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A Fresh Perspective and The Battle of the Sexes

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Recently, I’ve been getting into self-help books like a bag of crisps. For someone who used to avoid them (if not laugh at them), you might be wondering what made me change my tune? As I am always very honest and confiding, I will admit that I was at a point (during a predicament) where I needed guidance beyond what my friends, family and own reasoning or instincts could give. Open mindedness and a willingness to try was simply the only option left.

One book I am reading stressed on the importance of “giving up frustration and anger in lieu of a new possibility” – basically making positive any negative situation. It encouraged the mindset of making your own life good, not waiting for an external source to do it for you. It also suggested that you can speak to the universe – that your choices and mindset shape what comes to you. Those who read too literally into this would see this as ridiculous, but those who are willing to understand can really take away a lot from this perspective.

The message of this particular book, although not one on feminism, reminded me of my struggles within the Women’s Rights Movement and gave me an idea on how to overcome this. One issue I really find hard to deal with is how many people see feminists as bitter, or a bunch of complainers. It’s easy to bring out the claws in defense, but what good does it do but confirm the accusations? And even if we are in the right, this is a person’s honest opinion of feminism. Perhaps we have to acknowledge this? So how do we deal with the continuing struggles of gender equality being of non-importance to many, while considering these statements against feminism, and still go forward towards our collective goals? (We give them a Pepsi of course. But if that fails…)

We change tactics, and we challenge our mindsets. We look at negative situations as opportunity to grow. 

Let’s take a look at the Women’s March on Washington for example. The love and community that came from that day inspired more than the reason for the march. Embracing the best from a negative situation inspires. Focusing on the negative – i.e. the reason women were marching to begin with – sucks. We have to think of ways to make positive every situation within the Women’s Rights Movement, even when we feel our anger is justified. And yes, it begins with acknowledging how far we have come and how many people have contributed to this ever-improving situation for global gender equality, even if we haven’t achieved a 50-50 world yet.

If this seems like a slap in the face of all those who sacrificed so much for the cause (or those who already do acknowledge how far we have come), I assure you, I originally thought this too. It took a while to get my head around this, but we have to understand that this doesn’t mean we ignore the wrongs that have happened, but we rather look at things with a NEW perspective. If we want a more positive approach and welcome more people into the fold of feminism – perhaps we have to further understand why exactly people don’t support this cause, digging beyond the surface level of people’s opinions.

After all, I think the root of our problems has little to do with superficial stereotyping of feminists, and more to do with a cultural habit that has existed for centuries, if not millennia. And this is where I get to the real guts of this blog entry.

Our whole culture – not just in the case of feminism – encourages a battle of the sexes. Since it’s birth, feminism has been mislabeled as a cause for man-hating, and every modern feminist feels like a broken record trying to communicate the true definition of the word (if not having it man-splained back at us). But let’s continue to zoom out: most men and women are in a constant power struggle to outdo one another and try to prove their superiority. In work, in education, in sports and reality TV, magazines and casual sexism in conversation, even down to the expectations parents place on their children. It’s hard to find one example where men and women, boys and girls aren’t compared or pitted against one another, or even simply separated based on biological differences. Despite the social and political advances of women in the last century, this war wages on, and I believe this is the fundamental reason for why feminism is seen in a negative light. People only see it as segregation of the sexes. This is why so many people opt to be called humanists or egalitarians, or denounce feminism when the values they speak are, in fact, feminist. This mindset runs rampant in our community, and until we recognize the nuances of it’s existence,  we unwittingly participate in the war. So this message is for feminists, self-proclaimed non-feminists alike:

If we all truly want gender equality in our lifetime, we have to recognise that the battle of the sexes – and how we stereotype men and women – are fundamental in our viewpoint of feminism. We need to redirect our understanding to be based around social justice (the principal of equality in all definitions, for all people), not solely focusing on the semantics of the name.

I became a feminist because I wanted to prove my value as a woman. The more I invested in the movement, the more I realised that this cause was bigger than my own. Our ideas on feminism are palpable and resonate with others. We need to make them positive and inclusive, if we want positivism and inclusiveness to come back to us. It goes back to that idea of putting out to the universe what we want returned. Basically, we have to acknowledge that most people want equality, and feminism is called feminism because it’s a cause directly associated with women, but that doesn’t mean it’s exclusively for women, or beneficial only to women. Changing the name of feminism simply takes away the special significance of women’s suffrage in the movement.

Call me idealistic, but I think if we actually learned to understand the reasons why people see our values differently, and learn to not take it personally when someone disagrees, we may become closer to Planet 50/50 faster than we think.

“Now you know better, so you do better” – Maya Angelou

This entry skipped and hopped around a bit, much like my thoughts tend to do when excited about an idea. But do you agree? Do you disagree? I want to know your thoughts! Share in the comment section below.

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Let's Talk

Men’s Feelings Are Being Hurt

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Following my last post about the toxicity of social media arguments, I’d like to extend the discussion to a series of particular online debates I found myself in:

 

When Caitlyn Jenner was nominated as Woman of the Year by Glamour Magazine, I didn’t initially care. This was because Glamour Magazine doesn’t hold much esteem on a global stage, but, because of the headlines this was making (likely media sensationalism for publicuty), I started to take part in discussion. Although I don’t consider her a role-model personally, Jenner has made a global impact on the recognition of transgendered people; and even though she was born a man, I was fine with the awarding.

 

But a lot of people weren’t. Some reasons for this were that Jenner hadn’t yet outed herself as a woman for an entire year, and another was that she had come from a notorious reality TV family and this was simply a publicity stunt (a bit extreme to think she’d have a sex change for a bit of publicity, really). The most common argument was that she hadn’t actively done anything more for transgendered people other than claim she is transgendered. All of these seem like valid arguments, until I noticed a lot of the online backlash was coming from the fingertips of furious, non-transgendered men. One man I read about, James Smith, whose deceased wife had won the same award for her heroism in 9/11 actually returned the award on her behalf in protest.

 

One may view this anger-on-behalf-of-women as men finally coming on board to support equality of the sexes, but this to me looked more like thinly veiled trans-bashing and misdirected anger at a system that is progressively moving away from singularly favouring white heterosexual men. Let’s admit it: The contempt against Jenner was not for women!  James Smith behaved more like a man using feminism as an excuse for his anger rather than a man supporting feminism.

 

For so long, women have been looked down upon as the ’emotional’ gender, and this emotional nature is exactly the reason why women weren’t considered good leaders or decision makers. It was completely illogical of course, but who made the rules? Now that this concept is obsolete (or is it), it seems that everyone is using emotion (ie anger) to drive their own voice, rather than regarding the oppressed people in question. The disgust over Jenner’s award was more contempt for transgendered people than in support of women. (You don’t need to read between the lines of this quote by Smith: “Was there no woman in America, or the rest of the world, more deserving than this man?”).

 

Ultimately, Caitlyn Jenner’s awarding didn’t bother me because she identifies with being female. I am not here to question this. But in what became a social media experiment, when I made a similar statement on Facebook saying Bono of U2 didn’t deserve the recognition of Woman of the Year by Glamour Magazine, some men turned on me instead. This is basically what I wrote:

 

Continue reading

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Let's Talk

Now’s the Time.

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I am a feminist. Feminism to me, is the promotion of Gender Equality, where women and men are accepted as equals politically, economically, socially and intellectually.

The struggle for Gender Equality is not entirely new in Western society. It has been an on going movement for just over 100 years, and waves of feminism have been coming to and fro over the last 50. There have been three waves – briefly covered by this article at Progressive Women’s Leadership – and the wave we are currently going through is facing a whole lot of backlash and obstruction in a surprisingly similar fashion to its predecessors (I’ll speak about this more next week).

But gender equality doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it take one person. It takes a whole generation, and it takes time. With that comes acceptance, normalcy, and eventually it all gets taken for granted.

I have recognised and openly admitted that I am a feminist for a few years now. So why now? As I have already established in this blog, as a lot of people probably do, I’ve simply been surfing through my life by making excuses. “I don’t know how to help” or, “I don’t have the time” or, “What change can I do?”. I knew this wasn’t right, and yet everyday I was growing more and more fed up with the negativity and ignorance surrounding feminism and women’s rights in my own culture, let alone in others.

One of the biggest arguments against feminism in white culture that I have heard, often backed up with media-led fear mongering, is that ‘others have it worse’. The sentiment, while generalised, is true in the sense of how far ‘white’ culture has evolved and progressed, but I can give two reasons why this is a terrible argument: Continue reading

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Suffragette Chronicals

Modern Suffragettes: Miss Emma Watson

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Emma Watson – can this girl be any more amazing? She is an impeccable example of how women my age can go beyond the mandatory roles played in the media (sexy, seductive, self-absorbed) and commit their work to the benefit of others. Her commitment as UN Goodwill Ambassador and leader of the He for She movement, she initiated the campaign by inviting men to the conversation.

Genius! It seems so obvious, but we’ve been so busy focusing on our oppression we forgot that this is man’s issue too. But it is hard when a lot of men seem threatened by feminism.

I came across a man recently who told me that women already have and had equality, and that ‘this third wave of feminism simply encourages female supremacy‘. I initially thought he was joking … Is it always typical of a party who don’t primarily benefit from a cause to be threatened by it? But his statement wasn’t wholly untruthful – in fact, he was right in suggesting that women have it better than we did 50, 90 years ago. Our main goals – voting rights, equal education for women, property ownership and reproductive rights have been achieved. Except that it doesn’t immediately equate to the full rights and social standings as a man, and it definitely doesn’t cover developing countries and extremist cultures where women are still significantly oppressed, victimised and discriminated against.

Sadly, many women also see feminism as a nasty word. They see it as this sort of, culture of greed where women (particularly ‘privileged’ white women or ‘angry’ black women) simply want more and more, and cannot appreciate what we have got. That’s about the same as saying to an African American, “quit complaining about your oppression, you’re not a slave anymore”. It’s extremely offensive, closed-minded and ignorant. The truth is, the many feminists I know are extremely grateful to everyone who supports us, male or female, authority or civilian, but in particular the Suffragettes and feminists of past who faced discrimination and oppression in order to fight for the freedoms we have today.

We are in the third, but not final wave of feminism. To give up the debate now would be to stick a middle finger up to the efforts of the women who fought before us. And as Emma says, Call me a ‘diva’, call me a ‘feminazi’, call me ‘difficult’, call me a ‘First World feminist’ … it’s not going to stop me from trying to do the right thing and make sure that the right thing happens.

Boom.

 

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