First I’d like to start off on a personal note with an apology. You can choose to skip this part and go straight onto the juicy stuff or you can get your hankies out and have a little cry with me.
Since I have started this new abrasive blog revamp, I have been admittedly shy about posting the type of topics I had previously promised. It took me to a serious pep talk to post the last one, and this time, I just couldn’t find the confidence. I’ve had many topics in my head, some I’ve even discussed with friends, but in the end, I’ve always opted out of sharing my thoughts out of fear of being too controversial. Fear of losing friends/ over-shocking people who think they know me. That was until I realised I was in danger of becoming the one thing I hate most: a hypocrite. As my opinions and views have developed and changed, I have seen them separate from that of some of my old friends. Though they have graciously stuck with me through the years, it does mean I may have deliberately kept certain sides of me from them or kept silent on my true opinions. I said I was doing this out of respect for their views, but I was more doing it out of fear that they would judge me. Fear of what others think is such a drawback and it not only makes you feel restricted, it paints a false or incomplete picture of yourself to those you call your friends. So please bear with me as I struggle through my thoughts and hold an unsteady mic to my shaky yet persistent voice. I may falter, I may stutter, I may even change my mind, but I will continue to speak. Thank you for reading and I apologise for the wait.
“Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes” – Maggie Kuhn
Those who have been kindly keeping up to date with my blog posts may remember a sort of ‘beginner’s feminism’ post I wrote a while ago, inspired by the TED talk speech by Chimamanda Adichie, a snippet of which is now in Beyonce’s song ‘Flawless’. This post, however, is not to further establish myself as a feminist, neither is it to convince anyone to be one. It is simply a rebuttal for some of the criticisms and arguments I’ve heard from those that seem to believe that not all feminists are equal.
Early feminism, or first-wave feminism as some called it, started in the early 20th century and fought mainly for the political rights of all women; for women to have the right to vote and run for electoral office. These were the women who chained themselves to railings, set fire to public property and who sacrificed their comfort, and sometimes even their lives to get women the right to vote. To these women, we owe a great deal. Second-wave feminism came about in the early 1960s and fought for not just political but social and cultural equality as well, including amendments to laws on marital rape and the reproductive rights of women*.
These women were revolutionaries who lobbied parliament and faced jail time for rights that most of us take for granted today.And now, in the modern-thinking, open-minded 21st century, we still see women (and men) fighting for gender equality and justice. Except now, its taken on a different face. Now, instead of protests and riots, we have music and speeches. We have media icons fighting for feminism as well as the millions of people who are active on Twitter, Facebook and other similar websites; the ‘social media activists’. Whether its the brilliant Ms Chimamanda Adichie giving a speech on why we should all be feminists; Lil Kim rapping about the right to be given the same pass as men in sexual politics or even Beyonce singing about being recognised as the boss lady she is instead of being seen as Jay-Z’s ‘little wife’; women everywhere are starting to see that though we have come a long way, we still have a way to go.
However, I didn’t write this post to talk about our roles in the fight for feminism, but rather because I have noticed a recent backlash in the media, with many people placing others under high scrutiny as to whether they are really a feminist. Whether fighting to have the right to be a sex worker or singing for the right to be recognised for your success or even dressing provocatively really grants you permission to call yourself a feminist. Just a few years ago, feminism was seen as almost a taboo word, reserved for blazer-wearing, short-haired lesbians who loved to emasculate men and burn bras. But now, like this blog, it has gone through a revamp and many people are starting to see it as what it was originally intended to be: the fight for every woman to be treated as equally and as fairly as their male counterparts. And that fight comes in many different forms and with many different faces.
So going back to Ms Adichie’s definition, which is that feminism is ‘defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women‘. And in this struggle, it is important to realise that we may all be fighting for different reasons. Maybe its for equal pay at your investment banking firm; equal admiration for your achievements and success in life or even the right to wear whatever you want or sleep with whoever you want without being judged any more harshly than a man would for the same actions. And though you may not agree with another woman’s lifestyle or choices, let’s remember that that is not what feminism is about. It is not about judging what a woman should or shouldn’t be, but about making sure they have the freedom to make the choice.
*Those who have done sociology and other such subjects will have to pardon me for any incomplete/incorrect statements. Information was gathered from a brief ‘Wikipedia’ search.