History tells us empowering stories about popular women’s movements, largely due to an abundance of restrictions and absence of rights all across the globe. We are familiar with the popular works of Barbara Hutchins and Alice Clark, have read about the suffragettes and are inspired day by day to speak out loud about the hardships we face without being silenced. It should never have been like that in the first place – an entire identity being put into a society scared of femininity, women chained to take in the business as little space as possible, almost out of politeness. Thus, we needed empowerment. But the line is very thin between having what you are rightfully entitled to and being happy with it.. and radicalising established ideas.
Feminist theory first and foremost demands for equality of the sexes, however with the increasing role of the media and so-called inspirational Hollywood know-it-alls in it, two very big misconceptions have been given birth to, threatening our female identity and our society as whole. The former being the dropping of “fem” in “feminism” with the abolishment of values that form and have formed the female persona for centuries and the latter that advocates for superiority over the male fraction.
Why are we ashamed of being feminine?
I come from an Eastern European family, with a mother that has worked both in politics and law for her entire life, yet she has never used her sex as a prism through which she has to be perceived breaking through a stereotype. She never demanded to be treated in a different way. She raised me to be confident of my abilities, without insisting that because I am a woman that strives to deal with politics, I am out of the cliche and should be therefore praised for that, without insisting that I am privileged because I am making a bold stance by being in this world as a woman. With that, I grew up with idols such as Madame Roland – a french revolutionary actor that made her husband a prominent figure through drafting his policies and signing them secretly on behalf of his name. Madame Roland was never a controlling figure, she wanted to inspire men, in fact she supported patriarchy and never put her husband in an unfavorable position, suggesting that advocating for women’s rights went alongside with a sense of respect. There is unfortunately a greater problem amongst some radical feminist groups (Yes, Lena Dunham, this is about you girl) – women sometimes stray away from being feminine out of shame that society might objectify them. Articles suggesting not to shave yourself because men don’t or not to dress up with skirts should come with a disclaimer that there is nothing revolutionary nor inspirational about being a bearded lady (excluding those with health conditions) . It is scary that such propaganda is found as persuasive as a form of social protest – never will I suggest to my future daughters to abandon hygiene or deprive themselves of wanting to put a bow in their hairs for the sake of an unclear cause. I wonder whether such proponents think about the future of imposing such mentality on young girls – possibly even demolishing their chances of a certain interaction with the opposite sex or the same, depending on the sexuality of the child, and in turn potentially scarring them, because as bad as it sounds, a woman’s outer beauty should never be considered as supplementary or a sign of weakness. There is nothing wrong with being a woman. Nothing wrong with behaving with grace and elegance, nothing wrong with smelling like vanilla or dressing up – it is the furthest from conservative to think that femininity is wrong and demeaning. Let us not forget how many hearts have been skipping beats when mini-skirts were created, in turn empowering women to enchant countless individuals.
This is not to suggest you aren’t supposed to dress in jeans and look androgynous if it makes you happy, but if you are not, do not let certain fractions convince you that embracing your female identity is wrong.Because the greatest thing about being female is that it inspires us to embrace what we naturally have and be proud of it – we have the ability to give life, we have a high threshold of pain that makes us stronger in times of hardship, we are the embodiment of grace and beauty. And it hurts me to hear that somewhere out there a mother is being shamed because she “is not necessarily entitled to give birth and that is giving a wrong image” and it hurts me even more that some women around the world actually believe that coloring your armpit hair as a revolutionary protest is making you more of a woman. Additionally and most importantly, we should not shame women that want to be feminine – women who are feminine, but want to be inspirations for young girls to be excellent mothers and still work hard.
The Hidden figures of Feminism
What feminism often does not teach us, is that one of the most prominent advocates for women’s rights were indeed men. During the 1780’s the Marquis of Condorcet, a leading french revolutionary like Roland …and republican, was fiercely defending women and the inequality our ancestors were facing. What is more, philosopher Jeremy Bentham said that it was the placing of women in a legally inferior position that made him choose the career of a reformist. He spoke routinely about a complete equality including right to vote, condemning in his works countries’ mistreating women and giving examples of able female regents. But why do I need to even bring those figures, when in fact, we have all been personally pushed and encouraged as women by at least one man in our lives – be it father, friend or lover. And as much as we don’t like admitting it, the majority of men have protected us during our lifetime in one way or another – my grandfather taught me how to speak 2 languages, my cousin held my hand when my heart was broken and now my boyfriend comes in the middle of the night whenever I feel the slightest pain somewhere in my body, out of fear for me. Of course, there are plenty of misogynists in the world, like that Polish MP that said we were weaker and more stupid over the past week, but exceptions are always going to be present, at absolutely every case, and we should not and cannot let them dictate the way we lead our discourses. And if you want to change the world, start showing men like those how powerful you are by embracing what you are, rather than trying to be the same to prove a point. Our biggest strengths are hidden within ourselves, not based on common social constructs. Hate should not be expressed towards men on a regular basis upon speaking about feminism, superiority over the male fraction has never been outlined in the agenda, because feminism implies equality of rights and freedoms, but does not advocate for abolishment of our traits.
We are stronger and bolder when we stand together and embrace what we have and how powerful we already are, without needing to equate ourselves in the way we take care of ourselves.
As I was talking about feminism with my friend A. last night, I told her – “The most underestimated power in the world is that of the collective female entity”, but what I left out was that what is even stronger is embracing your identity and appreciating the others. However, respect goes both ways and putting ourselves in a mutually destructive position alienates us further and fuels aggression. We’re all on this planet together – our planet is for all sexes and genders, and is for men, too and any time your feel that an entity is taking away from you, making you weaker, you ought to remember that the world is not composed of one fraction and if you want respect, you have to offer the same.
Disclaimer: Given the context of this article, the LGBT community hasn’t been included in the portrayal of those facts. My sincere admirations to them for inspiring and creating an equal environment, which should be embraced within all sexes, genders and relationships and most of all, thank you for teaching us that such divisions and superiority should not exist.