In my office, at the women’s magazine I work for, I’ve often been branded a ‘flagrant feminist’ (an idea I find entertaining given that I work in a space that’s about as ‘by women, for women’ as it can get). This tag comes with some degree of respect, some degree of amusement—and even a modicum of disdain.
But I find it’s because my idea of what a feminist makes is too far out for many folk to grasp. It‘s ‘too much’, too insanely full of ideals that many of the people I know would rather not commit to. It makes people stare at me with awe and, often, with complete and utter flabbergasted-ness, and makes them check some of their sentences with the prefix “I’m not a feminist like you are…” meaning that their brand of feminism fell short of mine, in some way, shape or form and so I might judge their comments to come from my pedestal of feminist upstanding.
But that’s the thing—what the fuck is feminism? Who decides if I’m more feminist than the next person? Should feminism be allowed to be a choice for a woman? Should it not, like breasts and PMS, come naturally in the time with which you process it? And...does my proclaiming that come across as aggressive—a trait people associate with ‘my brand’ of feminism?
When I hear people cloaking their sexist expectations in the quick guise of the words “I mean, of course I’m a feminist, but I love me a guy who’ll hold the door open for me…” I wonder if, even though the notion of this term is a touch free-flowing, shouldn’t it NOT be okay for people to just emblazon the label of “Proud Feminist” on their chests, with the addendum of a million ‘exceptions’ in the fine print?
So, perhaps, even though there will be more eloquent definitions and by-laws than my own, I thought it might be wise (for my own clarity, more than any other purpose) to lay down some tenets of ‘my brand’ of feminism:
1) The idea of equal pay for equal work is something I champion thoroughly. However, in a world where this goal comes to fruition, it should no longer be okay for the man to pick up the tab on dates, because, you know, 'that's just, like, the way it's supposed to be done'.
2) It’s HORRIFIC that women, after the trauma of being raped, have to go through sickening abuse at the hands of the police, and of society. That the lengths to which she has to prove she isn’t lying is another, heart-breaking ordeal. That she’s treated not as a victim first, but as a suspect. It’s also horrific when a woman who hasn’t been harmed in any way realizes that this is the easiest route to ruining an innocent man’s reputation and life in one fell swoop.
3) It’s absolutely okay for women to want to run their lives with exactly as much freedom as men. It is, indeed, our right to walk the streets late at night, to study till whatever age we want and not get married till we’re 45 or EVER, just because we feel like it. We just can’t forget that this means that we can’t not know how to change a tyre, or deal with property brokers or learn some expert-level MMA to save our own lives because, you know, that's why we have men (cue many LOLZ).
4) Women need to be considered on par with men at the workplace—in every way. If you worked as hard as a male colleague, it wouldn’t at all be fair that you be passed over for a promotion because the clients would “just be more comfortable with a man at the head of the (conference) table.” But this same claim in life cannot come from the kind of space where women use “period pains” when they don’t have them to get out of work because, that’s something a male boss can’t question because it makes him uncomfortable and out of line.
5) We need to realize it’s not okay to crib about women’s rights in public forums and social media, but change sides like the flick of a switch when it comes to real life. We have to make a noise, even if its more inconvenient than ‘just letting it go’ when a passerby on the street grazing your ass with his hand, or if a man stares at your chest throughout your bus ride to work.
6) No woman is asking for it. Ever. Period. No exceptions. If she is naked with a “Fuck Me” sign in glitter across her breasts, she is still not yours to touch. You need her permission, always, always, always. You also need HIS permission. The idea that you can stick your tongue down a man’s throat, or press your body into his, or grab his crotch do not become okay because, well, he’s a man and they never say no. They can, they do, they have every goddamn right to. It doesn’t make it any less assault because you’re a woman. It makes it worse, because people will cry when you talk about YOUR ordeal, but laugh when he brings up his.
We need to have the guts (not the balls, *she sidesteps carefully*) to know you have to earn the right to be called a feminist, because it doesn’t come in the exact size and shape you want it to. It's like a degree, an education. You don't decide you want to be a lawyer and become one by telling people you're a lawyer. It takes commitment.
It means not asking a man to give up his seat on the bus, in the section marked ‘ladies’, because even though your legs are aching like hell from running around all day, you know being a woman is not a handicap.
It means paying your way through life, in kind and in cash, because no one else is responsible for you but you yourself.
It means understanding that being a feminist is a beautiful thing but, just like life, there will be parts of it you don’t like, that don’t work in your favour. That don’t allow you free drinks or half-days at work or the luxury to feel up any man that takes your fancy.
It means realizing that you are NOT a victim—not of society or gender. Not anymore. It’s believing that your playing with a full deck—that you are not handicapped, underprivileged; that you are not the underdog. You are in the game, and you are a full, strong contender. It means taking the time, the pain and the fight to correct someone when they tell you you can’t do something. It will be the very opposite of easy—it will often be unpleasant and sometimes even take a few tries. But that daily struggle of carving a tunnel to other side with the nib of a ball-point pen, and making a dent every time you try—that is feminism.
Or atleast, you know, 'my brand' of feminism.