By Lea Laura
Yes, I’m a feminist
I don’t remember at what point I realised that gender inequality existed. I know that it also took me a while to realise that it had been affecting myself. And it took me much longer – and I’m still in the process – to find the words and the voice to address this inequality wherever it meets me and my fellow women. Without actively thinking about it much, the term ‘feminist’ did not have a positive connotation for me when I was young. To me, it meant the kind of women that were annoying and making a fuss about nothing. In my eyes they were blaming their rejections and failures on someone else, they were unattractive and miserable and I would not have minded if ‘feminist’ was being used as an insult. Seeing other women as rivals or competitors, be it in professional or private life, was something portrayed as normal in many magazines, books and films I consumed back then. Now, apart from all the other negatives unequal and patriarchal society produces, turning women against each other is one of the things that annoy me the most. Now we know that patriarchy also has bad effects for men, but today is about all women (yes, trans women are women) and their shared struggle in this world. A strong sisterhood is vital in the fight for global gender equality and here are some thoughts on how we can build that.
We are louder together
If you can, speak up if you or someone around you is being discriminated or treated unfairly. Don’t be afraid to disagree or challenge people’s opinions and don’t hold back your own. These are things I tell myself but I know that breaking with the long history of silencing women is not easy. If you feel like you can’t speak up in a situation, don’t be harsh on yourself, see if you can find out why and maybe tell an understanding friend about it. Speaking about your experience in a space that you feel safe in can help to build up courage and confidence for the next situation where you might want to speak up or call someone out. As movements like #metoo, Time’s Up, and Everyday Sexism have taught us, many many women in this world share similar experiences of sexual harassment and assault and sexist discrimination. Speaking about it and making them visible makes us stronger and our voices combined are louder and more likely to be heard. So let’s speak up for each other.
Value each other and the strength you can give
As I have mentioned above, it was very normal for me to see other women as my competitors rather than my allies when I was younger. I know it’s not always easy to acknowledge other women’s achievements. Maybe you are working on something similar or you always wanted to but never got around to it. It seems to be our first impulse to compare ourselves to others and that can create a lot of negative feelings and self-criticism. But rather than being harsh on yourself it’s much more empowering to have a positive conversation about the success of another woman and to see it as an inspiration for your own plans. Your worth is not measured through your productivity. Plus, productivity can mean many different things. Maybe you’ve been a good friend to someone, or maybe you’ve done something you were always afraid of, or maybe you finally told a colleague of yours to stop interrupting when other people speak. Those are also productive things. (While we’re at it, your worth is also not measured in romantic or sexual attention, a myth that regulated parts of my life much longer than my teenage years lasted and that I have still internalised to an extent). Being allies means that we need to be supportive of each other and our achievements so that we can use the confidence and strength that arise from it together. While we do that, we should make sure we check our privileges. We may have structural advantages in society, like your race, your sexual orientation, your gender identity, or being able bodied. And we need to think about how you can use these privileges to support and stand up for others.
Invest in the future
Many groups have been excluded from the feminist narrative over time. Educating yourself so that you are aware of the variety of perspectives of different women is vital to an inclusive and intersectional feminism and for true equality. If you have children and young people around you, teach them what you find important about gender inequality and feminism. Not everyone learns about this from their parents or has friends around who they can discover it with together. Look for examples of positive representation and share them. Take them to demonstrations and protests, teach them how to be politically active and how to have their voice heard.
And lastly, look after yourself. To fight for your rights is exhausting and emotionally stressful and most of us have to earn a living too. In our turbulent, speedy world, self-care is definitely not easy to maintain. Yet it is important that you pay attention to and take time for your own needs so you can keep the fight going.
This is all probably nothing new to you lovely Girl Gangers, just a little reminder that we are strong together and that we should not give up to fight for our rights. Have an amazing International Women’s Day all ❤