“My feminist journey so far”

My aunty has been talking to me about politics and campaigning for years (she never really has much other chat). I’ve always admired it, but wondered what makes her so passionate (read as ‘angry’) about the world and its problems. I mean, she lives a good life, in a privileged country; she doesn’t appear to have any adversity in her life – so what exactly is she trying to do? From talking to her more and learning things myself, I’ve realised that it is not necessarily having experienced injustice yourself, but more knowing that nobody should ever have to experience it. Whether that is poverty, homophobia or sexism. It’s about wanting to create a world where everyone is treated the same and treated well.

There are two main things I’ve learnt from these conversations about feminism:

  1. You don’t have to have experiences severe sexism to know it exists and stand up against it.
  2. I have actually experienced sexism; I just didn’t know that’s what was happening.

The second one is the scariest and the one where most women my age are at.

I honestly never thought I would be interested in feminism, it’s embarrassing to say, but I formed an opinion on something I knew nothing about completely based on stereotypes – burning bras, never shaving your legs, hating men and all that jazz . (Although my aunty’s unhealthy fictitious relationship with several male celebrities should have probably given me a clue to this not being accurate).

I stereotyped feminism without actually knowing what it really stood for. 

After being taught and actually understanding what feminism is, my opinions have completely changed and I started to think “this is actually pretty cool, I think my friends would be interested in this too if someone explained it to them the way my aunty is to me”. After learning about feminism I really started to realise and pick up on inequalities between men and women, in the work place, in social spheres and society. I just keep remembering a sociology class from first year, we were discussing the public and private spheres in society, my tutor (major feminist) became agitated because some guy in my class sniggered something about women only being in the private sphere; domestic home life, cooking and cleaning, raising children. While men were in the public sphere being the breadwinners. Back then I really couldn’t care less about what was going on, it was a 9 am tutorial and me showing up was pretty impressive. But now that I’ve learned a bit about feminism, I get why that kind of thinking isn’t ok. Yet, it seemed like it was such a natural thing for him to say. My tutor got angry… but no one else did. In fact, the rest of the guys (and girls!) laughed about it after the class.

I’ve realised that women’s rights aren’t just a chapter in a history or sociology book – they are relevant now. It will affect me and my friends in just a years’ time when we graduate and start working life – where we will get paid less, promoted less and stressed more. I’ve learnt that inequality affects every woman even if they don’t know it. I had no idea until a few months ago and I know there are so many young women like me who are in the same position.

Since talking to my aunty and learning about feminism I find I get angrier more often (not as often as she does…), when I hear boys I’m friends with or at uni making “lad jokes” I find I have to stop myself shouting at them. Learning about feminism has definitely made me realise that I have a political voice, that I can form my own opinions separate to those of my friends and my family. I find that I’m more inclined to say what’s on my mind whereas before I would stay quiet because I’d think “this person knows more than me, I don’t know anything and I’m just going to sound stupid” or I’d think “what’s the point in saying anything, the person probably won’t listen to me”. I guess that learning about feminism made me want to change the way people viewed me and gave me the confidence to be something different. I suppose it kind of helped me go through the phase of being a girl to being a woman. I want to be a powerful woman whose voice is heard and respected. A lot of this change I’m talking about is down to the nurturing from my aunty who’s guided me through this process and taught me a lot, but feminism was the “backbone” so to speak. I also find that in general, me and my friends have started to debate and discuss feminist topics and what it means to us rather than the things we used to talk about, which was, well, nothing really! So it might have started with just me – but now there are more of us and thousands of more now doubt, if they had someone to speak to about it.

I still have lots to learn. I want to learn how to make a difference for the next generation. I want to learn how to discuss feminism better and get the point across to my friends, I want to learn more about the bigger picture and how feminism affects the whole world. But for now, I’ve learnt how it affects me and made me more political – and that’s a good place to start.

So yes, if my aunty asks, even though I rolled my eyes when she started this and I sometimes still pretend I’m in the library/going through a noisy tunnel so I don’t have to answer her calls; it’s working and I think I like it!


First published here: http://talatyaq.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/my-feminist-journey-so-far/

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