door Barbara De Witte
I shouldn’t be writing this post in the first place. Firstly because I shouldn’t be justifying myself for identifying as a feminist. Second, because I’m the umpteenth person, over many centuries, doing this so it’s getting pretty old. However, as it appears, I’m asked to explain why I call myself a feminist in many different occasions and while it seems “feminism” is back on track but many consider it to be just a hype, I guess it is no waste to remind what feminism, at least to me, is really about anyway. It might seem boring to some or totally meaningless to others. I do hope, though, some will read through the end and recognize themselves, maybe even feel slightly comforted. In the worst case, I will only help myself spill out some thoughts to feel better. So be it. I guess I can live with that.
I did not wake up one day thinking it would be fancy to become a feminist facing some kind of identity crisis. Feminism is not about belonging to a group. Wanting to define yourself in some way or distinguishing from others. I actually never chose to be a feminist. I was raised one. I do remember, however, the moment I realized being a feminist and that wasn’t such a long time ago. In fact, I was already a grown up woman and finished high school and university a long time ago. This might probably reflect one of the main problems of feminism today… its history is unknown, its meaning is unknown because nobody ever taught us. At least, nobody ever taught me. I do not remember hearing of Olympe de Gouges, Simone De Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem or Angela Davis in any of my history classes while feminism, somehow, is probably as old as the existence of the human kind and those women wrote history (or rather herstory) as much as Marx and Martin Luther King when talking about revolution, civil rights and equal opportunities. Anyway, the purpose here is not to get back to history class but just getting to the point that most of us are feminists without knowing because we are simply not told what it means to be and, therefore, that we are feminists.
You might wonder what makes me feel so sure about the fact that most of you reading this are feminists. Well, by simply reminding myself what feminism is. Feminism is about equal rights. If you believe women should have the same economic, political, personal and social opportunities as men, then you are a F…e…m…i…n…i…s…t. It’s as simple as that. Feminists believe, whether one has a vagina or a penis, that shouldn’t be reflected in the amount of economic, social,… power a person has.
Now that you (let’s hope) agree on the fact that you are a feminist too (at least following the definition above), you might wonder why I – among others – feel the urge to state it out loud, why some of us seem more “obsessed” by it then others.
I’ve been asked a couple of times if I had been hurt by men and being a feminist activist is my revenge. I haven’t. I have never been assaulted or treated by men in a way I was left traumatized. Should I have been? Would that make me more credible? Would that justify my feelings, speech and actions? Would that give me any credit for defending – what seems to me – a very normal cause? I don’t think so. Probably identifying as a woman made me more sensitive to the injustice done to women as I stand closer to it than the average man. However, I might as well have identified as a man, what difference does it make? Do I really need to justify why I stand up for half of the planet’s population anyway?
I’ve heard I must be one kind of a man-hater. Nop. Not a single bit. Again, feminism isn’t about being in favor of women and thus, against men. It is not an either-or story. There are no good and bad ones, no enemies or allies. Feminism is not pointing toward men being the cause of the injustice made to women but rather condemning a system, a structural problem which creates and sustains inequalities among the sexes and in which men, as well as women are trapped. Both are victims here (and if you feel slightly annoyed or maybe even offended as a man reading this, just ask yourself why depicting yourself as a victim – i.e. as a person who is considered to be powerless and thus failing somehow – is so damn hard to do…).
Some suggested I must be pretty angry to “fight” the way I do. Yes I am. Of course I am angry. I am outraged and I’m sure you would too once you really see through it, beyond the social constructions. Once you know and can’t ignore the injustice any longer and once you see the consequences of it in all its forms, all over the world. Is it a matter of interpretation? Does it depend of one’s personal standpoint? Like everything else, it sure does but some events and data just can’t be neglected: sexist behaviors and opinions do exist, violence against women because they are women do exist, discrimination on the basis of sex exists. The point is, feminists do not believe ALL men are sexist but reality unfortunately still proves us TOO MANY are, ENOUGH to be angry and fight back, enough to talk about a structural problem, not a personal one.
As a feminist I am not aiming at teaching morals. I am in no way feeling superior to men. I am not judging anyone. I am simply doing the best I can to thrive toward a society in which nobody feels or acts superior to the other or judges the other based on its sex, so that nobody needs to prove anything as a man or a woman and nobody needs to fear for its safety and rights because of its genitals.
You see, we are no witches, no frustrated, man-hating women, no arrogant princesses. We are just normal persons and though there are as many different feminists (with different convictions and ways to stand out for it) as there are people on this planet, we all are feminists because we want women and men to be considered equal, human beings in the first place.