In many countries, despite the presence of strong feminist movement, there are still many girls and young women who try to distance themselves from the word ‘feminist’.
Many understand the lingering problems of inequality, but feminism forces us to critically analyze our entire reality. It asks us to rethink our friends, our family, our schools, our workplaces. It’s no wonder so many girls and young women feel confused when they are first confronted with feminism. And as more experienced feminists, we have to be there for them. Here are 5 ideas about feminism I’d like to pass to the next generation.
No, we do not hate your dad/brother/boyfriend.
This is probably the most sensitive point for many girls and young women. Once they hear feminists talking about patriarchy, the counter-argument is usually something like: “the men I know are nothing like that – they are good men!”.
That’s great! Most men are not rapists or perpetrators of violence. When feminists criticize structures in society, they are not pointing their finger at individual men and asking them to atone for their sins. They are recognizing that, despite the fact that most men do not commit acts of violence, the ones who do thrive in a system of impunity.
And many men do not realize the extent of domestic or sexual violence because women and girls who have been victimized do not usually tell their dads/brothers/boyfriends – they confide in other women. So, while I personally know many women and girls who have suffered sexual assault, our mutual male friends would probably say they don’t know any victims.
If you think the men in your life are pro-equality and make great feminist allies, fantastic! But remember not all women and girls have that same privilege. We need to acknowledge their experiences as well.
Violence against women and girls is a major issue – but it’s not the only one.
When talking to girls and young women today, it can seem as though feminism is completely equated with ending rape culture. And although that is an important focus of contemporary feminist activism, feminism is about more than that. Feminist thought is applicable to economics, international relations, environmentalism, sports, psychology, artificial intelligence…to every area of our lives.
My generation is facing a climate crisis and we are the product of one the worst recessions in living memory. Feminist concepts such as care economics or gender-budgeting could prove a useful weapon to defend women’s rights and also a better economic and social system. We need to mainstream these concepts so younger feminists can take them further in the future.
It’s okay to have doubts.
Many girls and young women feel like they can’t share their doubts in online feminist communities or offline gatherings. They are afraid to go against feminist dogmas and so they keep their doubts to themselves until they quietly disappear from the movement.
But it shouldn’t be like this. It’s okay to have doubts. Most feminist issues are difficult and complex – the gender pay gap, for example, leads to hard conversations about work life balance, workers’ rights and inequality within the family.
No one is born with the answers to every single problem that affects women. And that is fine. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and voice your uncertainties.
There’s more to feminist activism than protests and hashtags.
Online movements and physical protests are, and will remain, important components of feminist activism for the 21st century. But there is so much more we can do!
Start a feminist book club. Create safe spaces for women to discuss their issues. Write blogs and articles about feminist concepts and ideas. Campaign for free childcare in your city. Ask a local women’s organization to come to your school/university. Volunteer at a women’s shelter. Ask for bookstores in your city or neighborhood to feature more books by women – especially feminist women. Listen to interviews with women who have been change-makers for the rest of us – particularly those who are less well knowm.
If protests and social media are not your thing, think about your skills and what you like to do and then examine how you can use them to build a movement.
Feminism = Solidarity.
This is perhaps the most important point. Feminism should be guided by ethics of solidarity and sisterhood. As a feminist, you should feel as if you are part of a global community who will support you and have your back. We are all in this together!