No one who knows my story would call me lucky, but when it comes to friends, I struck gold. One of the things I love most about my friends is how easy it is for us to discuss hard-hitting topics. We rarely message each other to exchange pleasantries. Instead, we jump right into peaceful debates about everything from socio-political issues to new tech.
Recently, during one of these discussions, a friend of mine shared that she disliked identifying as a feminist. Her reason was sound. She said people have so many misconceptions about what feminism means that she never knows what she’s agreeing to in their heads, when she says, “Yes; I am a feminist.”
I replied that I don’t quite care what people think feminism means when I say it. My line of thought was that if feminists shy away from using the term out of fear about being associated with the radicals, the only persons left as spokespersons for feminism are those radicals.
I can understand the desire to dissociate from terms that may lead to conflict or paint an inaccurate picture of who you are. But, if you have followed my blog for some time, you know I do not shy away from controversy. So, what does feminism mean?
…feminism is both an intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms. Motivated by the quest for social justice, feminist inquiry provides a wide range of perspectives on social, cultural, economic, and political phenomena. Yet despite many overall shared commitments, there are numerous differences among feminist philosophers.
So, now that we know the academic meaning, what does feminism mean to me?
I Believe Feminism Is Choice
As a feminist, I do not advocate for specific outcomes. I advocate for women to have the right to determine their own preferences and live by them. For instance, I can cook, clean, wash and perform most of the other duties expected of women, but I am no homemaker. I have no intention of having children and a man has never paid my bills.
Do I think all women should live like this? No, I don’t. If a woman wants to be a stay-at-home wife and give birth to a football team, that’s her choice. Unfortunately, traditional homemakers are often at the head of the line to sacrifice the rest of us for being untamed hell-cats.
I Value Self-Governance
Since the beginning of modern civilisation, men have reserved an overwhelming amount of power for themselves. Modern society is primarily orchestrated by men, for men. One area penis-swingers seem to take particular interest in legislating is women’s bodies. In fact, men grant themselves more rights to our bodies than they grant to us — the actual owners of those bodies.
I resent this. The only persons who should have any say in what happens to my body are myself and a medical doctor. Men should not have the privilege to determine when my consent or revocation of the same is valid, whether I should give birth to a child of rape, or whether I can take birth control.
I Recognise Different Brands of Strong Women
There are many stereotypes about what it means to be a strong woman, especially within the Black community. Strong women are independent, keep their emotions in check, pay their own bills, and have laser-focus on their goals. But, is that really true? I don’t think it always is. I believe strength shows itself in many forms.
I tried to illustrate this when I wrote The Moreau Witches. In the book, all the women show strengths in various ways: from the head-strong grandmother … to her soft-hearted daughter … to her career-minded granddaughter. They all had a shared burden to bear and played their individual roles in their own ways. Everyday life is exactly the same. That said, some women definitely drop the ball.
I Do Not Equate Modern-Day Sexual Liberation With Feminism
Over the years, many young women have come to associate feminism with a glass of wine, bras in the air, and legs spread. I certainly don’t mean to imply that women don’t enjoy sex or that it is something that happens to women, instead of something they participate in. But, no ideology can shake the biological fact that — generally speaking — men have more to gain and women have more at risk with every sexual interaction.
In my opinion, true sexual liberation for women is more about unlearning the way society treats women like cars and men like fine wine. What do I mean by this? As men age, women find them more attractive because they are more mature, established, and experienced. Meanwhile, as women age, society begins to consider her mileage and how many drivers may have been behind the wheel. It then depreciates her value, accordingly.
Feminism is not a religion or institution with oaths for swearing each person in. It’s an ideology and a movement. Consequently, it is only natural for it to mean something different to the many people who embrace — or hate — it, based on other beliefs they hold and their own personal experiences.
What about you? What does feminism mean to you? If you consider yourself a feminist, have you ever refrained from describing yourself as one out of fear for how others might interpret it? Why or why not? Share your answers in the comments, below!