By ICDO Member – Lizaveta Vozjakova, From Russia with Love.
My best friend once started a very interesting discussion about feminism. Since both of us were raised in Russia, we were never introduced to the deep meaning behind feminism.
This changed for me when I was first introduced to the speech of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ‘We should all be feminists.’ During the presentation she raises very important topics about gender, masculinity, femininity, representation, and standards. Her definition of feminism is very appealing to me, however, I think there was no need for restricting it to only female/male gender leaving out transgenders, genderqueer and many more.
“A feminist is a man or a woman who says, ‘Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it. We must do better’. ” From my perspective, a feminist is not just a man or a woman, but rather a person.
I don’t want to point fingers or offend anyone, but especially in post-Soviet countries – a feminist is considered to be a woman who prefers not to shave her body parts and shows very masculine behavior as well as fashion preferences. This notion is mostly due to the anti-Western propaganda that dominates most of the media in these countries. I don’t think that it is in my ability to change their minds, however, if this blog post would change thinking of even one person, I will be sure that this work was worth it.
The feminist movement started as a fight for women’s rights. They demanded to have access to education, various professions, the right to have choice over their own bodies – these are only a few from the vast variety of issues. Even though the movement in the United States turned out to be discriminatory towards black women, most of them were still out on the streets demonstrating and protesting along white women demanding some change. If you are interested about the women who played important role during that time, I highly recommend watching the documentary ‘Feminists: What were they thinking.’ This movie shows various women, with completely distinctive backgrounds, talking about their understanding of feminism and how it shaped them.
It is vital to understand that even though feminism started as the fight for women’s rights, it is also the fight for various gender inequalities, suppressions, and abuses. There are a lot of problems that are rooted in the societies’ outdated standards that help to maintain the same problems people had fifty years ago.
The concepts of being masculine/feminine and masculinity/femininity remain the same for male and female sexes, preserving people from developing in individual and unique ways. We are expected to be certain way since birth. Starting from the color devision – blue for boys and pink for girls. During the process of growing up, there is another division – toy guns, cars, and soldiers for boys; dolls, stuffed fluffy animals for girls. These divisions can be found through out the whole process of growing up. If you want to learn more about gender stereotyping there is an amazing video created by the BBC Stories that has practical demonstration. The whole problem behind gender bias and gender-stereotyping when upbringing children is that it leads to no change at all. There is simply no progress that is so much needed now.
Feminism tries to bring attention to all these problems, and I’ve only listed several from hundreds that they address. It might set you back if you consider to be male, since in most media and literature feminism is dominated by females. This turns out to be complete false assertion. The problem of masculinity and the upbringing of “true men” should be addressed. Sometimes we don’t even realize, how much harm we cause when we say “men don’t cry” or “you act like a girl.” We make them keep all the emotions inside and solve everything themselves, since sharing is “girly.” It is Not! There are so many devastating and harmful effects behind this upbringing that makes people bully each other and, in the worst case, can lead to suicide. If you are eager to expand your knowledge on these issues, I would highly recommend to watch the movie “The Mask You live In.” It talks about variety of problems that can be easily avoided, if only we recognize that every person is different and requires individual upbringing.
I can talk for hours about all the damage caused by stereotyping, ignorance or brutality, but that is not the point I want to make here. I think we all deserve to be feminists if we want to live in new, inclusive, better society. Feminism is not reserved to gender. Seeing so many diverse, intelligent and compassionate people at the Women’s March, gave me hope that with time there will be a change that will make our world more inclusive and welcoming for everyone without exceptions.
In conclusion, I want to return to the idea presented by Chimamanda, but state it my way. For me, a Feminist is a Person who says, ‘Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today, and WE must fix it. WE must do better!’ I guess, if you think about it, you will realize that you relate to this words. And if you do than my goal is accomplished.