Aberrant Maia

Why I am a feminist

Feminist as fuck

In 2016, I met this very fascinating girl. She was different. Her views deviated from my then conservative thinking. I was intrigued. This young lady was the reason I began to research into feminism, the dialogue surrounding it and its theories. The more I read, the more I realized that I too was a feminist. I had always been one even though I had never accepted the label. Consequently, from December 2017, I began to identify as a feminist.

According to bell hooks, feminism is “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.”[1] This definition identifies sexist thinking and action as the root problem feminism is addressing. Therefore, it does not leave room for feminism to be classified as anti-male. Far from that. Females can be sexist as well showing the need for there to be a focus on eradicating internalized sexism before we can demolish institutionalized sexism.

Furthermore, bell hooks identifies two categories of feminists: reformist and revolutionary. The reformists are not necessarily trying to end the patriarchy but instead emphasize the need for gender equality within the patriarchy. Thus, they benefit from some elements of the patriarchy as well as being a progressive woman attaining equality of the sexes. On the other hand, the revolutionary feminists seek to transform the entire system and put an end to patriarchy and sexism. I choose to accept the ideas of the revolutionary feminist.

Why do I want a complete end to the patriarchy and sexism? Let me enlighten you about some facts pertaining to women from the website of UN Women:

  • 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point of their lives
  • 137 women across the world are killed by a family member daily
  • 650 million women and girls worldwide today were married before the age of 18
  • At least 200 million women and girls between the ages of 15 – 49 have undergone female genital mutilation in about 30 countries
  • 15 million girls, ages 15-19, have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts[2]

If for nothing at all, statistics such as these should be enough reason for wanting to become a feminist.

A couple of years ago, I remember attending the Chalewote Street Art Festival and wearing a brown playsuit. As I walked alongside my brother, I felt a hand grope my backside and as I turned in anger, the perpetrator sped on his motorbike laughing. Two years ago, I attended the festival again and had to pretend that one of the male friends I was walking with was my boyfriend to avoid being touched without my consent. Barely three weeks ago, a series of complaints flooded Twitter of men holding women during Pent Hall Week. I could go on and on about the objectification of women and how our bodies are merely seen as instruments meant to satisfy the sexual desires of males. I can’t walk in a street at night and feel safe because I’m constantly thinking of scenarios in which I may be sexually assaulted. As a feminist, I am taking a bold stance to say that a woman is in control of her own body – to be in charge of the perception of our bodies instead of them being objectified and over-sexualized.

Sexism is not only a disservice to women but men too. The patriarchy has caused toxic masculinity where men are supposed to be strong, independent, providers of their family and not display excessive emotions. However, not every man is built to fit this stereotype and no male should feel less of a man because he is not the embodiment of these characteristics. The patriarchy makes it harder for men to come forward and report sexual assault cases because then they are considered weak and often ridiculed. The issue of femininity and masculinity are social constructs which are hindering people from enjoying life because they are pressured to conform to the gender roles associated with them.

I am a feminist because when a woman is raped, victim blaming is the next course of action. “What was she wearing?” “Well her body count is high anyway.” “She probably asked for it.” “She should have known better than to be drinking.” “It’s a man’s world and a girl has to be careful.” I would probably throw up the next time I hear one of these phrases uttered when a woman is sexually violated. I want there to be justice in such cases and erase the stigma associated with rape so that more women can be comfortable reporting their rapists.

I choose feminism because I believe in the reproductive health of women. No, I’m not only talking about the right to abort (which I am in favour of) but comprehensive health care for women of all ages. Reproductive healthcare meaning complete physical, mental and social well-being in all issues related to the reproductive system in order to have a satisfying and safe sex life, the capability to reproduce and the choice to decide when and the frequency of consensual sexual encounters. This should include but is not limited to sexual education, family planning, antenatal and safe delivery care, post natal care, prevention of STIs, as well as early diagnosis and treatment of reproductive health illnesses including breast and cervical cancer. [3]

Still want to know why I am a feminist? I am a feminist because as of 2019, according to the World Bank, 130 million girls are out of school worldwide. UNICEF reports that girls spend 40% more time on housework than boys do. UN Women statistics show that 71% of all trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls.[4] If I am being honest, these statistics are worrisome. These statistics make my heart bleed and ignite the desire within me to ensure that in whatever way possible, I contribute my quota to ending sexism and the patriarchy.

People usually envision feminists with bras being burned, angry women, lesbians, or man-haters. I’ve never burnt a bra, I am not an angry woman (frustrated with the patriarchy, yes), I am not a lesbian neither do I hate men. You see, there is no one single representation of who a feminist is. A feminist does not look a particular way. We are people, regardless of our gender, social class, sexual orientation, religion, and race who want the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. Perioddttt.

Oh, to dream of a time when women worldwide can reach any height they dream of and not be blocked by a ceiling named patriarchy and a roof named sexism. That, my dear readers, is why I am a feminist.

[1] Hooks, b. (2000). Feminism is for Everybody. Brooklyn: South End Press

[2] UN WOMEN. (2019). Retrieved from unwomen.org: unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures

[3] Sexual & reproductive health. (n.d). Retrieved from unfpa.org: https://www.unfpa.org/sexual-reproductive-health

[4] The Global GirlsBillofRights. (n.d). Retrieved fromgirlsbillofrights.org: girlsbillofrights.org

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