On Feminism: culture does not make people, people make culture
Feminism is often branded in the wrong way: many think of women who grow their armpit hairs really long, have loads of meaningless sex (what is that anyways?) and are extremely angry with men. They are misled.
In the last few days I have been hearing the word feminism more often than usual. Just yesterday on ‘The Guardian’ there was an article on the words, such as nag and whine, which have stigmatized girls for decades and “that we do not want to hear no more”. Or in the past few days, when the ‘celebrity nude scandal’ that has sparked discussions on how women’s bodies are objectified, and that woman are never going to be left alone.
When I hear all this talk about feminism, I always wonder whether people really understand what it means. I think every once in a while, we need to remind ourselves what it is we are fighting for to avoid other ideals and emotions from getting in the way and take us away from the main aim.
Usually, people that fight for too long end up often saying they forgot what it is they started fighting for. This should be avoided at all costs.
The meaning of feminism is extremely confused. Doing a simple Google research, one can find hundreds of different interpretations of what feminism is, has been and will be. It is a hot topic.
I decided to stick with this one definition: “Feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. I would like to highlight the word EQUALITY, as I think it is the main point of feminism.
During my university years we had a “Feminism” module in one of our international politics courses. I had to read about all the different facets of feminism, from the extremists to the moderate and that is when I started building a stronger and more conscious opinion of the subject. I admit it, I found most literature on feminism very boring. I was often annoyed, and thought that some of the actions done in the name of feminism are an exhibitionist exaggeration and simply shift the point away from what it really stands for.
Take FEMEN for example, a Ukrainian- founded feminist group which has made topless protests and drastic actions the “new thing” in the feminist wave. There is no denying that these women have courage and that their protests definitely stir things up. I never understood, however, why they had to get topless and write things like “ Pope no more” or “F**k your morals” on their breasts in public places. It seems to me that this derails the attention away from what feminism stands for and actually gives bigots and opponents of feminism more justifications .
Undoubtedly, it creates chaos and media upheaval, but just like every extreme act, they create a hurricane that dies very quickly. I do not think it is the most effective way of bringing the message of equality of the sexes. I believe everyone should express their views in whichever way they believe, but I choose to stick with another representation of feminism.
Chimamanda Adichie, whose books I love and whose person I respect, gave a speech on TedEx in 2013: “We should all be feminists”. With unprecedented elegance she manages to explain what living as a woman in this world is, focusing on African (Nigerian in this case) society. Other than describing the discrimination that women receive, she makes the very intelligent argument that women are often taught by their mothers and fathers not to “intimidate the man”, to shrink themselves, make themselves smaller so as to protect the man (from what?) and make him think that he is ‘stronger’ and ‘better’. How we are educated and how we educate is something that we must consider in the gender discourse.
This is to say that, as many other social attitudes, this can be also considered a cultural problem, and we can do something to change that. I do not want to get into the religious discourse, as this would shift you from the point of this article. Adichie intelligently quotes:
“Culture does not make people, people make culture”
This is a phrase that points out something we tend to forget. We have the power to modify the way we live, and the way other people live.
By changing the way we educate the next generations, and by behaving differently in our daily lives (at the store, at the gym, in school), we can change the way of living of future generations and feminism will be a word we do not even have to look for, as it will be defined in our daily lives.