“Are you a feminist?”
My Turkish student asked after I told them I was studying women and development. I did not know much about their country but later on, I found out that they were religious and at the same influenced by European culture. They could not get over the fact that in the Philippines, or in China, when a guy asks you for a date, it’s the guy who usually pays the bill. In their country, they split up the bill regardless the status of their relationship. Whether it’s serious or a first day, they practice equal sharing of the expenses. True sense of gender equality, right?
I just smiled and after five seconds, I said “yah.”
“So you do the bra-burning?”
They asked teasingly.
My five-second pause came from the popular images of feminists: A woman with an iron fist, or a muscled woman, or Beyonce. Some call themselves feminists by displaying their armpit hair. Gee, feminism is much more than that! I don’t have a tough looking face to be called a feminist. I don’t want to be branded by any political ideology because feminism just like any political ideology should not be treated as a fundamentalist truth. I don’t like to be labeled because feminism is also against stereotypes.
I may not agree in everything feminism believes in but you and I can benefit a lot from feminist thinking. Feminists comes in different shapes and sizes. They fight for different causes but they share some common beliefs which people from different walks of life can get inspiration from. Here are some:
Motherhood is important.
Some say feminism movement is responsible why many women neglect their responsibilities at home, why they prefer career over family. That is not feminism! In fact, motherhood is important to feminists. This is the reason feminists fight for long maternity leave, daycare centers, and breastfeeding stations in offices and public spaces. It is so important that feminists would like to share the gift of motherhood with men. We don’t take motherhood lightly. Feminists have high regard for mothers. We know how heavy the role of the mother is. This is also the reason some opt not to have kids of their own.
Domestic work is important
Some people might think that feminists are fighting for reversed roles that feminists are the brand of women who prefer to do what boys do and who do not like to cook, and take care of children. But feminists are actually fighting for domestic work to be recognized as real work. There are many women who would just introduce themselves, “housewife lang” “nasa bahay lang.” This shows how much we undervalue women’s work, just because it does not bring economic value. We want to change the minds of many women to take pride of what they do, that they should stand tall when they say “I’m a full-time mother” or “I’m a homemaker”
Women experiences are important
We believe experiences are entry point in understanding women’s condition. We believe knowledge does not only come from scholars, books, or from a special kind of jargon that are highly institutionalized. We take time to listen other people’s experiences because they are also rich source of knowledge.
We don’t belittle personal stories
We don’t because we believe the personal is political. We believe your silence is a product of life events. We believe your aggressiveness speaks a volume of entries of your life journal.
We believe in sisterhood and solidarity
We recognize that sometimes in the course of a woman’s life, it is a fellow woman who pulls you down. A women empowerment campaign often shows a highly successful woman in the public sphere. This encourages a lot of individualism. A real feminist does not aim competition among women but rather equality not only among different genders, but among different classes, and races.
We value diversity
Because we respect differences, we don’t impose a life prescription on how you should live your life as a woman, as a mother, as a wife. What we care most is your freedom and empowerment.
Lastly, we recognized that you are not only oppressed by your gender, but also by your age, race, class. And we recognize that it’s not only women who are oppressed.