Almost two years ago I first started writing for Girls’ Globe. As a woman, I have grown so much since then. I know more than what I used to know. Feminism continues to a way of learning. In my first post, I wrote about what feminism meant to me. So in this post, I will be reflecting what feminism means to me now.
Freeing Myself of Internal Misogyny
I remember being 12 years old, going through puberty when an older boy pointed out that I had armpit hair. I remember being embarrassed because it was in front of other people who were my friends. Indirectly, they also made me feel ashamed about it.
It is these seemingly small incidents that make you hate yourself as a woman. You hate yourself for growing pubic hair, gaining weight, for not being as pretty as another girl or for being such a smart mouth. As a result, you become anxious and miserable. Then you start projecting these insecurities onto other women. You judge their looks and lifestyle choices. We do this to feel validated. Ultimately, you are conforming to and suffering under patriarchy.
As feminists, we like to advocate for empowerment and equality but rarely talk about agency. Agency is when an individual has the capacity to make their own free choices.
Historically, women have been denied or have had restricted agency. Women have been denied agency over our bodies and our lifestyle choices. Black people’s agency is limited. Poor people’s agency is limited. Queer and homosexual people’s agency is limited. Disabled people’s agency is limited. If we can include the issue of agency only then can we talk about empowerment and equality.
Finding My Voice
I grew up shy and I am still an introvert. Since my teens, I have been struggling with social anxiety. This has made it hard for me to speak up and assert myself. In the past, I allowed other people to define me. There were times when I felt inferior and battled with my self-esteem. I fell into the trap of comparing my journey to others’.
As I grow older, I am slowly finding my confidence. Naomi Osaka’s journey has been inspirational and encouraging to watch this year. Being a feminist has guided me a lot. Writing for Girls’ Globe has helped me find my voice.
Being Strong and Vulnerable as a Woman
I remember coming out of a depression and promising myself not to cry unless it’s necessary. I don’t cry as much anymore because I am not in the mental state I used to be. Now, I realize how wrong that was. We have to acknowledge our pain.
A lot of Black women are often lauded for their strength. At the same time, Black women’s strength and perseverance are often vilified. It happened to Michelle Obama, Serena Williams, Caster Semenya, Megan thee Stallion… These women also happen to be dark-skinned, Black women. Their bodies have also been subjected to objectification. Taraji P. Henson recently said that she hates the “strong Black woman” phrase. She feels that this “dehumanizes” Black women’s pain and sustains discrimination.
And it is no secret that society is threatened by courageous, confident and powerful women. They are too courageous, to confident, too powerful and too strong. We are not these things just for ourselves but for our families and loved ones. Most times, women don’t get love and support for it. As women, I believe we should allow ourselves vulnerability because that is where we can find our strength.
Feminism Isn’t Just an Ideology or a Movement
Feminism is women abolishing their internalized misogyny. It should include queer, transgender and non-binary people. Intersectionality, womanism and Black feminism should be acknowledged, encouraged and celebrated.
Feminism is also about oppressed people finding their voices, being vulnerable and having agency in what they do. It is also a lifestyle and a means of expression. With that being said, we should not be distracted from our cause. The intent and goal of feminism should be to dismantle white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, classism and the overriding patriarchy. At times we forget that and fight unnecessary battles amongst ourselves or against. What is “real” feminism anyway?
As I reflect on my post of two years ago and this one, I realize I still have so much to learn and unlearn. There are so many contradictions I still have to resolve as a woman and a feminist. At the moment, I am still embracing the contradictions. What does feminism mean to you?