The meaning of Feminism
Feminism can be defined by the Cambridge dictionary as the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men. Despite having a simple definition, many have questioned how this is interpreted, creating differing views. Some misogynists even go as far to call passionate feminists ‘Feminazis’, which has created a negative view and attempted to ‘demonise us’. However, in recent years, with powerful Feminist icons such as Emma Watson (UN feminist activist) and Tarana Burke (founder of the #MeToo movement), I am prouder than ever to call myself a Feminist.
That being said...
I recently spoke to a friend about having to keep quiet during uncomfortable anti-feminist conversations for the sake of keeping friends, looking out for my career and various other reasons. I realised that, although online and through my articles I can be a very expressionate Feminist, in real life scenarios I don’t always speak up for what I believe in. I have frozen during conversations about how “having children ruins your career”, rape jokes and worse. The guilty feeling afterwards consumes me, yet I continue to do so. I began to question if I was the only feminist to let things slide and am I a bad Feminist?
Why do Feminists keep quiet?
Whilst researching why many feminists stay silent, I came across a Forbes article by Julie Meyer and was fascinated by how similar our experiences have been. Meyer notes she has been surrounded by a male dominated workforce, scared of backlash, and feeling helpless. She explains that the root of the issue may be her own ‘#MeToo truth’, a truth I have also been avoiding. It is easy for me to tiptoe around a subject online, each sentence is curated carefully ensuring that I express exactly what I am thinking without having to explain exactly why I am passionate about a certain topic. The truth is that I am not ready to openly talk about my own experiences in detail, so an in-person conversation never truly conveys how I feel.
A journal entry from Nicole Merritt complains of not having strong enough opinions or knowledge to voice them in the correct way and prefers to leave this to women who can. It is true that I am not fully informed on all areas of Feminism and that there are gaps in my experiences. This in itself could be a valid reason for not fully participating, but I am not sure that this is the best way forwards. If everyone were to leave it to someone else to speak up, then there would be no one to do It.
I have often wondered if people from my past have ever bothered to read my articles and if the term ‘hypocrite’ would pop into their heads. This is because I haven’t always been a Feminist. In fact, the pre-university version of myself would have been branded a ‘pick-me girl’. These girls are known for internalised misogyny, often claiming that they get on better with men and not seeing feminism as necessary. It wasn’t until the women in my life started to face gender-based issues that I finally saw the need for Feminism and that women were not actually treated as equally as I initially thought. Yet the fear that people who knew me then will roll their eyes at the things I write prevails.
I have also always been a competitive person, and although my need to ‘outshine’ other women has faded, I know it isn’t completely gone. There is often a little voice in my head that makes me compete a little harder against other women, whether it be in sports, study, or my soon-to-be career in law. I’m not saying that healthy competition is bad, and this certainly isn’t a part of me I want to completely get rid of, but the argument in my head over why I do this can be very exhausting. Mikaela Kiner comments that this kind of rivalry stems from a societal view that there is only “one seat at the table” for women. As a person who would sell their soul for a Training Contract, she may have a point.
There are many studies citing that Women strive to be perfectionists sometimes even to their own detriment. Dawood claims it is due to a combination of media and societal pressure that causes women to think this way. It could therefore be that I am being too harsh on myself, perhaps striving for perfection even in Feminism. It is true that after certain conversations I think through all the ways I could have spoken up or changed the tone of the conversation to be more gender inclusive. I have often spent time thinking I am a bad Feminist and wanting to improve this. Delgado writes about the negative effects of self-criticism and perfectionist has on women, stating that girls as young as 10 find the need to be perfect. I wonder if as many men have ever questioned whether they are good feminists.
Am I a bad Feminist? Well that depends on who is asking and what they define as Feminism. In the traditional definition I am a good Feminist, who believes in equal rights. Am I the loudest boldest Feminist to have ever graced the planet, who follows every unsaid rule like a rulebook? No. However, I think the important thing to note here is that I am trying, and I have come leaps and bounds from my days of sucking up to men for attention. Although my articles tend to stay on the safe side of the type of Feminism that affects me, moving forwards I think it is important to put myself outside of my comfort zone and write about feminist issues that don’t. I have also noted that I don’t speak up enough and I will be attempting to change this. However, through writing my articles I have now had many conversations with male friends regarding issues I wouldn’t have had before. I even noticed my younger brother had followed our Instagram page (hi Matthew), so I think it is safe to say I have made some impact, be it small.
In the words my therapist once told me “A bad person wouldn’t care about being a bad person” and I think the same can be applied to Feminists.
Written by Amy Shafto