I am a feminist, but for a while, I didn't want to be. I am completely for "the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes". What I am not for is how the title seemed to polarise us all.
Over the years it has been amazing to see a voice speak up on behalf of women who are poorly treated. From Malala Yousafzai to Emma Watson to Gloria Steinem, there are more and more women, advocating for the change we so desperately need as a society. Jesus would definitely support the movement. Helping those who have been oppressed giving them a voice and fighting for justice on their behalf was what he was all about.
"For most of history Anonymous was a woman" - Virginia Woolf
There are some quite serious and obvious issues with the difference in how men and women are treated. Whether it is settling for lower pay or being at risk for not getting a job as you may one day need time off for maternity leave, there are some clear examples of how the role of women is undervalued in our society.
Moreover, if we look worldwide we see more active oppression of women in countries across the world. There are places where women aren't allowed to walk the streets unaccompanied, places where women aren't allowed to study and places where women have very few human rights. I am glad to be part of a generation that actively stands up against these things.
My social media timelines are flooded with women who are redefining what it means to be entrepreneurs, businesswomen and many of the other roles that once upon a time were reserved for men. If we cast our minds back to the Suffragettes, women who suffered some horrific things so what women could vote, we can see that we aren't the first ones to see a gender imbalance and do something about it. For a while now, the tide has been surging and change has been coming.
However, for a long time, I didn't want to identify as a feminist. In doing so people assumed I agreed with all of their arguments regarding the inequality of the sexes. Then when I would explain how far my support of the movement lay, I would see the excitement of finding another feminist sister, slowly fading away from their faces.
For a long time my opinion of feminism was defined by the things I saw online and the polarising opinions shared by a few. Feminists always seemed so angry and outraged by everything. There was a rhetoric building of Feminists hating and devaluing men. I think boldness to stand up for yourself was confused with bitterness and feelings of inequality were replaced with feelings of contempt. That is what caused me to back away from the title. I didn't want to support anything that put someone else down in order to get up.
On the other hand, the rise of feminism caught a few fellas by surprise and we bore witness to a surge of men who tried to suppress a voice that needed to be heard. Thanks to twitter out came the phrase #masculinitysofragile. It seemed that women standing up threatened a long-standing tradition of male-favour and a fair few couldn't handle it.
My understanding of being a feminist is the pursuit of equality of treatment. With that being said I also strongly believe that men and women have different roles to play in our society.
That's not to say that either is less valuable because of their role.
That is not to say that one is completely incapable of adopting the role of another.
That is to say that, we are different for a reason. I believe that it is men and women together that create a balanced picture of being a human. Understanding and championing those differences is critical for the proper appreciation of both genders.
For a while it seemed like a cuss to call someone maternal, or to say that women were good at building a home - it's not. Building a home is important (crucial to the stability of society in fact). If we understand that building a home is being something to be valued, then being a woman who does so should be less offensive. Similarly, the fact that men don't carry babies does naturally make them free-er to go back to work early and begin earning a living for the family again, another role that is valuable and should be equally appreciated. In this situation no one is degraded for their role but rather the differences are valued equally, where for a long time they were seen as weaknesses.
Unfortunately, some views expressed by people who regard themselves as feminists have pushed people away from identifying with Feminism at all. Our opinions have become so polarising. It seems as though you aren't allowed to be for something without being completely against something else; if you don't like it, it must be that you hate it - there is no middle ground.
"Feminism isn't about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It's about challenging the way the world perceives that strength." - G.D Anderson.
Being cautious of how and what you support isn't cowardly, it's called having good boundaries. It's what stops people from becoming fanatics and keeps reason in all our arguments. Knowing how far you are willing to agree or disagree on things that aren't factual is wise, I think.
Women are allowed to stand up and be bold and opinionated. What I've reasoned is that being a Feminist is more than a list of reasons why men are trash, it's supporting the fact that women have incredible value and agreeing that it should be recognised, protected and fought for.
I hope that we can feel encouraged to stand up for women's rights without having our feminity challenged or someone's masculinity threatened.