What is Feminism to me?
I sat down with my mother dearest to listen to some home truths. I wanted to discuss feminism. I thought it would be interesting with our 30 year age gap, to find out if we've progressed in society and if we're still facing some of the same challenges as women.
So I've written the transcript below of our conversation.
Valerie: So mum what is Feminism to you?
Mum: To me, Feminism is being, strong, being a strong woman and knowing who you are. When you know who you are then you know what you can say yes to. You know your boundaries. As a woman, I don't look a feminism as a negative thing. I look at it as a positive thing.
Valerie: It's funny that you say negative because I know from growing up and having conversations with boys in my school. That when I said things like 'girl power' they'd say 'Argh you're on of them...you're a feminist' and it made me think being a feminist was bad. So I would try and defend myself by saying 'Oh no I'm not a feminist. I just believe in women coming together and supporting each other'.
But I just found it funny that I had to defend the term feminism because it had negative connotations. When really, to me feminism is the belief that women are enough. Whatever spectrum of woman you fall under, you are enough!
There is not just one mold for you to be in, I believe as women we should be able to empower each other because there is enough room for me to be successful and you to be successful. Growing up we always read that only the one Princess got the Prince Charming and only the one Princess was the Fairest of Them All. And if we grow up thinking that only one girl can get the happy ending when we see another female having a happy ending, we are reluctant to support that.
Mum Chuckles as she agrees.
Mum: I think Feminism has really had the wrong kind of representation, because people haven't really understood what it means, and I think that us women haven't really understood what it is to be a feminist, which meant that we were defending ourselves constantly. A feminist isn't someone who thinks that women have to rule the world and that women are better than men.
A feminist I believe is a woman who is confident in who she is and what makes her happy and she is able to stand up for herself. So growing up we didn't really have the term or talked about the term 'feminism' I didn't grow up personally thinking about the difference between gender roles, I was just raised to believe that I could do anything that a man could do. But as I grew older I realised that in the world people didn't look at it, the way I did. There seemed to be assigned roles and distinctive differences between us as women and them. So I began to come across terms like 'It's a man's world' and because it's a man's world, men should lead and women should just follow'. Or 'Women don't deserve as much as men'.
However, I genuinely think we have our roles, but not so much a male or female role but more so. What are your talents? What are your gifts? And how confident are you in who you are, so you can confidently stand up for what you believe in and what you want to do.
Valerie: I think it's really important that you said it's not about women wanting to take over which is something a lot of people think feminism is about. Because a lot of the time when we see some extreme posts and women marching we assume that it's because we want to take over and change the world completely. I think what we're marching for those people who have overlooked women and underestimated our talents and what we can bring to the table.
Mum, you said that you grew up hearing that you could do anything anyone else could do, and there are a lot of people who have had your same upbringing and believe there is no limit to what they can achieve, but then when they enter society they are faced with people who do not believe the same and see it as an attack. They feel that they are being oppressed and in retaliation, to that oppression, some people want to fight. Which has birthed what the media has deemed as radical feminism.
Not to discredit anyone's parenting but I think it's quite dangerous to be taught that any individual is less than another because a child can lose their value when you teach them that someone else has more right to succeed than them. Or someone else is entitled to a better life than you. You then struggle to know what you can achieve and evidently not reach your maximum potential, missing opportunities when they come along which leads to a life of regret.
Mum: Absolutely, one of the things I find that if you were raised the way I was, whether you were male or female, my dad encouraged us to do what we believed we could do and we shouldn't really look and think that we couldn't do something.
Basically, he encouraged us to go out there and do what we desired. But what happens to people like me, when we get out in the world is that people look at me as pushy or aggressive, because you're doing something with so much passion because you believe in it. And they think it's so out of character for a woman to have such tenacity, especially in the workplace.
But they wouldn't call a man aggressive because they believe that its natural for a man to do that and bring home the bacon so to speak, make the hard decisions.
Valerie: I was going to ask you what you think about the words 'Bossy' or 'Bitchy' When people say that what gender do you feel they are talking about?
Mum: Normally I'll think they're talking about a woman because those words are usually not associated with men. Even us women use those words to describe women who are assertive. We tend to give men the benefit of the doubt and believe that their delivery is because they want what's best, especially in the workplace.
Valerie: And why do you think that is? Is it because we're taught that women are supposed to be more subtle and polite about things? Is it a natural response to be intimidated or essentially turned off when we see women in power?
Mum: I'm not sure why we feel like that, I think maybe because we compare ourselves to other women but not so many men. So because we are comparing ourselves to other women we expect a certain behaviour from them.
Or to meet those expectations and when they do not meet that we say they are bossy, or over the top.
Those emotions can sometimes come from ourselves. I think it stems from being raised and even the things we watch, I think over the generations women have been made to believe, even when they're being raised with brothers in a home that boys are allowed to do certain things and girls aren't so it creates a divide from early. So you become an adult and see someone who's doing that thing that you were taught as a child that she's not supposed to do. So we start to think that she is not behaving how a lady should.
Valerie: That's something I really want to eliminate, the rivalry between women. The curse of the girl band. Not being able to support, uplift and champion my fellow female. I want to do that by shedding more light on stories that show that unity and support.
But before we wrap this up mum what would be the one thing you'd want a young girl or any female to take from this conversation today?
Mum: Understand you were purposely made, no matter your situation or circumstance. You've got a story to tell and it's worth telling. You were written in the stars like every body else. You've got just as much right to happiness and success as anyone else and there is enough room for you. If there doesn't seem to be then make room!
Valerie Isaiah Sadoh
Facebook: She's Diverse