I am a feminist.
I shave my legs. Housework does not bother me. I look forward to one day having an equal partnership with my husband. I am not opposed to flowers, chocolates or other forms of chivalry. I am quite excited about motherhood because I think that raising children is one of the toughest and most meaningful purposes in this world, though fiercely underrated.
I am not exactly sure who it was or how many people it took but time has hinged a great deal of negative connotations to the word “feminism.” These days it is a word that people cringe at as visions of braless women with unshaven legs who refuse to do dishes or have babies dance in their head. Hence people being caught off guard when I call myself a feminist or the laying down their own egg shells to walk upon in front of me, afraid that they might say something that will offend the “chip on my shoulder” (which, might I add, does not exist).
But I call myself a feminist for other reasons. Because of a radical cry that quakes the depths of my heart for other women, for those who have the same insides as me— the same inner weavings of heart, strength and vulnerability—and yet we are forced into separation.
Separated. By Borders. By Language. By Rights. By Laws. By Cultures. By Words. By Corrupt Governments. By Working Conditions. By Our Definitions Of What Womanhood Means.
We take for granted that in this country being a woman is now an empowered title. In other places and spaces it is a word that starts thousands off in life with the term “less than” already strapped to their backs.
It kills my spirit some days to read of young girls who are raised to believe in belittlement from the very beginning. Or to learn of women, at an age when I was discovering the art of flirting, who had already disappeared into trafficking rings and brothels. Violated. Stripped Of Their Humanity. Never to be seen again. And with no one to look for them. No one to search for the invisible women.
My heart aches when I glance over the New York Times site on most mornings because I cannot find the invisible women anywhere. Seeing that the things that should be reported— the thousands of women forced to work in less than meager conditions in factories and enslaved by the sex trade—are not because its hardly considered news anymore. And I wonder what the cut off number is. At what number of women gone missing do countries stop looking, do people stop caring. I Want To Know What The Number Is. But as I trace over endless statistics that are forced to trace the frail outlines of these invisible women I realize that in other countries there is no number. There is only acceptance of this atrocity and the turning of cheeks to look the other way.
And so I stand up for the fact that I am a woman in this world, but not for the stereotypical reasons that people first think of. I am not standing up for equal wages or more respect in the workplace. I am not standing up to resist those who want to force an apron around my waist and a baby on my hip. It is not about that. I am standing up as a woman because elsewhere, beyond these borders of red, white and blue, there are women who are facing brutal treatment, beaten for resistance, degraded and downplayed because they were born with the title of “woman,” and to them that is a burden. A Cross To Bear. And within these borders, in the “comfort” of their own homes and in the quiet spaces that their neighbors don’t know of, there are women in this country whose voices have been stolen to sexual abuse and violence.
I am a feminist.
I still like looking sassy in a red dress and pumps. I don’t have an evil agenda of putting men in their place or even attempting to play inside of their heads. I don’t shy away from activities that might make my label as a “woman” more pronounced. I am a woman but at the end of the day I am not looking to level the playing field after all those years of not being able to vote; I am looking to stand up for other women. With my opportunities I am seeking to break down the oppression that has plagued others who are exactly like me. Who Have Dreams. Hopes. Fears. Passions. First Loves. Things That Make Their Hearts Skip Beats. Pet Peeves. Songs Their Spirits Ache To Sing. And for these similarities I own my title and take pride in my title as a woman and I join the fight to set the rest free.
This post has been inspired by the book “Half The Sky” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Kristof and WuDunn examine more closely the lives of women and girls in the developing world. In my eyes Kristof is a genius when it comes to taking a column space for the New York Times and transforming it into a platform for women all over the globe who are oppressed and voiceless. He and his wife really take a giant step forward in this publication. I would recommend this book 100 times over to anyone who is looking to understand more fully the oppression of women all over the map and the ways in which opportunity can sprout through active change. This is a brilliant book of testament, truth and a viable path to follow if you are looking to join the fight to set the rest free.