*Trigger warning: topics pertain to sensitive content of sexual violence
There seems to be a new trend for gatekeeping feminism and bashing anyone who has not done extensive academic research before calling themselves a feminist. This makes it inaccessible for many and defeats the purpose of inclusivity within feminism. It is a continual learning process and there should be room for growth, learning and unlearning.
To be honest, a lot of the knowledge I gained when I started taking an interest in gender equality was from Twitter. I just started following a lot of interesting twitter users that opened my mind to a completely different frame of thinking that sparked this passion inside me.
Feminism and its many waves mean a lot of things to many people. Personally, at the heart of it all, it is the advocacy of the basic human rights of all genders. It is a social justice movement for change to end patriarchy as a form of governance. There is a common misconception that feminism is only about fighting for the rights of women and historically, this may have been true but in more recent times, the feminist movement has expanded its horizons to embrace anyone who feels limited or oppressed by the patriarchy. It is ever-changing and evolving and pushing the conversation to be more inclusive of all marginalised groups
Women of colour fall into an intersectionality in which we face oppression in the form of sexism and racism. However, we are often neglected or excluded in the vision of feminist liberation. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society such as race, gender, or ethnicity.
In the same breath, we may realise that we also benefit from certain privileges such as class, sexuality, religion or looking like Molly Mae but you can use this to uplift others because your privilege gives your voice the power to speak volumes.
At the end of day, can you claim to care about women in your life but remain wilfully ignorant towards things that put their existence at risk? This is not to say that a woman’s value is determined by her relation to someone, but you owe it to those women in your life to unlearn your patriarchal conditioning and use your privilege to dismantle the system.
Dismantling the patriarchy
The patriarchy is any social structure where men benefit from privilege, such as the gender pay gap. Inequality comes from these structures that were not meant to work for women. Under the patriarchy men have rights and women have duties and responsibilities and their bodies and decisions are surveilled.
It is more about the system than it is about men (yes, yes we know you did not ask to be born a man) but because the system was created to benefit men there needs to be an involvement of men in dismantling it, as this benefits everyone. We are not expecting you to go out and beat up sex offenders (although we aren’t discouraging it either) but rather, recognising your privilege as the first step and holding yourself accountable for the things you think, say and consume that perpetuate this system. Then, you can go on to hold the mandem accountable too.
There are excellent resources online that can help you understand how to be a better feminist and although asking your friends questions is great, you need to be mindful of how triggering this topic might be because no one is entitled to anyone’s knowledge. As much as it is okay to admit you don’t know enough about a topic to have an opinion on it, don’t let that be your excuse to remain complacent. Educate yourself so that you can contribute to the conversation in an impactful way, there is no room for ignorance anymore.
Can Women be Misogynists?
Have you ever heard another woman say “I’m not like other girls” or “I only hang out with guys because girls are full of drama”? This Pick Me culture can manifest in many of us as a need to cater to the male gaze and believe me, I was once, very much, a Pick Me.
Misogyny exists on a spectrum for all genders, just because you are not enacting sexual violence or using derogatory language does not make you exempt from misogynistic ideals and behaviour. However, internalised misogyny relates more to women. Some really common examples of internalised misogyny I often see is shaming other women for not being career-driven or independent or slut shaming and policing the way women dress. It is what is described as the “piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us” by activist Audre Lorde.
Our generation is redefining feminism to be as nuanced as possible. We are now in an era where you can watch artists like Doja Cat, Lizzo, Cardi B and Meg THE Stallion and realise that the way they perform and dance is completely divorced from any form of patriarchal pressure to impress men.
When you can recognise that that is a representation of their sexuality and bodily autonomy. These artists are always looking to empower black women through body and sex-positivity while looking incredible while doing it. For centuries, sex education towards women has mainly revolved around the topic of pregnancy prevention and abstinence, so to see women openly express their sexuality in their music is such a breath of fresh air and something to be celebrated.
So today as we celebrate, International Women’s Day, may we recognise that feminism is about actively confronting our biases to make room for inclusive, accepting, and diverse perspectives on womanhood. I leave you with the inspiring quote by Bell Hooks -“Positive social equality that grants all humans the opportunity to shape their destinies in the most healthy and communally productive way can only be a complete reality when our world is no longer racist and sexist”.
Happy International Women's Day