Whether it’s my bestie or Beyonce, I get really sad when I hear a woman say she isn’t a feminist. Like, really sad. Not because I think she’s probably sitting at home doing her husband’s ironing and foregoing all her girlhood dreams, but because I think it shows just how misunderstood the big, bad ‘F’ Word is in 2014. And I’m sick of it being shamed.
I’m a feminist. And I’m neither ashamed nor afraid to say so. And I think so many women (and men) actually are feminists at the heart of it but they are either unaware or ashamed to say so because they think being a feminist comes with a whole score of seemingly unattractive traits. And that’s sad to me. Sad that women feel their attractiveness trumps their own social freedom. Sad that men feel their masculinity is undermined by supporting women towards that goal.
And so I would like to clarify a few things. There is no singular feminist manifesto written by some mythical bra burner – feminism means different things to different people – but here are a few things that being a feminist definitely DOESN’T mean:
Being a feminist doesn’t mean I don’t shave my legs.
I don’t shave my legs because I’m lazy and the hair on my legs is blonde and I genuinely don’t give a rats.
Being a feminist doesn’t mean I don’t wear lipstick.
Right now I’m wearing Nars Heat Wave paired elegantly with trackies.
Being a feminist doesn’t mean I don’t like bras.
Because, dude, I’m breastfeeding right now and OMG just… no.
Being a feminist doesn’t mean I hate men.
I quite like most of the ones I know personally, and really admire many I don’t know personally – particularly this guy and this guy.
Being a feminist doesn’t mean I think all men are out to get me.
That would just be weird and paranoid.
Being a feminist doesn’t mean that I don’t think men have their own battles to fight.
They do. And I will fight gladly alongside them because it’s all the one battle, really.
Being a feminist doesn’t mean I’m a lesbian*.
In the words of Jerry Seinfeld “not that there’s anything wrong with that”.
Being a feminist means I believe in gender equality. And I believe that right now, in 2014, gender inequality still exists to the detriment of women, particularly in the workforce. I know this because I am a woman who once worked a job that demanded so much of me that becoming a mother rendered me useless to that profession. I had no choice but to forge my own path and it occurred to me, about 18 months ago, that my own path better work out because if it didn’t then I would have been screwed. A great many women are faced with that same dilemma, and very few men are. It is one of the most difficult and diverse challenges to gender equality because it requires nothing short of a complete overhaul to workplace policy and domestic culture.
Being a feminist means I believe that we need to consciously move away from the objectification of women. And we need to empower our daughters to know that they have absolute ownership over the body they inhabit; whatever it looks like, and however they choose to clothe it.
Being a feminist means that I believe we need to stand up and speak out when little acts of sexism and misogyny occur. You might say that Tony Abbott’s wink was harmless. You might say that the Nova FM prank on Samantha Armytage was all in fun. You might say that these little acts, perpetrated by men who are not necessarily bad men (insert hilarious comment about our dear Minister for Women here), are not the same as overt acts of sexism such as rape and domestic violence, but these small and seemingly inconsequential acts of sexism creates a culture that enables and normalises misogyny. And we must be brave enough to challenge the little acts, even amongst our friends, without fear of being labelled precious or aggressive. From little things big things grow so I’ve drawn a big fat line in the sand and I’ll be standing my ground.
Being a feminist means I am committed to being part of the solution to an equal society. I refuse to sit on my hands and say ‘that’s just how it is’; how it is now is not how it was 20 years ago, and it is not how it will be in 20 years time. I will be part of the momentum that propels this inevitable change, not the dead weight holding it back.
I am part of the solution by sending positive messages to my daughter and leading by example:
I do what I love with my life so that my daughter may grow up feeling that it is her right to do what she loves with her life, whatever that may be. I never underestimate my privilege in being able to do this.
I cherish my body so that my daughter will learn to cherish her own.
I stand up to sexism so that she will stand up for herself and others.
Being a feminist needn’t be such a provocative thing to be. In fact, I think that raising two future feminists is probably the most radical and honourable thing I can do.
* this is a reference to an episode of Geordie Shore where two of the girls debated whether they were feminists and came to the conclusion that they weren’t because you had to be a lesbian to be a feminist. *slaps forehead*