When I first heard of feminism, I thought it was about a group of aggressive, man hating women who thought that women were superior to men. Of course, I was quite young and didn’t really understand. I was clueless. That, and my only opinions on feminists were based on the awful stereotypes that are far too common online (an angry, hairy, loud feminist who thinks all men should die – does this sound familiar?). Surprisingly, this is not an accurate portrayal of a feminist.
I also didn’t understand why we needed to fight for equality. I thought we were all equal anyway. Of course, this was before I had heard of anything such as a gender pay gap, sexual assault, fighting for the right to vote and so on. Let alone any international issues such as the inequality in education opportunities or the lack of rights to control our own reproductive systems. Young, naive Seren was blissfully happy living in a world where none of this existed. So why feminism?
It was only later when I began to see gender inequalities that I understood what it meant, or at least how it affected me personally. Why did I get cat called at the age of 15? And why didn’t it happen if I was with my brother? Little moments like this made me realize that we are not really equal. Perhaps I was fortunate to not have discovered that my gender was inferior until I was in my teens. I was lucky that I was not taught to like pink and play with Barbie dolls and want to be a princess when I grew up. (I’m not saying that I didn’t do any of these things because believe me, I did, but I was given a choice. I also really liked Star Wars and Lego, so there’s that too.)
I know that I’m fortunate that I did not grow up in a country where my brother would get sent to school and I’d stay home and look after the house. I know that I’m fortunate that while I may face gender discrimination, I have never experienced racial discrimination, and never will. In comparison to many girls’ experiences, the suggestion of wearing pink is hardly offensive. But it does matter. Seemingly trivial matters such as pink is for girls and blue is for boys is just the start of perpetuating the idea that gender is a binary and boys and girls are on the opposite ends of it. How can we ever be equal when we gain our very identities from being distinct to our other? In order to be equal, we need to break down what it means to be a ‘man’ or ‘woman.’
My understanding of feminism is directly linked to learning more about LGBTQ+ movements, literary theory and equal rights. As my perception of gender became more fluid rather than binary, my perception on feminism changed. Of course at its core, feminism is fighting for women to attain the same rights as men. However in contemporary culture, it is also fighting for gender minorities, and for men to gain equal rights, such as paternity leave.
Fighting for others is just as important as fighting for women, because only then will we achieve total equality. Once we realize that, although we have our differences, we needn’t be so distinct from one another, we’ll be one step closer.