I've personally never considered myself a feminist however, I have recently been labeled as one by men who's opinions, although I'm a little skeptical of them, I do respect.
When I think of a feminist I always think of a woman who doesn't want doors opened for her, who has 'Girl Power!' and 'Ms Independent' tattooed to her forehead and who forcibly suppresses her physiological 'womaness' just so she can compete with men. I am definitely not that woman but since more than one person has said the same thing I thought I should look into it.
"Feminist - A person who advocates the social, political, legal and economic rights of women equal to those of men." Dictionary.com
Based on this definition I am not a feminist. Other than the fact that I do not advocate any of the above, I was raised in the traditional "a man is the head of the household" way and I have had no issues with it; I have always seen the dynamic work with mutual respect from both spouses, never have I witnessed the wife being treated as 'less than' for being a woman. I have also always seen it as a dynamic of choice and not one that was forcibly imposed (joys of being raised in the western world). Truth be told, I've enjoyed having the men in my life carry the heavy bags and sort out all things technical, from TVs to computers!
All that changed when I worked in the Middle East. I have always known that Arab traditions didn't allow women a lot of freedom but to be treated as substandard due to my gender (and in my case, my colour too) was a huge culture shock!
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer and feminist featured in Beyoncé's track 'Flawless', gave a very insightful speech at the 2012 TEDx talk.
The experiences she described were very familiar as I had experienced them myself while in the Middle East but still, I feel uneasy characterizing myself as a feminist. It's ludicrous that a male and female carrying out the same job role are paid differently and that a person be treated as a ghost just because they happen to be female but, calling myself a feminist somehow makes me feel as though gender equality is where my passion lies. In reality what I'm passionate about is freedom and equality, not just between sexes but between races, cultures and religions.
I believe in freedom. The freedom to do as one pleases without the fear of judgment or condemnation. In many parts of the world there are women who are unable to do as they please simply because they are female. In Saudi Arabia it is illegal for women to drive and more recently in Nigeria girls were robbed of their right to an education by those who feel females shouldn't go to school (#BringBackOurGirls campaign is still ongoing).
The level of freedom I believe in means that if a woman wants to be treated as 'less than' by her husband, who am I to tell her that it's injustice? Why should a successful or opinionated woman automatically translate into a woman who isn't fit for companionship instead of a woman who simply has drive, is hard working and challenges ideas? Why should I assume a female stripper is being used by men, why not consider the possibility that maybe she just decided she wanted to be the object of male admiration? Freedom is about being able to live your life by your rules and yes, those rules may offend others.
Chimamanda's speech has definitely highlighted things that need to change in our society, especially in the way we raise our boys, but for me it's more about mutual respect and acceptance of others than gender inequality. If we accept that everyone is free to make their own life choices and that it is not our place to impose our personal beliefs on others, equality between genders will surely be a result of that. We should all be fighting for everyone to have the same rights simply because they are human beings and all types of discrimination should be eradicated.
The jury is still out on whether I can officially wear the badge of feminism without feeling like a hypocrite but unlike others, I don't see it as a negative term. If feminism will give all women around the world the freedom of choice that I take for granted daily then it is definitely a positive movement.
First Published: Aug 3, 2014