Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Feminist is Not a Dirty Word

In an unusual decision for me, I recently volunteered for the entirety of a women's festival in Katherine. I spent most of the time behind the bar where I was fortunate enough to be able to hear the talks of women from various positions in society and many walks of life. Women who have paved the way for other women in their fields, women who have faced such adversity and women who want to leave the world a better place than they found it.
Being a women's festival the attendees were expectedly diverse. Indigenous women, women in law, women from the bush, women who never knock back opportunities to learn new things, lesbians, hippies and randoms who fit nowhere in particular into a stereotype and even a transvestite.
But out of all the talks I listened to it was the talk "The 'F' Word" that I came away with the most philosophies.
In today's society feminism holds a stigma. To say one is a feminist would have others believe that she is a hairy, man-hating, carpet-muncher with too many opinions.
Well, I am a feminist. Always have been. I look at the most influential woman in my life, my mother, and can understand exactly why I believe the things I do. I have seen her sacrifice herself too many times and I look back on her history and understand that so much of it has perhaps been a detriment to herself. So I have an opinion and more often than not I quite freely voice it. As a result I have been branded by some as a "know-it-all" or a "tempered, little bitch". And let them have their opinion, for 9 times out of 10, that has been the opinion of a man. Out of all the people I have ever torn shreds off with words as an adult they have all been men. I have been pushed to a point that I slap the truth in their faces and watch them retreat with a bruised ego. I bring them back down a necessary peg or two. I may be a woman but I will not be bullied.
I am quite happy to label myself as a feminist. I only shave my legs if I intend to go swimming or wear a dress (which, anyone who knows me well enough, is quite rare) but I am not a lesbian. I work what some would consider a mans job, but I am not butch. I am currently quite content with being single but I am not a man-hater. But all the above is not what makes me a feminist. It's what I BELIEVE that makes me a feminist.
I believe, and I quote from the festivals founder, Jude Kelly, "The world is only equal when everyone has the same opportunities". I have lost count of the times I have been knocked back for a job simply based on the fact that I am female. Around the world there are girls who are missing out on an education, a basic human right, quite simply because of their gender. The media has pushed on to society the idea that for a woman to be beautiful in a mans eye's she must parade around in her underwear or a bikini, be of a certain build and cake on the make-up. Leave only what she may look like the following morning to the imagination. When men makes suggestive comments to me along those lines, that I should work in very little clothing or perform sexual favours to get out of being in trouble or get what I want I feel like belting the shit out of them with whatever object I can lift and swing and cause the most damage with. Instead I ignore them or tell them outright that what they have said is inappropriate. If they keep it up they usually end up hearing what I truly think of them which is rarely nice. But the biggest reason I am a feminist is because I am not a sexual object and I was not put on this earth to keep the men happy. I am here solely to keep myself happy and the people I care about happy. I live to my own expectations, not the expectations of others.
But are there more of you women out there like me? Are you a feminist but are too afraid to admit it? Are you a feminist but won't say because you don't like the stigmas attached to the word? Or, in truth, you won't admit to being a feminist because you are too worried about what the men around you may think of it? Bruising a mans ego occasionally or threatening his masculinity is not a bad thing. It's you taking your place in the world. Think back on how many times you have been discriminated against because of your gender. And besides, the males will get over it. They'll have no choice!