“In the late 1990s, feminism was really, really a bad word, you didn’t want to be associated with it, you would be supposed to be this nasty, ugly woman with a mustache who is hating all men.” said Carla Cruz, Portuguese artist and founder of the All My Independent Women Blog.
Two decades after, that perception has not only changed, it’s exacerbated. Although 67 years have passed since Hysteria was declassified as a mental health disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, women’s needs and rights are still hard fought to be understood and accepted. There are many ways–like the many feminisms–that women stand up for each other through protests like SlutWalk and numerous women’s rights movements. However, these expressions of empowerment are widely misunderstood and resisted.
From a vision of women with mustaches who hate men, to women who flash their nipples, and those who riot in the name of “Smashing the Patriarchy” the general belief of what feminism truly is has been warped. These are just a few of the ways that some women have used to channel their anger and call attention to important issues. Beneath it all, however, feminism is much more diverse and incorporates a lot of other viewpoints. Let’s explore those.
Amidst distortion, what is feminism really about, and why does it matter?
To answer this, I gathered 11 unique voices on the matter from activists, writers, students, business owners, from around the globe:
11 Featured Voices
Amber – 24, Cis Female. New Zealand.
Guilford College Alum
I’m Amber. I hold a BA in Accounting, Economics, and English from Guilford College in North Carolina, USA. I am a business analyst specializing in project management and process development, and currently live in New Zealand. I am also a blogger at Write Happy Live Healthy, a science-fiction novelist, and a graphic designer.
Aya Chebbi – 29, Female. Kenya/Tunisia.
Afrika Youth Movement
I am a full-time pan-Africanist, because I am born in Africa and Africa is born in me. I am a proud woman and feminist. I have fluid identities, I find myself often stereotyped as an oppressed woman, a terrorist Arab and Muslim or a North African disconnected from the continent. Sick of the mainstream media under-reporting of our stories and negative portrait of who we are in my region, I decided to counter these narratives through blogging, Vlogging and advocacy. I decided to make the privilege of blogging and voicing out women’s rights and violations, a privilege to every young woman. I mentored and trained hundreds of youth in blogging, social medi, and mobilization.
Bianca Cardoso – 36, Cis Female. Brazil.
I’m Bianca. I’m one of the authors of the site Blogueiras Feministas.
Dahrren Dominguez – 21, Cis Female. Philippines.
Beta Sigma Ladies Corps, Innabuyog Gabriela
I’m Dahrren, a BA Communications graduate from the University of the Philippines. I’m currently a Marketing Manager for various food businesses, a freelance calligraphy instructor and a lifestyle blogger at The Diary Queen.
David – 58, Male. United Kingdom.
Men for Feminism
I’m a civil servant, educated at Leicester University and Birkbeck College. I run the Men for Feminism facebook group.
Dawid Wiacek – 32, Cis Male. United States.
David the Fixer
I’m Dawid, a career coach, copywriter and brand strategist at David the Fixer. I hail from rural Poland but have spent the bulk of my life in New York City. I graduated with a BA in Psychology from Wesleyan University. I love life.
Juniper Woodbury – 22, Cis Female. United States.
Hi I’m Juniper. I’m a comedy writer with a heavy dose of feminist influence.
Jerry – 69, Het Male. United Kingdom.
I am a retired systems analyst who worked primarily in the financial industry. My interests now include history, Formula 1 racing, good food, and fine wine.
Mike Caroll – 55, Bi with Gender Dysphoria. Canada.
I understand and want to follow the cause for all women.
Nayoung Kim – 27, Feminist. South Korea.
My name is Nayoung. I am a feminist activist from South Korea. I engage in activism through research, advocacy, organizing, and writing. I share my thoughts about feminism through a personal blog Nayoung Kim Writes, and through social media.
Amani Zayen – 19, Cis Man. United States.
I am Amani Zayen, currently I’m not studying as I took a break. I just help my mom run her convenience store until I find a good University. I am currently working on a website inspired by the HeForShe campaign. I have created a facebook page for it however, this page serves to eliminate the “feminists are man-haters” idea.
Why are you a feminist?
“I support the accessibility of safety, success, and life-satisfaction for everyone. I am feminist because I have seen the hurt caused by brutally regulated gender identities, not only in the treatment of trans and gender-fluid friends, but also in the struggles and scars suffered by my father and brother due to their inability to mourn the passing of my mother. I want them to be free to be strong *and* be honest with themselves.
I also want the freedom to be strong *and* be a woman, which, growing up in a conservative Baptist community, has been very difficult. Not only was I openly ridiculed for being too masculine when I had a short haircut in high school, but I was also mocked by my step-mother for being manly because I wanted to work out and become physically stronger.
On the other hand, I was ridiculed for my weakness and femininity when I tried to participate in sports, was forced to wear long skirts throughout high school due to my school’s Baptist affiliation, and was told repeatedly by my step-mother that I would be pregnant before I was 16 because I preferred jeans and appeared too self-confident (though that was a front).
I was one of only three women in my Economics major in university and went on to be a business analyst in IT and marry a trans woman. To me, the ideal that feminism should present – that everyone might have the freedom to live their truth and express their identity as long as they are not hurting anyone – is a perfect one. A world in which my brother did not grow up fighting and getting high, drunk, and repeatedly expelled because he was not allowed to cry or see a therapist until too late; a world in which my father could talk to me about my mother and her death; a world in which I did not fear for the safety of my wife every time she goes to the bathroom in public; a world in which I could have short hair and wear cargo pants without anyone caring, questioning, or ridiculing my gender – that world would be better for everyone.”
“I have been perceived as a rebel in my conservative extended family just because I chose to live independently, not with my parents for a while, because I do not treat marriage as an achievement and haven’t got married even in my late 20s, because I dislike the kitchen and like to eat rather than cook, because I travel the world and have an unconventional job which has opened my eyes to more gender injustices.
On the other hand, as an only child, my father imbued in me a strong sense of self-worth and the innermost conviction that I deserve the same chances in life as anyone. But I went out to society and found myself facing pressure, sexual harassment and assault not only in public spaces but in the most elitist privileged spaces, unwanted judgments about my body and sexuality and of what “I can and can’t be”, and intrusions on my character, look, appearance, behavior and ideas. I am therefore a feminist because it’s my daily fight and sharing the struggles with others under shades of oppression, I have become part of the global fight for gender equality.”
“Because I believe that a better world is achieved through the fight for women’s rights and the end of sexism.”
“I wasn’t that keen about feminism before until I had this class about gender studies during my first year in college. It was followed up when I joined various women’s organizations. And I believe equality is the biggest issue when it comes to feminism. (Well not just about women, of course, but gender-equality in general).”
“I have been made aware of feminist issues by books I’ve read such as A Brief History of Misogyny by Jack Holland, but also by all the women I’ve known. I’ve never understood why the denigration of women is so commonplace. Everybody has an interest in women realising their potential and making a full contribution to society.”
“Because I am human. I wish we lived in a world where there wasn’t a need for feminism, but sadly that isn’t (yet) the case. I spent 9 months of my life inside a woman (as have all human beings I know). Women are the bedrock of our civilization and the social glue, and yet they are all too often degraded, discarded, mocked, abused, underappreciated, or neglected. It breaks my heart.”
“First and foremost, I’m a feminist because I’m a girl and a girl’s gotta be on her own side. I’m also a feminist because I want to support all other people who are negatively affected by sexism (probably most people). But the most troubling issue for me is the objectification of women. I see women objectified in the media, in everyday life, and all around me. And this objectification exists on both ends of the political spectrum. It’s a type of misogyny that isn’t yet widely looked down upon. In fact, I think it’s growing. And I think that needs to change.”
“Because women are mostly undervalued and are often the recipients of discriminatory actions and attitudes.”
“Women create a safer world and understand how things work. I want to listen more. Follow the debates. Women for women.”
“I am a feminist because I want liberation, equality, and dignity for women and girls. Some issues that are important to me are: sexual exploitation, gender violence, and sex equality.”
“Feminism fights for the equality of both sexes. Since I’ve been and lived in many parts of the world, I can still see sexism. People argue that women have rights today and they don’t need feminism. But as I’ve lived in developing countries, girls were being married off at a young age as 15. I’ve known women who’ve witnessed or experienced acid attacks. And ’til this day, women are still being treated as secondary and going out to parties is “a boys thing”. But unfortunately, some men I’ve know, despite seeing their sisters called sluts and forced to marry, still don’t support feminism because “it’s not a man’s thing”.”