From my experience and also in conversation with others, I have come to realize that many people in the world view feminism as a dirty, dirty word.
I have had people say it to me with a face that squeezed as if to signify the bitter taste in their mouth. I have also had some spit it out at me, as if there could be no greater insult for me to bear. And, I have had people say it between derisive laughs that speak of my foolishness and silliness from their perspective. Fortunately, I have had people say it with a face that signaled respect and others with a voice that spoke volumes of support.
Just to get it out of the way, I love being a feminist. Just like every other label, it comes with its ups and downs, its stereotypes and its truths, its strengths and its weaknesses. But just like the pride I have in bearing the label woman, I pride myself on the label, feminist. Unfortunately, like many other labels are misjudged, I feel that the feminist movement has been, more often than it should, subjugated to several stereotypes affecting it. The most popular and silliest (in my opinion) is the stereotype that feminists are men bashers. Of course, there may be exceptions to this and some men bashers might exist but it is wrong to use those few women to characterize the whole feminist movement. Also, feminists are viewed as women that will never get married or never agree with each other and stand for one thing. I beg to differ. I am a proud feminist for many reasons and here are some of them.
I am a proud feminist because:
1. I am where I am today because women who called themselves feminists, such as Gloria Steinem fought for women like me. As much as I am proud of the progress we have made, there is still a lot to be done; the movement does not end with them. Thus, I proudly carry their legacy and continue the struggle that they started. It is an honor.
2. I have come to realize that I may have always been a woman but I have not always been conscious of what I deserved or the freedoms I had curtailed as a woman. Yes, I am glad to be a woman, but I feel that gaining awareness of the status of women in society, accepting the reality and fighting against it is when I became a feminist. Though I see women across the world go through different difficult and hard situations, I am glad that I am aware of my and their reality and I can hopefully do something about it.
3. I can tap into a network of wonderful, strong and brilliant women and men that support the fight for equality and understand that women should never be considered inferior to men. I can connect with these people who embrace the fact that the world needs women in all its sectors and representing in all its top positions for the world to truly progress.
4. I do not fight to be recognized and saluted more than my male counterparts, but to be accorded that much respect if I deserve it. Because at that point, what makes them better than me?
5. I believe that if I fight hard enough, I will create a world that will receive my children as equal and will never expect a whole list of things from them because they are boys or girls, men or women.
6. I realize that feminism is more than men bashers or the occasional trouble makers. It is more than just you or me, greater than us. It is a movement, like many, that seeks to impact the world in a much greater measure and I am lucky to be just a little fighting part of it.
I can go on and on, but I will stop listing there.
Feminism is different for everyone, and the manner in which we fight for it is different as well. Being a European feminist may be different from being an African American or an African feminist. However, we all have an understanding that there is something to be fought for and that there are certain goals that need to be reached. We also bring different perspectives to the table that should help refine the movement, rather than take away from it. You may agree with some feminists, and disagree with others, but for the feminist movement as a whole, I give a resounding YES!
P.S: I get asked a lot why feminists are so angry and I would just like to ask those people back: How does it feel to suffer inequality because you are female, and yet you have to spoon feed and explain it to the same people that perpetuate this discrimination? In other words, when wrong is done to someone, again and again, you should go in understanding that they will be angry because no, it is not fun. And yes, you are expecting a lot from them if you expect them to always calmly and lovingly explain the inequality or wrongdoing to you.