To celebrate International Women’s Day I wanted to share what feminism is to me and how I finally identified myself as a feminist.
For a long time if I thought about feminism I would picture an angry man hating woman who had tried to defeminise herself and rebelled against all female stereotypes, an image I think had been largely constructed in my youth during the 90’s by the media and comments I heard made by my mothers generation. As a young woman who loved to wear dresses, loved men being gentlemen and liked to be taken care of, how could I be a feminist?
At the same time I had a burning belief in my core that women are equal to men, we are as clever, as strong and as ambitious and we can achieve just as much. I was appalled by the plight of women across the world and the use of sexual violence as a means of control and within conflict but as a young teenager I didn’t know what these beliefs meant.
In my late teens and early twenties I became aware of the double standards we accept as part of daily life, if a woman explores her sexuality she is viewed as a ‘slag’ or ‘easy’ if a man does the same thing he is congratulated. I saw first-hand how women tear one another down, compete over men and status and belittle one another. I felt for myself how a media construct of beauty and the ideal woman can make us insecure and how this can feed the competition women have created between one another. As I grew as a person so did my understanding of inequality.
The image in my head of what a feminist was painted a picture of an activist something I certainly was not, and so I still did not see how I could be a feminist as though to ‘qualify’ I needed to protest and join campaign groups. I now realise that this isn’t the case, every individual voice contributes to a choir for change and every word spoken in support of women’s rights is in itself a personal act of activism.
It was only in my late twenties as a new generation of strong women who called themselves feminists began to emerge and celebrities like Beyoncé and Angelina Jolie discussed women’s rights on the centre stage that I finally had an image of a feminist I could identify with.
To me being a feminist is not about hating men or not needing them. It’s not about wanting to be better than men or belittling them. It isn’t about being angry or wanting ‘justice’ for past inequalities and it’s not about becoming more masculine or treating life like a competition between the sexes.
My belief is that feminism is about supporting other women, praising them for their achievements and encouraging them to succeed, celebrating their beauty and strength and respecting their decision. It’s about believing women are equal to men and not accepting gender stereotypes or double standards but equally respecting men. It’s about embracing who you are and being accepting of other people and the differences that make us unique. It’s about viewing one another as human beings and not labels and wanting equality regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. Finally to me it’s about trying my best to raise my children to be accepting, liberal, open minded people who will help shape a better world. Being a feminist is about having an open heart and mind, caring for one another and wanting to create a world where all human beings are viewed as equal, surely that can only be a good thing.
It is now as a thirty year old mum of three that I understand what being a feminist means and I am proud to say I am a feminist, someone who believes in equality, acceptance and respect. I am sure these are beliefs many of us share and so perhaps together we can re shape the image that will be created in our children’s minds when they hear the word feminist as young men and women and in a small way shape the future they will grow up in.