This week’s latest events have brought up to my mind a question I was put by one of my exes, in an obviously annoyed tone of voice.
The answer he got was just as obvious as his question: because I am. But today, there is needed a much wider answer than just that.
I’ve been a feminist way before I even knew that I was one, or that feminism even existed as a movement. Living mostly with mom and grandma into our village home, I’ve learned a lot about being strong on your own: dad was home too little to actually make a real difference when it came to the household’s chores, and grandma was a widow for too long. This was the first thing I’ve learned in my journey: that a woman can want a man by her side, but she will never really need him. Not for other than emotional comfort and accomplishment.
The women in my family, the close family, and the extended family as well, taught me this really valuable lesson that no matter what a man can do, a woman can do it just as fine. That independence is the shortcut to owning who you are, and that being owned by a man is, by no chance, a goal. Or, how grandma used to put it, If all you have is a man, you have too little.
I am a feminist because I believe in it. I believe in women’s power of being whoever they want to be, without needing to justify their choices. Because I like freedom, and feminism is about freedom. About being free to choose if you want to get a higher education, if you want to marry early or late, or maybe you don’t want it at all if you want to be a mom or you don’t. It’s about all these things, and many others, too.
But I also am a feminist because I’m sick and I got tired. I’m sick of being made to feel less than I am, based on my weight, my height, my age, my relationship, career status, my long term priorities. I’m sick of having to be on a constant guard so that I don’t get unwanted attention. Of not being able to walk out and explore cities at night, by myself. By having to explain whatever life choice I have that is not fitting the socially accepted behavioral box.
And I’ve met that box really early during this lifetime. A young lady doesn’t act like that. Don’t swear, you’re an educated young lady! You’d better pay more attention to the household chores, as a woman, they will be your job! have been heard really often, especially when dad came home from his job, or relatives came to visit.
I never cared, as I have always done things my way. But I know for a fact that for many young girls, sentences like these were axes cutting their wings. Their sense of self-worth. And that, too, is a form of abuse.
Talking about the abuse, that’s another topic that drives the feminist me mad. Because I know at least one woman, one young woman who can tell a story about: how she’s been harassed at her workplace, discriminated based on her aspect, catcalled, threatened, blackmailed, physically, emotionally, financially abused, raped. It happens online, it happens offline, it happens everywhere. Because a woman is not a man. Boys will be boys turn in Whores will be whores when it comes to women.
And injustice has never been something that I would tolerate. Not when I was a kid witnessing the rich kids bullying the poor, and either now, when I witness men telling women how to dress, eat, sleep, work, go out, have sex, have families, have babies, as they would know better.
I’m a feminist because I’ve managed to be the woman that I am now due to the women around me: mom, grandma, my first-grade teacher, my French teacher from the gymnasium, my doctors, every woman that had enough faith in me to recommend me for a project or job, or simply be my friend and listen to my dramas. I have nothing but respect and endless love for them, and for all the other women I’ve not met yet. And we all know that you can’t love women and hate them at the same time.
I’m a feminist because I can’t look at the way women try to tear each other down like they’re in some sort of competition without my heart breaking in million tiny pieces. Being solidary with other women will never take what’s yours. You won’t become ugly if you admit that another girl is prettier, nor will you become dumb if you admit that other girl is smarter than you are. Women, as men, are not supposed to be all the same. We’re only humans, after all, and that makes us different and special, why ruin it trying to be as similar as possible? Teaching girls to be united, to genuinely appreciate and defend each other, will lead them way further than knowing how to wing that eyeliner or walk on heels, as strong women nail all of these.
My feminism might not be radical, as I’m too shy for being a real activist. I believe in a feminism of the small yet kind gestures, as telling a strange girl that she is pretty while you two are waiting for the bus, or stepping up to defend a girl being bullied. It doesn’t matter that much what’s the gesture you’re doing, it will always brighten someone’s day.
I’m a feminist because I’m sick and tired. Because of the socially-agreed scenario, where a successful woman is a wife, mother, great employee, supportive friend, always happy and good looking, has led a lot of women to chronic burnout. And how on earth could a woman that is suffering from burnout be a good mother for her children? Let alone all of the things on that never-ending list.
This is why I am a feminist. Because the alternatives feel like prisons to me, and I still have faith. I have faith that the men of my generation know to appreciate and support the women around them to be whatever they want to be. It is what makes them be men, standing up for women’s and children’s rights and protection, standing up against the injustice manifested upon the vulnerable categories. And, in some of the countries, women still are a vulnerable category.
So, the next time when you will meet a feminist, don’t ask her why she is a feminist. Ask her how could you be genuinely supporting the women and young girls you know, in order to make their lives be better. And you will, I promise, have a conversation to remember for a long time after it’s done.