Why I Am a Feminist | LibroLiv

It’s a loaded topic, but a necessary one.

Today I’m going to explain to you why I’m a feminist. No propaganda. No excuses. No covert intentions. I’m just going to explain the why and the how…New Girl Woman GIF

First of all, let’s clear up the basics. Feminists:
• Don’t wear bras (because they burned them already)
• Don’t shave their legs/armpits
• Don’t wear deodorant
• Hate men
• Are exclusively women
• But not feminine women
• Are bossy
• Were all once emotionally destroyed by a man
• Were relevent only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when women wanted the vote

Glad we got that sorted.

Jokes aside, these are all stereotypes I grew up with. Damaging stereotypes that I grew up with. I never actually really understood the concept of feminism until I was about 15 years old. I just believed everything I’d already been told – and subsequently had a very distorted view of feminism. Of course, I was never actually taught the definition of feminism. Let’s take a look:

Image result for define feminism

Feminism is about equality, not superiority. And not any of the other things mentioned above. What’s also frequently forgotten is that feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights regardless of race, ethnicity, class, socioeconomic status, religion, ability or sexual orientation. So whilst many people believe feminism is a null cause because women already have the right to vote and equal wages, what more could they want?, they’re not really talking about feminism at all, because they’re excluding most of the world. Feminism, in its most honest form, is the advocacy of women’s rights across the globe on the grounds that women are not equal to men in all forms.

I didn’t realise I was a feminist, probably, until I was 16, when someone asked me if I was, to which I naively responded, “aren’t we all?

This was around the time that I started becoming increasingly interested in activism, and how people in higher-income countries like myself have the gift – and potential – to help change the world for the better and liberate women across the globe. Now, I’m not saying that we’re the only people with the ability to inspire change, but we are definitely in a very favourable position to do so.

I believe on one level, many people are feminists without realising it, or don’t define as feminists because of recent so-called ‘feminazi’ movements. There’s a glaring difference between feminists and misandrists, and it is so frustrating that so much of modern feminism is overwhelming – and incorrectly – defined by the minority – the loud minority that news outlets are apparently so interested by – who tarnish the righteousness of the movement. A lot of people think this is one of the main things holding feminism back, and of course, it plays a very important role. However, I disagree that it is the main cause.

The main thing that hinders the progression of feminism and equality in the sexism that is ingrained in our society.

Again, this isn’t something I realised until I was about 16, when I started studying it in school, and I supported this learning by doing some more research outside of this. Both YouTube and Instagram have amazing resources for learning about inequality and activism. For example, Emma Watson gave a great speech at the UN back in 2014 to promote the HeForShe campaign, which I never would have heard without YouTube.

Furthermore, I follow many pages on Instagram that challenge my activism and that give me news updates as to progression in the field. My favourite pages are ForeverFeminism, Feminist, Fem.inist, March and ItsFeminism. These pages receive a lot of negative comments inspiring a lot of debate in the comment section which is always interesting to read. They’re really engaging and active, and I highly recommend you check them out. Here’s an example post:

View this post on Instagram

Yes Jade 👏

A post shared by ✨ empowering women ✨ (@itsfeminism) on

On the other hand, at school, we learned all about gender theories and how your language can both represent and determine your wider views of the world. This is a brief summary of the Sapir/Whorf theory, the theory that your language limits and determines your perceptions of the world. For instance, the Tarahumara Tribe in Mexico lack a distinction between the colours blue and green, because in their language these two colours come under one word. So, in English, where we do not have a male equivalent for the words ‘whore,’ ‘slag,’ or ‘slut,’ we potentially have a predetermined and limited perception of men and women because our language does not facilitate equal views of each.

Here, I’m drawing on Julia Stanley‘s research. She looked into promiscuous terms and the imbalance between those for men and those for women. She found 220 terms to describe a promiscuous female (terms like ‘slut,’ ‘tart,’ ‘whore’) and only 20 for a promiscuous male, many of which had approving connotations, like ‘stud’ or ‘stallion.’ On the occasion that someone would like to refer to a man as a ‘slut,’ they are limited by our language’s lack of a male-equivalent term. Many people simply use ‘slut’ androgynously. However, more commonly, ‘slut’ is fronted by ‘man’ (‘man-slut’) so as to ensure the listener knows said promiscuous individual does in fact identify as male. In short, ‘slut’ is a term that inherently and almost exclusively refers to women.

Other linguists – namely Dale Spender and Christine Christie – have looked into similar things, and their research unanimously shows that the English language is inherently sexist. And we don’t even realise it. Here are a few of my favourite examples:

  • Terms of Address: A young man is a ‘Master,’ and when he turns 18, he becomes a ‘Mister.’ In contrast, a young woman is a ‘Miss’ and she doesn’t become a ‘Missus’ until she is wed. Why do terms of address denote a man’s age but a woman’s marital status? To read a really interesting post that expands on this topic – by Jess @ Jess Writes – click here.
  • Order of precedence: How ‘King and Queen’ or ‘Mr and Mrs’ is a more natural-sounding phrase than ‘Queen and King’ or ‘Mrs and Mr.’ If we link this back to Sapir/Whorf, this phenomenon only accentuates the societal view of women as secondary or less powerful.
  • Marked Forms: Altering a word so that you know which gender it refers to. For example, ‘mayoress‘ or ‘policewoman.’ We could also consider this in the light of Stanley’s promiscuous terms. For example, ‘man-whore’ or ‘man-slut’ – meaning the derogatory terms ‘whore’ and ‘slut’ inherently and singularly refer to women, and do not have male equivalents.

Learning this in school really made me realise the importance of feminism. How little things I don’t even think about in our language nurture this false image that women are inferior. And with English quickly being spoken by an increasing number of people, this too has the potential to increase in the future.

Of course, this alone is quite a good example of ‘snowflake’ feminism – the idea that millennials just find everything offensive. But I do think it’s important to remember, because – if we believe the Sapir/Whorf theory – our language determines how we view the world. In other words, our language determines how we view women. So having an inherently sexist language will inevitably lead to an inherently sexist society.

On the other side of the scale, and as I mentioned briefly previously, feminism is widely believed to be a ‘null cause.’ Some people genuinely believe that men and women are equal, and that feminists are ‘just complaining.’ Movements like ‘#MeToo’ and ‘March 8’ in Spain prove that this is not the case. Violence against women – rape, physical abuse, verbal abuse – remains a taboo in some of the most developed countries. I recently watched a documentary called ‘Japan’s Secret Shame’ created by the BBC which looks into the silence surrounding violence against women in one of the most developed countries in the world. And from this comparably luxurious position, we forget about the horror women must face in much poorer countries than our own, countries that are perhaps not as developed as our own, and almost certainly do not either hold or enforce laws encouraging the equality between men and women. Rape, abuse, child-brides – women are consistently and very widely considered to be lesser to men, treated as property, and are the victims of violence that is harrowingly passed off as normal.

Of course, this is reason enough to be a feminist.

But it’s not just violence that women face. If we return to the idea of simple inequality, we should look at Walking for Water in African countries – how women and girls miss out on an education and creating their own livelihood because they’re burdened with the task of walking 6km for water every single day, sometimes more than once. And not just walking for the water, but carrying it the whole way home, too. This is no easy feat. Girls are also frequently forced to drop out of school because of the limited availability of sanitary products in these environments. Period poverty is real and it leads women to becoming trapped in an unrelenting loop of discrimination.

Unfortunately, education is a very male thing in Africa. And not only in Africa, but across the world. Recently, there has been an increased number of companies being called out for their lack of women in superior positions. In 2018, women hold 4.8% of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies. 4.8%. And yet this is another issue in society that is commonly viewed as ‘snowflake feminism’ – making an issue out of nothing. And yet does this not point to a wider issue? That not only are women not given the same opportunities as men to progress to higher positions in their field – read more by researching the ‘glass ceiling‘ phenomenon – but they are not nurtured with the correct grade of education in the first place, especially in these lesser-developed countries.

But this isn’t something we talk about much. The trafficking of young girls, child-brides, inequalities in education – these are topics we tend to avoid, because it isn’t happening on our doorsteps. And because it isn’t a local issue, many people come to the conclusion that it isn’t actually happening, feminism is superfluous, and equality has been achieved.

They are wrong.

And oftentimes they believe this because of the limited exposure we are given to these issues in news outlets. Unfortunately, the struggles of women across the globe are not actually given much screen time or space on newspaper pages. So we forget.

I am not immune to this. No one is. Sometimes, some days, we’re more consumed by our own issues than the issues of other people across the globe. One of my favourite poems explains this really well – Pocket Sized Feminism by Blythe Baird – which you can listen to below.

But what’s important is a consciousness of our own ignorance. I am aware that my feminism is not perfect. I am aware that I do not always know what is going on in the world, what progression steps we have made towards equality outside of my own country. I am aware that, like Blythe Baird, ‘sometimes I want people to like me more than I want to change the world.’ We all have our own insecurities, but a consciousness of this ignorance and these issues is so much more powerful than a blanket lack of awareness because ‘sexism is dead.’

Unfortunately, it is not. And I will be a feminist until it is.

amy poehler feminism GIF


Literature I recommend (or others highly recommend) that is about feminism or has a feminist agenda:

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10 thoughts on “Why I Am a Feminist | LibroLiv

  1. I love how well articulate you were in this article about a topic which has unfortunately become needlessly controversial. As a feminist, when I see people around me harboring such negative ideas about feminism, it really frustrates me a lot.

    Anyways, a great article!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I am so glad you enjoyed!

      I agree, it is increasingly frustrating that such negative views exist around feminism to the extent that more focus is given to the feminism movement than rectifying sexist and misogynistic issues.

      But yeah, thank you! I feel like there’s never too many posts like this (:

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a well constructed and very thought provoking post! I loved your stance and the discussion you pointed out about feminism, and I find myself pulled to do more activism and real work in the future, since so far I’ve only claimed to be a feminist and not do much that is really impactful for others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I’m so glad you thought so! I think something that’s really important to remember is that everyone’s activism is somewhat flawed – even your awareness is much stronger and more beneficial than someone who even refuses to acknowledge the issues our society has. So don’t be too hard on yourself for not engaging in “practical” acts of feminism or activism. Some of us merely don’t have the time or have other things that they need to put first e.g. skipping a rally so you can pick your kids up from school. I’m young, so I haven’t had many opportunities to do much, either. I guess this is my way of doing that whilst I mature and figure out where I really want to go with it. This was a really long-winded response, but I guess what I’m trying to say is do what you can (:

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an interesting and thought- provoking post Olivia.

    As a feminist, I would be interested to know your view on the wearing of the full face veil by Muslim women. My own view of the matter is that women have a right to dress as they choose and I would defend the right of a Muslim woman to cover her face (or her whole body) just as strongly as I would defend the right of other women to wear short skirts/revealing dresses. I find the idea of telling others how to dress illiberal. However I have friends who would describe themselves as “liberal” yet support the banning of the full face veil on the grounds that many women (even in the west) are pressured into wearing it (I.E. it is not a real choice to do so on their part). Some of these people would also describe themselves as “feminists”, hence my interest in your view of the matter.

    I am also struck by the differing views on the subject of prostitution within the feminist movement. I’ve read articles by feminists (Julie Bindel springs to mind) who argue that while a woman’s right to engage in prostitution should not be prohibited, men who pay for sexual services should be prosecuted as they are (in Bindel’s view) exploiting vulnerable women who have not, in reality exercised a meaningful choice to engage in prostitution due to pressure of financial circumstances or other factores. Conversly there are those who engage in prostitution (or sex work) who are self described feminists and who believe that those who wish to “save” women from sex work are patronising as they are denying the agency of those who freely choose to sell sexual services.

    Those who believe that prostitution is inherently exploitative tend to use terms such as “prostituted women and girls”, while those who contend that prostitution and/or sex work is often a free choice prefer terms such as “sex work/sex worker”. As a feminist I would be fascinated to know your perspective on this vexed matter.

    Best – Kevin

    Like

    1. Thank you for your interest and I’m glad you enjoyed.

      Of course, full face veils are very controversial. I myself would support any woman to wear what she chooses. But, like you said, with such a full-face veil, whether the choice was the woman’s is increasingly unknown. Of course, some women feel empowered by their full-face veil and believe it offers more of a deep-rooted connection to their God. That being said, in an increasingly fearful and wary world, I don’t think it is outrageous to ban this custom, especially in the western world where visible faces are the norm. Many people see visible faces to be a fundamental part of our society, and certainly many such nations communicate with just their facial expressions. I think this is much in line with respect and how in Dubai, for example, women cannot expose their shoulders, or in churches short skirts or shorts are often deemed disrespectful. To flat-out refuse to assimilate with the social customs of a country is, in my opinion, disrespectful. However, of course, this is a very tenuous and inflammatory thing to say, because is it not equally disrespectful for someone to ask another to remove an item of clothing that has spiritual significance to them? Would you ever ask a Christian to remove a necklace with a cross on it? Hence, I am of a split opinion. But increasingly, I am of the opinion that – in such harrowing times – other measures could perhaps be taken to connect with Gods in a more discreet fashion, or a fashion that simultaneously adheres to social customs of the country in question.

      In terms of prostitution, again, it is up to the woman in question as to whether she engages in this. Some women certainly do find it empowering. However, I do also believe in making exploitative prostitution illegal. For instance, there is a difference between women finding prostitution empowering and women using it to make money as an act of desperation. Of course, the latter is exploitative, and in my opinion falls into a completely different ball park than controlled prostitution, perhaps we could call them “sex workers by choice.”

      Hope this answers your questions! In short, I am definitely of split opinions, which isn’t exactly helpful!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your responses Olivia. I do agree that in situations where proof of identity is required (for example in a court of law or when passing through customs) that it is necessary for a person to show their face and I’ve read of instances where Muslim women (who wear the full face veil) fully except the legitimacy of showing their face in such situations. Being visually impaired (as I am) I don’t focus on people’s faces in the same way that sighted people do which may, of cours colour my view of this issue. None the less I do find the idea of forcing women to show their faces authoritarian. There is also the issue of police resources. I would rather see the police catching thieves, rapists and killers than in spending their time arresting women who are doing nothing other than wearing a full face veil.

        I agree with your position on prostitution/sex work. Its interesting how both these issues continue to divide feminists and others (there are splits within the major UK political parties on both matters).

        Best – Kevin

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hello. I’d like to put my two cents in this topic. I’m a Muslim woman from Bangladesh which is a Muslim majority country. I don’t wear any hijab or veil. But many of my friends do. And they started doing it of their own volition. I have yet to meet someone who wore burkha after being forced by anyone.

        I’ve been to other Islamic countries and there also I have only had the fortune of meeting woman who happily use hijab or niqab of their own accord. Rather, wearing veils or head coverings are one of the few things they do voluntarily. It’s the other laws like not being allowed to drive cars or go to cinemas, being forced into marriages and such that bother these women. I’m not denying that there are women in the world who are forced to use veil but I think find it sad that people use that as an excuse to spread Anti-Islam propaganda. Instead of doing that, if they vouched for woman rights in general, it’d be more useful. Child marriage, femicide, infanticide, honor killings are in my opinion bigger problems related to patriarchy than forced veil is.

        Also, about the security issue. In our country we have women guards in many places to check faces and body of women who wear veils. In my opinion, that’s a much better and less controversial solution than banning the clothing product. Banning any clothing item impedes women rights.

        For example, a close friend of mine who wears burkha grew up loving Paris through books and movies. But now, let alone Paris, my friend has curbed her dreams of traveling to a great many countries because of their bans on niqab and also the harassment she’s read of women who wear niqabs or hijabs face while traveling. That breaks my hurt.

        Anyways, this is only my insight and opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thank you for your insight! It certainly helps me, as a young white female, as I have not experienced or witnessed this prejudice first hand.

        I am glad you have only met women who wear such veils of their own volition. I do agree with you in that the West is majorly hypocritical in how it stresses on women’s right to wear their choice of clothing but avoids the more important topics – like you mentioned – of child bride, femicide, honour killings, etc. There are certainly bigger issues that are, unfortunately, ignored. And I also agree with you in terms of the security issue. There is definitely an issue with islamaphobia in the west, and we are unfortunately stuck in a transition period between acknowledging and accepting, if that makes sense. I like to believe that – as time progresses – acceptance will be more widespread. But, unfortunately, at present, the widespread terrorism in the name of Islam is what people are most afraid of – and many make the mistake of confusing the minority with the majority (hence the struggles of your friend when she travels).

        This is such a big issue and something that needs to be vocalised much more. Of course, I understand why countries consider bans. But, in reality, that only worsens the patriarchal and misogynistic issues.

        Thank you again for your insight!

        Liked by 1 person

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