Feminism is in danger. Too many of us have lost sight of the original intent and are touting it as a defense for behaviour most unbecoming – not of women, but indeed of human beings. Feminism was never conceptualized to emasculate men. It was never intended to de-feminize women. It was not designed to tear down the fabric of society. The intent of feminism was to start a revolution that would result in liberty, equality and true sisterhood. It was intended to weave a new pattern, to strengthen the existing fabric and make it infinitely more resilient. But as with everything that involves people, the reality does not always reflect the intent.
Too many of us do not understand the true meaning of liberty. Feminism was intended to liberate us. We were oppressed, marginalized and relegated to second class status. We were deprived of the right to education, the right to vote, the right to own property, the very right to choose, and as a result were dependent on men for our survival. The women who, by choice or by circumstance, did not have male relatives on which to depend, too often lived hard, uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous lives. Feminism was intended to liberate us from the dependence on men. It was intended to empower us to plot the course of our own lives, to make decisions, to contribute to our families and to the society as a whole. It was evolution. It did not negate the need or desire for stable, committed, loving relationships. Being in a relationship is not supposed to be oppressive. Having a partner with whom you share your life is not supposed to be a liability. We can now choose our partners based on what they contribute to our lives outside of the material things. Making the choice to commit is not a weakness. Honouring that commitment is not dishonouring your liberation.
Equality. Equal to. Not less than. Not greater than. I do not feel compelled to one up my male counterparts. I do not feel compelled to belittle them. I do not want to be greater than. Equal to does not require that we be identical. It does not require that we be the same, look the same, act the same.We are also individuals, not simply subject to the linear gender expectations of society. Biologically, physiologically, physically, emotionally, mentally we are different. We both have strengths and weaknesses. We are both susceptible to the vicissitudes of life. We both have our vulnerabilities. None make either of us less than or greater than the other. It shouldn’t. Equality means I have access to the same rights. It means I am not at a disadvantage solely because of my gender. It means I am not relegated to prescribed roles with no regard for my aptitude as an individual. It means I am respected for the things that I and I alone can accomplish, as a female and as a person. It means I can speak and act in a way that is reflective of my personality without fear of derision or disdain. It means I can be treated as an individual and not simply as gender. It means my contributions carry weight and value and I do not have to beg for the right to make them and be properly acknowledged for them. But it is not a free pass. It is not an excuse to do to men the things that have been done to us. It is not a defense for bad behaviour. We do not need to objectify and subjugate men in order to demonstrate our power. If we do that, we have simply reversed roles and become what we ourselves fought against. We are powerful in our own right. A force to be reckoned with. But a force for good. For our own personal development. For the improvement of our families. For the betterment of society.
In order to achieve those things, we had one single challenge to overcome, one single requirement: we needed to unite. We needed to form a strong sisterhood, one comparable to the ‘Good Ol’ Boys Club’; forged with clear goals, strong purpose and unified principle. We needed to first see each other as equals, sisters of the heart, each working to support the other and to support the cause. We were supposed to join forces, become the change we wanted to see, live the core of the concept we were trying to introduce. We needed to comport ourselves with dignity. We needed to display solidarity. We needed to work together toward the same objectives.
And that it appears, is where the wheels fell off. Decades later, the struggle continues. The disunity remains apparent. Where there should be solidarity there is still too much disharmony. Why are we still competing with each other? Why are we still acting in a way that erodes so much of the progress we made? Why do we still hate each other so much? Why do we gossip and slander each other? Why do we fall prey to the same moral and ethical weaknesses of our male counterparts? Why are we still majoring in the minors? Why are we still struggling?
Yes, we are liberated, financially, professionally, academically and sexually. We can make choices about our present and future. Why then do we choose to objectify ourselves? Why do we continue to trade favours for a place at the table instead of bringing our comparable contribution? Why do we think it is necessary to forfeit decency and decorum in order to find a place? Yes, we are equal, but we are still different. We are still women. We are still female. Only we can be mothers, aunts, sisters, nieces. Only we can carry and deliver new life into this world. These are not obligations, they are privileges. My heart bleeds for the women who have the maternal instinct but are unable to experience the miracle of childbirth, while so many who can, shun it as a weakness or a burden; abandon it with spite for fear the display of womanhood be seen as a liability. Anger and contention will not bring change and yet, the Battle of the Sexes wages on and the casualties continue to pile up. We are not opponents. Neither our sisters nor our male counterparts are the enemy. But we continue to struggle against each other rather than unite for the manifestation of the change that was conceptualized so long ago, even before it had a name.
On the heels of the Women’s March and as we celebrate International Women’s Day, can we renew our commitment to the principles of liberty, equality and sisterhood? Can we love ourselves enough to see our value as individuals while respecting the importance of our femaleness? Can we love each other enough to see each other as sisters and compatriots rather than as opponents? Can we let go of the anger we harbour towards the males who have oppressed and exploited us, and who continue to attempt to subjugate us and rob us of our power? Can we face them with the strength of our will and our unity rather than blind anger and a desire for retribution? Can we nurse and nurture feminism back to its origins and harness it as a force for empowerment, support and progress? Can we, before it’s too late…?
One thought on “In Honour of Feminism”
Some of the greatest feminists I know are men. And I see a lot of ‘battle’ still going on between women… there was a time it felt so hateful & ugly to me I wasn’t comfortable with the term ‘feminist’… that’s changed, in large part due to some real heart-to-hearts with men about their belief in feminism. There is much healing to be done, and I think that is happening one relationship at a time.
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