On March 8, 2015 the world celebrated International Women’s Day. The day as I understand it is meant to mark the importance of equality between the sexes and condemn the mistreatment of women across the globe. A great ideal and a valiant effort to be admired, I assure you. The social media were having a field day of course, and ample hashtags and posts flooded the web to commemorate the day. It was this celebration, however, that got me thinking…
I have often been called a feminist accusingly. As if being a feminist is something to be avoided. And yes, I deny being a feminist when being a feminist gets equated with being a man-hater. I took some time to look a few things up just for clarification’s sake. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘feminist’ as “A person who supports feminism.” In turn, the same dictionary defines ‘feminism’ as “The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” Although some people today incorrectly think and promote the idea that being a feminist means hating men, I rejoice in being called a feminist when the word is being used with its true meaning, namely that I am an advocate for and support women’s equal rights in the world.
I know that compared to other women out there, I am considered privileged. I grew up without being abused or raped. I wasn’t married off to someone chosen for me while I was still a child. I wasn’t denied an education on the basis of my sex’s unintelligence. I have the right to vote and have a profession as well as a career. I am free to walk around or leave the house without a male member of the family escorting me. I can speak my mind and express my opinions without fearing for my safety. It saddens me immensely to think that such rights are not a given for every person in the world.
However, even I, ‘privileged’ as I am, have faced, still face and will continue to face moments of misogyny in my life. I don’t even recall how many times I have been told that the housework, namely doing the dishes, cooking, dusting etc., is a job meant for women. Or how many times people have commented that I should immediately get married and have children now that I am done with my degree because that’s my purpose in life. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I find offensive the implication behind people’s looks and words after I say that I am single and I don’t want a boyfriend right now. Do I not matter as a person unless I have a boyfriend? Is my self-worth somehow lessened by the fact that I am content with myself? And these are opinions expressed both by men and women!
There are many women who vocally reject the term ‘feminist’ exactly because of its association with misandry, declaring that they are not feminists. Why should anyone hesitate to declare themselves feminists out of fear of being considered a man-hater? It could be a damaging popular misconception. Or it could be that the meaning of the word has become so perverted in the minds of the ill-informed that it is thought of as shameful to use it. Many celebrities have been outspoken over the last couple of years about issues surrounding feminism. The list of names is as extensive as it is impressive. Beyoncé, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Sir Patrick Stewart, Prince Harry, Lena Dunham, the Dalai Lama, Emma Watson, Hillary Clinton and US President Barack Obama to name but a few. If I was being cynical, I would say women’s rights are trending. But why, I ask, should we need this to be trending, something that can pass out of the public consciousness the minute the next big issue comes along? Why only one day every year, instead of every day throughout the year? One day is not enough. We don’t need one day every year to remind us that we matter.
Our voices matter. We are here and we deserve to be heard. We have rights. The fight doesn’t end. One day a year only makes the guilty parties feel better about themselves for ignoring the problem the rest of the time. The value of women and their struggle for equality regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion or social status is not limited to one day a year. I guess what I’m trying to say is, celebrate International Women’s Day, just don’t forget that fighting for women’s rights is a responsibility people share on a daily basis and that feminism has nothing to do with taking anything away from men.