Thursday, January 21, 2016

My Journey to Feminism

Not that long ago, I was one of those people who said that I wasn't feminist. I thought that feminists were crazy people who hated men and wanted them to crawl in a hole and die. At the same time, I thought that to be a proper feminist, or even a good woman, you had to like sports, be physically strong, and be able to impress all the boys with your wit and kick-ass moves. I remember in around grade seven, I think, being jealous of this girl in my class because she was an awesome soccer player and really liked sports. I thought, why couldn't I like sports better? Or be amazingly good at them? If I was awesome at sports, I thought, I could prove to the world that girls were worth something. I could prove that I was worth something.

“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Achide, We Should All Be Feminists
It turns out, I had no idea what feminism even was. Feminism isn't about hating men or adopting masculine traits in order to be accepted. It's about women being viewed and treated as equal with men, exactly the way they are. Of course, there's a lot more to it than that, but I'm still learning.

I'm not really sure how I came about to the realization of what feminism really was, but I think it was definitely from reading - articles, tweets, books, and things for my classes. I think one of the first articles that I read was about the idea of "strong female characters" in movies. It talked about how often a female character was labeled as "strong" (and therefore good and acceptable) if she could fight like a master, kick butt and be basically like one of the guys. 

The article (and many other articles, including posts like this interview with Melina Marchetta about heroines) have talked about how "strong female character" shouldn't mean actually physically strong, but incredibly complex and diverse, like, oh, a real human. Women should be represented just as diversely and interestingly as men, but so often in film and other media they are pushed to the background as props for men or for looks.

Learning that feminism meant that women could be themselves in all their flabby muscled glory was so freeing to me. Now I didn't have to like sports, I didn't have to be able to take out three bad guys at once while wearing a skin-hugging suit, and I could like girly stuff like dresses and high-heels without feeling bad about it. I could just be myself, and that's enough to be worthy as a girl; society is wrong in saying otherwise.

“Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Achide, We Should All Be Feminists
I used to think that certain things were just the way things are. Guys taunt girls for attention and dominance because that's the way things are. Guys get away with more than girls do, from their actions to how they dress because that's the way things are. There are more men in movies than women because that's just how things are. Women have to act and be a certain way that's expected of them because that's the way things are. Women think that they have to look a certain way because that's the way things are.Women have to be unhappy with their bodies because that's the way things are supposed to be.

The realization that these are actually problems with our society actually gives me hope, because then I know it doesn't have to be this way. Hopefully, we can work towards a better society where women are accepted just as they are, in all their diverseness, complexity, and variety, liking whatever they please and not being judged or abused for it. 

I'm still learning, and I would encourage you to learn along with me. A great introduction book to feminism is We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Achide. It's also a TED Talk which you can find here. Emma Watson's speech at the UN is also great, her ideas are articulated well and inspiring.

What are your favourite feminist books, fiction or non-fiction? Give me recs!!


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