"I am a Feminist."
BUT why is that so difficult for some people to say?
German Chancellor Merkel's response to the simple question, "Do you consider yourself a feminist?" posed during a panel discussion at the recent W20 Women's Summit was cringe-worthy stuff indeed. When she finally navigated her way through what German international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, described as the "slowest answer ever" she concluded by saying, "But I wouldn't personally wear the [feminist] badge."
So why are many women, including the most powerful woman on the planet, reluctant to identify as feminists?
Although the Feminist Movement we see today broadly represents Intersectional Feminism, this is only a relatively recent development. The Movement was for a long time a movement of white privilege which naturally created discord and division. Any movement, if fractured, loses direction, purpose and momentum. This was no less true of the Feminist Movement. This discord and division may have alienated many.
Then there's the understanding of what being a Feminist actually means. I personally love the more tongue in cheek descriptions such as British Author and Journalist Rebecca West's classic;
"I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute."
In a world where women stepping forward, speaking up, and talking back can still routinely result in them being referred to as "bitchy", "unfeminine", "shrill", "nasty",[insert any of the many derogatory labels I've overlooked here] or even "feminazi" it's pretty clear that it's not time to sit back and be shy about claiming our space in this world. However, perhaps it's a fear of attracting those sorts of comments that has some women, including Chancellor Merkel, shying away from the title.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi gave a wonderful talk at TEDX back in 2012 entitled "We Should All Be Feminists" which she followed up with a book of the same title. She argued for a more inclusive view of feminism where women AND men acknowledge and address the enduring inequalities, sometimes masked in routine and tradition, and commit to the creation of societies where the full equality and humanity of women and men is respected.
That's what being a Feminist means. It means acknowledging and respecting the equality and full humanity of both women and men. It is inclusive. It is not a radical notion. So why not openly identify as being a feminist and believing in inclusive gender equality?
THE QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
If you believe that you are worth every bit as much as any man - You might just be a feminist.
If you believe you should be paid the same amount as a man for the same work - Yup! You could be a feminist.
If you believe every girl should have the same access to education as boys - You're exhibiting feminist tendencies.
If you believe that both women and men should have rights to parental leave when they become parents - Whoah! You're definitely entering feminist territory.
It's a long list but you get the idea!
Then there's that thorny issue of reproductive rights and feminism. Although this issue causes all sorts of drama and friction I think in essence it is clear. I am strongly of the view that pro-choice is part of being a feminist. If you deny another woman her choice to decide if, or when, she bears children then you are not recognizing her full humanity and autonomy. Your religious beliefs are just that, your religious beliefs. They have no place in medical facilities where other women, with different beliefs, are making their own, private, choices with respect to their bodies, their reproductive health, and their lives.
If you've just read that paragraph and are feeling all anti-choice righteous indignation - relax. It's totally fine for people to disagree on this issue without spewing venom. We could just agree to disagree. People do that all the time!
So, even if Chancellor Merkel doesn't identify as a feminist, she did acknowledge that she was standing on the shoulders of feminists. Let's not forget or take for granted where the rights we do have came from. They were not handed over politely because it was the right thing to do. They were fought for by activists who weren't afraid to be labeled as trouble-makers or feminists and were called much worse and suffered greatly. To protect those rights, and to build on them, we all, women and men, will have to be able to stand up to a lot more than some sexist trying to shame, belittle, or ridicule us for claiming the title FEMINIST.
About the Author
Eimear Zone is an entrepreneur and Founder of feminist brand and social enterprise, PEBBLE + ROSE. She writes on feminism, entrepreneurship, and mindset management. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and IG @emtczone
Some Resources To Check Out
Here's a link to Chancellor Merkel at the W20 Women's Summit: https://goo.gl/kWD6aT
A History of Feminism Timeline Prepared by Harvard Gender Studies Students
Chimamando Ngozi Adichie's book - We Should All Be Feminists
Chimamando Ngozi Adichie's TED Talk - "We Should All Be Feminists"