Every day, I discover more about what it means to be a feminist in our world, and even more, what it means to be a girl. Every day I realize that part of being a feminist or an activist of any sort is the multitudes of people who will insist that you are not doing ‘it’ right (although they themselves may not be doing anything at all). This exists in an extreme way specifically for feminism, because of the way the word has been demonized in the media and in our society. People already view it as bad enough if you say you are a feminist, let alone if you actually do feminism.
Another thing that I have noticed is that people feel extremely threatened or confused, if you may, of modern feminism, which is because of the fact that feminism and womyn’s liberation is not just about solving the “big” problems, e.g. the violent and bloody sexism that mostly occurs in parts of Asia/Africa, but it is also about dismantling “smaller” gender inequality issues (which are the steps that lead to the big problems) such as the catcalling womyn undergo in the streets, gender stereotypes, etc. People have a habit of calling issues that do not consist of the rape/murder of womyn “small” and “insignificant”, but the fact is: nothing that is sexist is small. Every sexist issue that you think is tiny is a huge deal – every sexist issue combines to form more complicated, more extreme problems which become gender-cide, gang rapes, lack of female education in third world countries, female genital mutilation. Every sexist issue is important. Every sexist issue is a big deal. Every sexist issue deserves the utmost attention. Even dress code. Even the gender specification of toys, even the phrase “boys will be boys”, even, even, even. All situations of sexism are stepping stones, problems are linked to each other. Rape culture enforces rape, and victim blaming enforces rape culture, and dress code enforces victim blaming. Gender roles affect every single household, and every single womin’s idealization and perception of who she is and what she is capable of, and gender roles are caused by a multitude of things – including the gender specification of a toy.
Sometimes, I get the feeling that people have this image of a “good” feminist (if there is even such a thing) that they want every feminist to be. A “good” feminist is one who, first of all does not call herself a feminist but a “humanist”. She is also one who refuses to talk about the 1 in 3 girls who will be sexually assaulted without mentioning the 1 in 19 men, and the one who takes the feelings of emotional men who feel threatened and displaced because of ‘radical’ feminism, into everything that she does. A “good” feminist is the girl who disregards sensitive topics such as the false portrayal of masculinity/femininity, the “friendzone”, victim-blaming, gender stereotypes, and focuses on problems that other people approve of because only physical violence is a true proof of female inequality: e.g. female genital mutilation in faraway countries. A “good” feminist is the girl who never expresses anger; instead she expresses sheer benevolence and lightheartedness towards all boys, sexist and misogynist alike.
This is how people want me to be a feminist.
People want me to be a feminist without acting as though sexism or misogyny or woman-hating affects me or distresses me in any shape, way or form. People want me to be a feminist without laying the blame at the hands of anyone, they want me to be a feminist peacefully — not that I have an opposition to be peaceful — but to the extent that I am inactive. People would like it more if I ignored those sexist issues that they call tiny because they are occurrences in our every day day-to-day life, and it upsets them to hear these occurrences they have become used to, being questioned and condemned. They want me to be a feminist but ignore when someone makes a “Go back to the kitchen” joke in my Physics class, because people don’t like listening to arguments over something as small as a joke that has been happening for so long: “It harms no one, whatever, it’s just a joke, it’s petty and stupid, there are more important things, Lara” …People want me to be a feminist without disturbing the strictly arranged, familiar, smooth way they have conditioned their lives to fit into our sexist society.
That is how people want me to be a feminist.
But that is not what being a feminist is supposed to be like. Being a feminist is being fiery. It is being vocal about every single sexist situation no matter how familiar we are to it in our lives, it is being loud and outspoken because a lot of people still do not understand the technicalities of feminism or what sexism really is in our lives, and being a feminist is being angry. It is being angry because of thousands of years of oppression that no one wrote or talked about, it is being angry because of the continuation of that oppression in our world today and the little — yes, the LITTLE — that is being done about it. It is being angry that womyn have been treated as though they are not humans, but objects, and no one did anything about it until, what? 50 years ago?
It is being angry that our safety, security, value, happiness, and worth as a gender is regarded as not important enough to be talked about. Being angry is not wrong when there is so much to be angry about. “Forgive and forget” is not applicable. We will NOT forget the oppression that we underwent and the silence that answered it, because it is still occurring in a lot of places in the world today. We will NOT forget the amount of female lives lost — literally and metaphorically — because of the mere fact that they were female. Female lives lost in murder and as a consequence of negligence.
So yes, I am angry. I am angry as a girl, and I am angry as a fighter, as an activist, as a feminist, and I will express that anger. I refuse to sanction and filter parts of my speech and parts of who I am as a person because of the fact that people still have yet to understand that there is no rule book or law indicating which sexist issues deserve to be talked about, and which sexist issues do not deserve to be talked about. I refuse to soften and sugarcoat my speech and the reality of the world because of the fact that people get upset when stuff they’re used and familiar to is demonized and questioned. I refuse to pretend that I am not aware because other people are in denial. Because that is what it means to be a feminist. To be a feminist is to fight for the equality and safety of womyn, and part of doing that is to shamelessly, fearlessly, loudly, angrily, and completely stand up for what you believe in… even when everyone is telling you to sit down.