned into a nicer person, focusing more attention on myself than other people. I’ve understood that the decision women make is their decision to make and it’s never my position to judge or comment on the life choices of others.
You know when you can finally say… yeah I love me and I love myself? I think I’m at that stage.