‘Feminist’ is that word that has been around much longer than many of us but can still incite riots and spark fierce debates at its mention. As far back as its first usage, it has been misunderstood, abused, misconstrued, and misused. Wearing the feminist badge or claiming the title can subject you to vitriol, because some see feminists as anti-men, anti-sex, and sometimes even anti-female liberation.
At its core, Feminism is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of men and women, or in colloquial parlance, the belief in the idea that women are human too and should be treated as such. The ideology continues to expand to be more inclusive, and in the spirit of New Year resolutions, here are some of our tips on how to become a better feminist in 2018.
1. Read, Read, Read!
2. Be Willing to Unlearn and Re-learn
It matters little whether it is values that we have internalised because we grew up in patriarchal societies, or opinions that we have formed and unwittingly passed on over the years as a result of these values; one of the marks of a true feminist is evolution. You must be willing to unlearn somethings, re-learn some others, and keep with the times. With quality research as your aid, critically think about what it means to be a woman in our society and times, and the historical treatment of women. Only then will you be able to identify loopholes and gaps that need to be filled. The emancipation of the mind, which comes through education, is a never-ending journey.
3. Be Kind
Being a feminist means that you respect not only other women as and their choices, it also means that you respect people who have differing opinions, and who may not be as enlightened or educated as you are. It means being graceful enough to teach without condescension, because no one is a fountain of knowledge. We can learn from each other and help each other along in the growth process. Show kindness to men and women alike.
4. Be Inclusive
It is important to remember that while they are in no way dismissible, your personal experiences do not solely constitute the spectrum of oppression or needs of women all over the world. The true spirit of feminism is fighting for other marginalised/minority people or groups, both within and outside your community and culture. And this is another reason why reading is important; it exposes you to the struggles of others and helps you have (more) empathy.
5. Fight the Good Fight
Feminism is an everyday movement; this means you do not have to wait until a march or a demonstration is staged before you do something. You can be effective as a feminist in your daily life. Whenever you have the opportunity to, speak up for women. Identify gender gaps in your community and give your voice in support of causes such as, equal pay, women in the boardroom, women in politics, and so forth. Do not tolerate sexism or any form of harassment, wherever you notice it. Even if it is not happening to you, don’t be silent about it, call attention to it. Speaking up for or against issues will mean that you no longer have the safety net that silence provides; that anyone can criticise you, and one must prepare for that, but it is worth remembering that “If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything.”
6. Create Opportunities for Other Women
And finally, our favourite kind of feminist is one who talks the talk and walks the walk. We admire women who are not only kind and respectful, intelligent and resilient, and who lend their voices to the challenges women face, but who also, when and where they can, create economic opportunities for other women. Many women through the decades have broken glass ceilings and created opportunities for other women; more boundaries will be broken and our feminism will be progressive as women support and uplift fellow women. This is a good place to start.