So I’m a Feminist, well duh. I mean, the movement calls for equality so it’s a no-brainer. I’m not a feminist because I have a Mum or sisters (I dislike it when men use that or a similar qualifier), I am a feminist because I believe in fairness and diversity is very important to me. Furthermore, as someone who knows a thing or two about oppression, I will not join in or perpetuate oppression.
I want to be clear, I’m not here for self-serving (fake) feminism that is not inclusive of all women.
My problem with the picture above, meant to celebrate International Women’s day is that it portrays a select few and in doing so promotes a fallacy that International Women’s day and by extension feminism is solely for certain women. This may be a reason that not everyone identifies as a feminist.
Feminism is often portrayed as an aggressive, in your face movement that seeks to emasculate or make one feel guilty if male. It is also often seen to be represented by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants or WASPs and so can be seen to exclude women of different faiths, ethnicity or sexual orientation. True feminism should be about equality that we all deserve.
The irony is that a lot of people are probably more feminist in their opinion than they think, but don’t want or like the label. I write this because the hope is that most people believe in equality and therefore would like to be paid equally for example, or at least treated equally. Such people believe in equality by default but can’t get behind feminism because of how it is usually so negatively portrayed or because they think it may require some activism. The truth is we all have different skills, so don’t necessarily have to do the same things. For example, I believe in God but even though I don’t spread the Gospel to the same extent that missionaries might do that doesn’t make me any less a Christian.
This is why I think the message of feminism is good but perhaps we need to expand its messenger base. We need to hear from a wider selection of voices, like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Malala Yousafzai and Amandla Stenberg (to name a few). In addition, we also need to see more constructive and positive examples of feminism we can emulate. This brings me to the actions of Dorothy Vaughan a real woman portrayed in the recent film – ‘Hidden Figures’.
The film is uplifting not only because of the positive representation of the women it portrays but also due to the equally positive (often absent) portrayal of love and the support black women get from their partners. It is often depicted that when women are the breadwinners or the more successful financial partner in a relationship, that relationship breaks down so it is nice to see that trope upended in this film. Dorothy Vaughan, played by the fabulous Octavia Spencer, is a hardworking mathematician and human-computer that initially does the work of a supervisor but is denied the promotion. Foreseeing that actual computers were going to be the future, she taught herself and the other black women, of the segregated West Area Computers division, programming languages and other concepts to prepare them for the transition.
A defining scene in the film, where she is seen bringing all the women with her as she is finally, deservedly promoted came across as authentic, even if the story is only based on true events.
Additionally, after she began overseeing the actual computers she continued to work for opportunities for the black women in the West Area Computers division as well as women in other departments. This is an excellent example of true feminism, we should all strive like Dorothy to also help others when the door of opportunity opens.
As the inspirational and aforementioned Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai said
Peace and Love
Aharoun the Author.