“Well behaved women, rarely make history.”
Man-hating. Hairy legs. Career oriented. Unattractive. And ready to take over the world. Unfortunately these stereotypes have taken over the image of feminism by a majority of the current generation of young men and women today. The negative image this word invokes had lead most females in Generation Y to deny the fact that they are indeed feminists, including myself up until recently. Now let’s look at what the dictionary has to say about the word:
“The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”
And as Urban Dictionary puts it:
“Someone who believes the radical notion that women are people. If you believe that women and men should have equal rights, you are a feminist. There’s nothing “extreme” about it.”
(And if you don’t, you seriously need to reconsider your beliefs.)
“Feminists are not Nazis, or women who can’t get laid. The very existence of these views is proof that feminism still has a lot of work to do. Some feminists shave, and some don’t. Some are “fashionable”, some aren’t. Just like any other group of people.”
(Right, so not all feminists are the same, just as not all blacks, Jews, or Australians are the same. The problem, like with religious groups, is that the extremists tend to be overheard and manage to create a bad image for the rest of the group.)
So what is a feminist? Someone, male or female, who believes in equal rights. It is someone who believes that a women can go to college, have a career, or be a stay at home mom. A feminist is not necessarily someone who is going to dedicate their life to women’s rights, and a feminist certainly does not have to stand on the street corner holding a sign demanding equal pay. A feminist does not have to put her career before family, nor does she have to think women are better than men. A feminist is, quite simply, someone who realizes that women are indeed human beings just like their male counterparts.
I never considered myself a feminist until I cycled through India. I grew up in a family that never once questioned equality, and in a community that believes that women have the right to chose their own path in the same was as men. Of course I could play sports, get whichever degree I desired, and go out on my own. Why wouldn’t I be able to? Equality was a given for me. And in a way, that means (at least in my small corner of the world) the feminist movements of the past have succeeded. There is a new generation of girls out there who won’t ever think twice about gender dictating their lives.
Cycling through India led me down a path which made me question my own beliefs about equality and what it means to be a women. It was not just the rape, violence, and maltreatment of women that struck me, it was the absolute and utter shock every man and women showed upon finding out that I was alone. “Where is your father? Your husband? You are a girl, you can not possibly be alone. Where is your man.” Most of the people I encountered were unable to process the fact that yes, I was indeed alone, and their utter disbelief led me to discover the depth of independence and freedom I take for granted on a daily basis.
Women in many parts of the world truthfully believe they are inferior. They are raised as their father’s property until they are married off, at which time ownership is handed over to their husband. These women grow up believing they will live their life doing whatever the male-centric society around them dictates, and many of these males in turn abuse their unrelenting power. This is the concept feminism is trying to fight against. The idea that women are somehow born inferior just because they are female. Women and men are born equal, so why, after birth, does this perception so often change?
Us women are free to enjoy the same freedoms, opportunities, and life as men. India has empowered me to fight for the feminist movement, the idea that women deserve equal rights, by simply living my life however I see fit without regard to gender (for me this was a given anyways, India has just made me aware of it). I don’t plan on joining an organization or chanting “I hate men” on the street, I believe the most powerful change I can bring is to be an example of a women who knows I deserve the same treatment and respect as a man in every regard.
So yes, I am a feminist. A leg shaving man-loving feminist who wants to show the world just what us girls deserve.
Amen and well said, Shirin (how many times have I used these words raising my own kids 🙂 You summarized nicely (sadly) the enormous progress most/many areas of the world must still make. Slowly both men and women recognize that when men and women create caring and respecting relationships seeing equality across genders at all levels of life, from home to community to country, then true civilised society is realized. Evolution is sadly slow, but thankfully, relentlessly steady. We who recognize the truth in what you wrote must be that relentless force driving us forward. It is worth it.
This was very thought provoking. I, too, have taken my freedoms for granted. There is plenty of mistreatment of women, all across the world, and even here, in the United States. The best way to express feminism is to not listen to the stereotypes and projections our culture places on us. If you want to shave your legs, shave them, and if you don’t, don’t. We shouldn’t be obligated either way, whether we’re taking a stand or not. We should exercise our freedom by genuinely following our own desires and being the people we are. That will give hope to other countries who are behind us in this fight.
Hi Shirine: Your essay certainly demonstrates the premise that travel can be an education in itself. You are becoming a proficient journalist on far ranging topics. I am confident that your presence is making profound impacts upon the individuals you are meeting along the way, even to those who are hostile or with whom you cannot communicate easily. I pray for your continued freedom to thrive and protection from danger. Best, fdr PS: WPSP opened for first day on Friday 01/17/14. Snow depth at lodge was 9″ on Saturday. We made the best of it and had great fun in any case.
Thank you frank!
And ski a run for me, I miss Willamette and it’s patrol!
I had exactly the same experience traveling alone in Turkey. People were astonished that I traveled alone, and on one occasion a man even tried to take advantage of me because I was unsupervised by a husband. This was AFTER he’d told me all about his wife and family. What gall eh? It is kind of frightening sometimes, how women are bullied and brutalized, but change requires that men become feminists, otherwise we are just blowing smoke into the darkness. Cultures change slowly, but they do change, and for the better, we hope.
Excellently put. I too cycled through India and discovered my inner feminist… And I’m a guy! Sadly, few people realise that empowering women and enabling equality of opportunities are the core tenets of modern feminism. Too much emphasis is put on ill-judged stereotypes, even by women themselves.
I admire your approach; there is no better example of independence than a woman on two-wheels. Remember that you are making a difference by merely being noticed. Men who see you will question their assumptions, whilst women will reevaluate their ambitions.
Anyway, good luck on the road!
P.S. Were you also baffled by the success of Indian women in certain areas (e.g. politics), despite their inferior status?
Yes! Guy feminists are the best. And yes, I am always amazed at that as well, I have no idea how they obtain their success.