When I first heard about feminism and feminists, I was so scared to align myself with the movement and its’ ideologies. I thought I could only identify with feminism if I knew everything there was to know about it. I was sixteen and intimidated by how scary and big it was at the time to identify that way. I didn’t know many people then who were feminists – not in the media, not in my social circle. I did have one friend who considered herself to be a feminist. I had a conversation with her one day about it and she shared her thoughts with me on the topic. I told her how scared I was to proclaim myself as a feminist for fear of not knowing enough to make such a proclamation. She asked me about my beliefs and I shared with her that I hated that I was expected to perform femininity and remove my body hair. I just didn’t see the need for it but it was expected of me nonetheless ever since I reached puberty. With that, she told me I could already identify myself as a feminist. It was that simple and from then on, I read and learned more.
Feminist (/ˈfɛmənɪst/): a person who believes in the economic, social and political equality of the sexes. What does being a feminist and believing in feminism mean to me? Here, I will address certain stereotypes and negative connotations attached to being a feminist.
Why do feminists not shave?
Source: Body hair is natural and choosing not to remove it should be normalised.
Feminists believe humans; every single one of us, are autonomous beings with the bodily integrity and autonomy to decide what we want to do with our bodies. My body. My right. My choice. Some feminists choose to keep their body hair while some choose to remove them. Whether we do or don’t is up to us to decide for ourselves. It is no one’s business but ours. #bodyhairdontcare am I right?
This extends beyond the issue of growing out our body hair versus removing our body hair. The same rhetoric can be used on the topic of how we dress: whether we choose to cover up or show some skin. This rhetoric however, was originally used to defend abortion rights which is a whole other discussion in itself which I am not about to get into right now. What I will say before I go too off tangent is that I believe every woman should be given the right to have an abortion for whatever reasons they may have, and that they should be able to access safe abortion services. Again, my body. my life. my right.
Why do feminists hate men?
Who you’re really talking about when you ask this question are misandrists (/mɪˈsandrɪst/). They are a group of people who have a strong hatred towards men. It’s a pretty controversial statement for me to make but before I am a feminist, I am a misandrist. Some may argue well what about your father or your boyfriend? They’re both men. True, they are but they are not the kind of men I hate. I’m referring to the men you read about in the news, the men your friends talk about having dated. These are the men who are emotionally, physically and sexually abusive. In light of the #MeToo movement, it is important to note that every woman has experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault. It is all too common these days and quite unsurprising. It may come in the form of cat calling, groping to more aggressive forms. Many women unite and stand together in solidarity with each other: the women who have come forward with their accounts, the women who choose to stay silent about their experiences. If you read this and think you don’t know any woman who’s experienced this then you’re not listening hard enough.
Source: We women are stronger than we realise, fighting all our secret battles.
I know not all men are like this though. There are plenty of nice men out there, this I know but this is not about the good men. This is about the many bad men I have mentioned. I would like to see more men and boys being better feminists and allies to all women. This month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Do what you can to help bring light to this. Call out your boys who make derogatory comments about girls’ bodies. Do not excuse their behaviours just because they’re your friends. Do not apologise on behalf of men. Just be better than them and help us destroy the pervasive rape culture that allows this behaviour to continue.
With all the negative stereotypes attached to being a feminist, I understand why it can be hard for some people to make such a proclamation especially when they come from conservative backgrounds. I still am not confident enough to be as outspoken about it as I’d hope to be but I am working on it. I am especially scared about the online backlash – in recent news, regarding this year’s Women’s March Malaysia which I attended. It was a very emotional and empowering experience for me. I went with my best friend, my boyfriend along with his sister and cousin. The whole experience inspired me to be more outspoken about my feminist views and I look forward to hopefully be attending it again next year and the years to come.