Being a part of the feminist movement is full of surprises, both those that fill you with righteous pride and those that stab you in the gut, sweeping the air from your lungs. Perhaps one of the most surprising and infuriating things is that there are people who will flat-out argue that women don’t deserve the same rights as men. If you can get past that shocker, you can get past anything.
Regardless of what some may tell you, feminism is indeed needed. If it were to disappear, it would be very simple for women to lose the rights they fought for already. Now we need to keep fighting, not just for the laws on the books, but for cultural acceptance and respect. We start right here.
Stand With Others
The entire idea behind feminism is fighting for equality. That means equality for everyone, including those who are dealing with issues right in front of you. A very disappointing study found that white, college-aged women are less likely to help a victim of sexual assault if that woman is black.
All people, including women of color, can be victims. Think for a moment and make a decision to help, regardless of who is in need. Men, women and everyone who is or identifies as both or neither are victims. If someone is being abused in public, standing up for them can be as simple as walking up, introducing yourself and starting a conversation about the weather.
Stand up for Feminism
Feminism is often put down as only supporting women and trying to tear men down. That argument is the basis for about 99 percent of the arguments you’ll hear. Most people who have only encountered radical feminists online and never actually spoken to a woman about it think that all feminists hate men. It’s far from true, but that doesn’t stop the idea from being a major hurdle.
If you encounter such an argument, argue back. It’s actually the patriarchal society that prevents men from feeling comfortable expressing emotion, being more involved with their kids or pressing assault or rape charges. Black men that are seen as druggies and gang bangers are victims both of patriarchy and racism, while black women suffer even more from both. Stand up for feminism with statistics and anecdotes and educate as many people as you can.
Self-expression is beautiful in all forms. Some people paint, some wear fairy wings, some tattoo themselves. Still others get breast implants or liposuction. All these ways people express themselves can be special to them, even if it’s not what you would choose for yourself. It’s easy to dress according to standards, but it’s much harder to wear what you want. Wear a rainbow, glitter or a turtleneck in June. Wear and be whatever you want. You are not less of a person because of those choices.
Listen More Than You Speak
Everyone has a story. Even a child knows things you don’t, so your best bet is always, always to listen first. Your words are not always needed, and sometimes might actually hurt more than they help. Women are not the only people that suffer from oppression. Listen to others and learn from them. You can’t fight oppression if you don’t understand how you contribute to it.
Feminism Has Its Issues Too
That whole idea of listening and learning applies to the problems with feminism as well. Traditionally, feminism has been for white women, and that still permeates the culture today. Fighting it and making an effort to learn and be intersectional is not only vital to the movement, but to your heart.
Feminism has a broad goal of equality for all, but to achieve it, the movement needs to adjust the focus. Until the baseline narrative includes women of color, and the issues men deal with as a result, then the movement will be incomplete. That doesn’t mean we should stop trying, though. Our world needs women to have more power and respectability.
Feminism isn’t perfect, and neither is the world. However, the world would be worse off without feminism. Everyone learns something different from it, but everyone learns something. What have you learned from feminism?