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.