By: Hira Ali
Feminism. As powerful as this buzzword sounds, many people who are gravely unaware of its actual connotations have attached a stigma to it and belittled it. Before delving into the topic any further, I will take a few moments to dispel any myths and common misconceptions associated with this word. Here is the literal definition of this new f-word;
Feminism: The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
And this is exactly what it is! Nothing more, nothing less. Feminists do not harbor any secret desires to propagate women supremacy, nor do they demand any special privileges for the latter. Feminists are not anti-men, nor are they anti-marriage, and they certainly do not have any unapologetic opinions about how women should behave or dress. I am strongly feminist but I don’t hate men. I have no reservations in attributing some of my own successes to the supportive men in my life, be it my father, husband or brother. I enjoy being married and guess what, I like "girly things" too, such as lipstick, heels, and dresses. Yes, you can be a feminist and still enjoy these. In fact, I am known to have a strong inclination towards the color pink.
Feminists do not crinkle their noses at stay at home moms, either. A feminist could be a stay-at-home mom or not a mom at all. The whole point of feminism is to embrace choices and be anything one wants to be without judging another woman on her choices. Every woman should be free to do whatever she pleases, and look however she desires.
[Related: How To Take Back Feminism: Event Recap]
So then, what actually does feminism entail? Feminists demand equal rights for women in every sphere and walk of life. It’s as simple as that. A goal to create a society in which individuals’ genders don’t restrict them from an equitable shot at success and happiness
Listed below are some simple yet effective ways in which you can play your part in taking back what it means to be a feminist.
Make use of social/print and electronic media.
Highlight the issue in hand and help people understand it better by writing blogs, sharing articles, or perhaps by doing live videos with meaningful messages; even tweeting hashtags of popular movements that support the theme is a perfectly acceptable way to show your support. But don’t just stop at that. Social media is a very important tool with an impact far more outreaching than we can ever imagine, and what’s more, it’s free! Challenge and counteract media that intentionally or unintentionally undermine women rights, make sure your voice is being heard by raising your concern and registering your complaints where appropriate. Learn how Meghan-Markle did it when she was only 11
Call out inequality.
Even small acts of resistance can make a difference. According to Samantha Rennie, Executive Director at Rosa; “People must be held accountable for their thoughts and their actions, so when you see acts of sexism, racism, xenophobia, ableism, Islamophobia or anything else, call it out!" Sometimes people do not realize what’s wrong until someone points it out, so don’t hesitate to point out and raise awareness in suitable ways.
Support non-profit organizations working for women.
There a plethora of organizations that are tirelessly working to defend women rights. Many women have fought to give us what we today enjoy as basic rights. Women are more empowered, confident and bold than they ever were and this didn’t happen overnight; there have been people responsible for getting us here. However, in many parts of the world, women are still being abused, traded, mutilated and deprived of education. Honor killings, child brides, and acid attacks are still a sad reality for hundreds of women worldwide and these women need our support! Recent women’s marches across the globe clearly evidenced what we are capable of when we organize and mobilize. Also, being part of an organized support gives you a proper platform not only for championing your support but also connecting with like-minded individuals.
Rally political support.
“If you want to build a more equal country, you need to push equality for women into the political space,” says Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party. And this essentially means supporting political parties which put women equality on their top agenda regularly.
[Related: Feminism in 2017: A Wake Up Call]
Elicit support from men.
“Gender equality is your issue too,” says the actor and UN Women goodwill ambassador, Emma Watson, while addressing men in one of her recent speeches. #HeForShe was launched in September 2014 as a movement that aims to inspire and encourage men to take action against gender inequality. According to Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor, University of Leicester, UK, men don’t think gender equality is their concern or is a critical thing that warrants a change. He says that, "In our institutions, gender equality discussions are dominated by women while men are getting on with research and other activities." To truly advocate women equality, do not dismiss support from men; encourage them to step up and play their part.
Mentor girls and raise their aspirations.
In my article Dear Girls, We Have Your Back published on Ellevate, I discuss how important it is to support and empower young girls these days and why it’s crucial to have female mentors for female students. "After all, when you empower girls, they say, you are raising the quality of life for everyone. It is these very girls that will lead children by example, lead businesses, lead communities and even lead the country one day and, by mentoring and raising their aspirations we are laying the ground for a future generation of women who have the power to crush stereotypes and rise above all challenges
Even little actions count and can potentially make a huge difference. Your one step forward could possibly inspire several others to do the same. March is long gone, but let’s continue taking feminism back and being bold for change today and forever after.
Hira Ali is the CEO of ed Management Consulting as well as Founder of Advancing Your Potential & Revitalize and Rise. She is a Leadership Trainer, Motivational Speaker, Writer, Professional Coach & NLP Practitioner. She tweets @advancingyou and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.