For as long as I can remember, I have believed in gender equality. It shocked me as a teenager, and it still shocks me now that there are people out there who don’t believe women and men are of equal importance to each other.
I believe that women and men (and everyone in between) are equal – different to each other in some respects, but equal. I don’t think gender should have any bearing on how important your opinion is, or on how you are judged.
I believe people should be judged solely on whether or not they act like arseholes – not on race, gender, sexuality, size or any of the other things society and the media uses to bridge a gap between people.
It might come as a surprise to you, then, that this time last year I would have been horrified if someone had referred to me as a feminist.
I was under the very misguided and misogynistic view that all feminists were masculine women who didn’t wear make-up, didn’t shave, and actively hated all men. It was a mishmash of negative stereotypes that built up towards what I assumed was an unappealing ideology.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with not wearing make-up or not shaving – each to their own – but it’s not for me. I thought of feminism as burning bras and quoting phrases such as: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” We are social creatures, and we need other people: men are people, therefore we need them. I didn’t understand this kind of man-hating logic and assumed they all felt like this.
I believed as a feminist, I would have to spend a lot of time on my high horse – a man holds a door open, I have to lecture him that I am perfectly capable of opening it myself. I actually wrote a blog posts about why I could never call myself a feminist for most of the reasons stated above. I used the term “equalitist” to describe myself, even though it’s not a word. I actually still like that word and think it’s a valid description of wanting equality.
Then I found a wonderful community of bloggers and I began reading their blogs. I found Zusterschap through a tweet someone I followed re-tweeted. I can’t even remember which post the tweet was about now, but it caught my attention and I clicked through and read the post.
I noticed other posts that caught my eye on the site and I read those too. I found a community of strong, modern women who weren’t afraid to talk about taboo subjects; who weren’t afraid to voice their opinions and who, perhaps most importantly to me at that point, were nothing like the stereotype of feminists.
It soon became one of my favourite blogs.
The women on Zusterschap wrote feminist posts, but they wrote them in a way I understood. These were kick-ass women who spoke a lot of sense and all identified as feminists to one extent or another.
And then I had that epiphany moment: the moment when I realised these women believed in equality; they believed in choice. They believed in a woman’s right to safety and her freedom to wear what she wanted, go where she wanted and be who she is.
They didn’t care if someone wore make-up or not, they didn’t care if you were a high flying city trader, a stay at home mum, or anything in-between: they wanted you to have a voice, a voice that spoke up and said: ‘I am important. My opinions count. I matter.
They said love yourself, respect yourself and don’t let a man treat you with anything less than the respect you deserve. Don’t let society make your choices for you. Stand by your opinions, even if they aren’t the popular ones.
They basically said everything I had felt for a long time, and they said this was feminism. All they wanted was equality and choice. And none of them were raging men haters (shock horror!).
They wanted a world where strong women lifted each up instead of knocking each other down. A world where it’s okay for a man to pull your chair out, but it’s also okay to split the bill. A world where it’s okay to be a stay at home mum, but it’s also okay to return to work. A world where we are equal and all our choices are our own.
And I realised I had always been a feminist, I just didn’t understand the term.
I still think there is a long way to go – women still tear each down, judge each other and try to make each other look bad. But that doesn’t mean I have to be part of the problem. If enough women raise each other up, I hope that in time, others will see that we are stronger together.
I still sometimes have those moments where it would be easier not to be a feminist, not to have to waste so much time justifying this to people. But do you know what? If we don’t stand up for what we believe in, nothing will ever change.
I am now proud to say I am a feminist.