By Amy Jephta
Hey you, woman reading this. I know you’ve got your girl power anthems and your independent woman mantras and you’ve pretty much convinced yourself you run the world. That’s really great, I admire your confidence, and let me be the first to convince you that you can do anything you set your mind to. But you don’t want to call yourself a feminist, and that makes me sad. Or if you do, you feel like you need to justify it, qualify it, tag on a ‘but’. “I’m a feminist, but not THAT kind of feminist”. “I’m a feminist, but I love men.” Because that word is so extreme, so backwards, smells of man-hating and street-shouting and not-shaving and the 80’s. Women in the 80’s needed feminism, when they were Melanie Griffith in Working Girl and men treated them like children and they had to behave and be ladies. Our grandmothers needed feminism in the 50’s, when they marched to the Union Buildings where there was a real enemy to fight. This is 2013, we have nothing standing in our way – let’s move on already.
But deep down you’re angry, right? You’re angry about the fact that the ideal woman, according to most of the English-speaking world, is thin, white and beautiful. You’re angry about the war being waged daily on women’s bodies: by the media telling us how thin we should be, by men who think they have the right to comment on your ass because you’re walking on the street. You’re angry, aren’t you, about the fact that women are being burned to death in Kenya because they’re suspected to be witches? That in your very country, two men can get off on R200 bail for raping six girls? You’re angry, aren’t you, that most religions, governments, sporting codes, cultural activities and social systems value men, believe that it’s the men who should make the choices, decide the way the world runs, have most of the power, even though the majority of the world consists of women? That men and boys don’t have to keep proving themselves (that they’re good enough, smart enough, physically and mentally strong enough) but you, as a woman, do? That anger makes you a feminist.
And you, sir, fooled by the media into thinking that feminism is a ‘woman’s problem’, that it isn’t your business, that it has nothing to do with you. Here’s a newsflash: it’s ALL about you. Until you stop brushing it aside as something women have to deal with and figure out, nothing will change. Until you stop belittling it by labelling feminism as a woman’s thing, as hysteria, as PMS and overreacting, and start talking about it, the men who need to listen won’t listen. Men listen to other men. Right now, the power scales tip in your favour. Use it to your advantage. Be a feminist.
One more thing: feminism isn’t absolute. There are no rules. You don’t have to subscribe to the academics, believe in all the politics, follow the propaganda, burn your bra, or be angry all the time. You don’t have to hate men, rant every chance you get, or not like pink dresses and lipstick. You can shape feminism into what you need to it be; it’s flexible, you can adopt it and own it and make it yours. All you have to do is keep asking questions. To paraphrase the cliché: feminism is the radical notion that women are people. Believe that. Call yourself a feminist today.