One afternoon, Juno asked me what feminism is. And I, with all pride (thinking that he might have been seeing my posts) answered enthusiastically but was taken aback when he followed it up with “Is it bad?”
A question like this is thought-provoking, for sure. In my observation, the word feminism is sometimes loosely used to the point that it’s either people proudly wear the statement “I am a feminist” as a badge, or people get terrified to even mention the word at all.
If we look at this definition really closely, feminism is absolutely good. There’s no doubt about it. The idea that women should be given equal rights and opportunities with men considering that there are other groups who are not as privileged as some of us are, is something that we really should be promoting. Whenever I am faced with situations about female issues, I get fired up. My friends would usually hear from me, ‘The Gabriela in me is triggered!’
Gabriela Silang was a Filipina military leader who took over the leadership on a revolution against Spain when her second husband was assassinated. There are but a few mentioned female heroes in history books, and her name was one of those who really stuck in me. Whenever I hear stories about injustice, especially from those who can’t voice out themselves, I feel like I’m being transported to 20 years ago when I was out there rallying on the streets. Yes, I used to be an activist.
It’s something that I don’t openly talk about especially that nowadays, I’d like to be more of an advocate of #lovemore and positivity. Peaceful and genuine the intention may be, however for some groups, people like me who do not post and engage in political conversations are considered “enablists”.
To which I understand. Because no matter how we disassociate feminism from politics, this movement will always be political – especially that we are in a country ruled by patriarchy. But for me, not spending time arguing with netizens over political issues on social media makes someone an enabler of oppression of human rights. We only know things on a surface. When we shove our own ideas and principles to other people, and make others feel inferior because their opinions are different from ours, that, for me, is what makes Feminism bad.
Sad to say, some people mistaken Feminism as “man-hating”. And I agree that there are times, feminists tend to cross the line when they attack the males to an extent that the males are feeling emasculated. I remember a French movie called Je ne suis pas un homme facilie (I am Not an Easy Man) wherein a chauvinist got sent to a female-dominated world and experienced sexism himself. I told myself, no matter how cool and sexy and independent the female lead looked, I don’t want to be a person that makes all males feel that way.
Despite the efforts to avoid the issue, women can not be equal to men. Biologically speaking, that is. Although yes, the possibilities are endless! Take Rhonda Rousey and Serena Williams, for example. For me though, when women try hard to disregard their female and basic instincts in order to catch up with men, that’s another thing that makes feminism look bad. Plus the judgements that women get out of this. Our ability to lead with empathy and compassion is what makes us powerful. Don’t get me wrong though, this does not mean that we should allow ourselves to be doormats.
I’ve been watching a lot of movies and series in Netflix lately, and I came across this series called “The Bold Type” and I’m just blown away as to how empowering this series is. It is feminist through and through, but it’s also gender and race inclusive. The female characters are flawed but celebrated. And at the same time, the males despite being successful (and handsome) are allowed to look soft and vulnerable. Everyone is given spotlights!
This, for me, is how feminism should be encouraged. We broadcast to the world how we would like to be treated without belittling and stepping on others’ shoes.
This brings me to the ugly side of feminism – when the bad becomes worse and the attack becomes violent and soul-crushing. This made me remember another movie – Moxie. When I read the teaser, I was excited for sure. It again brought back the “Gabriela” in me! When I’ve finally seen it, I love that they protest real and pressuring issues, especially amongst teenagers – body judgements, slut-shaming, male teen domination, etc. But when the vandalism started to play, and one certain character said, “I tripped Bradley in his dumb ass Pirate costume, that’s feminism right there.” I was like, ‘nah-uh, honey.’
This is pretty understandable, especially when we are deprived of other strategies but to become forceful. I watched this documentary called “Feminists: What were they thinking?”, and I was just emotional all throughout imagining what these women had to go through during those times. But what they did paved way for a much better world for us – the right to vote, the right for equal pay, the right for healthcare, etc.
But we are now living in a different time. We now have more strong female voices and leaders who inspire and motivate us. We have access to wider media which they did not have before. Feminism has brought us a sisterhood, so powerful that when rightly used can even bring forth a much, much, better world for the generations to come. There are still a lot of oppressed people in the world, and let’s use this good side of feminism to continue what our older sisters – and brothers – have started.
Feminism is yes for women, but when we set aside other pressing issues so that our voices will be heard first, then what’s the good in that? We have ongoing discussions on equality, how about we elaborate what equity is, this time. My good friend, Virn, said, “Perhaps feminism has served its purpose. Maybe it’s time for a transition: from feminism to humanism”.
Feminism years ago, has stirred and awakened our spirits, but perhaps there’s a need now to really reflect what feminism means to us. As we become more aware of the problems that other humans are having, perhaps we should now nit-pick the good parts of feminism that aims to make the world a better place, assess the bad and what we can do about it, and relatively find ways to extinguish the ugly.
I would like to see Juno grow in a world where he can openly express his emotions, yet not questioned or whispered about when he must make logical and willful decisions. I like him to have harmonious relationships with all genders and races, and not to feel scared when he communicates his thoughts that might be different from the rest. I want him to feel proud that he celebrates women. I want him to feel proud that he is a man.
As Hilary Clinton said in one of her speeches, “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all”