The Real Definition of Feminism
April 6, 2017
Filed under Opinion
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Let’s talk about feminism. Let’s talk about it because it is a term we have all hid behind for far too long. I, myself, identify as a feminist because I believe in equal opportunity for all genders and sexualities; ultimately, all people. It is quite simple, actually.
However, in a society where the term “feminism” has the potential to be used only to support heterosexual and white women, it is important to recognize that this is not the true definition of feminism. If it is so for you, I suggest coining a new word — something like “white feminism.” Oh wait, that one’s already taken.
This year, I have grown more and more aware of the feminists I surround myself with. I used to look up to Emma Watson, because she played Hermione with puffy hair and a “don’t care” attitude. That only lasted two movies and “feminist icon” Watson didn’t make the cut. So, she was off my list.
Then came actresses like Anne Hathaway, whom I first saw in the cinematic masterpiece of my fourth grade existence, “The Princess Diaries.” At the time, I loved her silly faces and PG-rated jokes. Now, I realize that she supported taking big hair and boxy glasses and turning it into something ugly, something that needed to be transformed to fit a narrow definition of pretty.
I did not realize that only being called “pretty” is, in itself, sexist. Yes, a person can be “pretty.” But, that is such an injustice to who a person really is. I would rather be seen as someone who can always make someone laugh or is kind to the people around them than just be labeled as a “pretty” person. Girls strive to be “pretty,” when all the qualities that actually matter are usually already there.
Back to Anne Hathaway. By the end of the movie, she had straight hair, no glasses, and blue eyeshadow (because it was the early 2000s). So, I started wearing a ponytail in an attempt to tame my hair and looked into buying contact lenses.
The list goes on. One white actress, white musician, white writer later, and I realized I was doing myself an injustice. Much like any movie or book, a story’s protagonist deserves to be surrounded by a diverse and unique cast. This reflects on how I’d like to see my own life. Thus came the refusal to limit my idea of equality and the people who represent that for me.
The first time I saw a Muslim character in any artistic medium that was not made by an Islamic country was in a show called “Skam.” It is a low-budget Norwegian show that portrays a Muslim girl as she should be—as a girl. She is not a terrorist-in-training or a punchline or a minor character who wears a hijab for the sake of diversity. She is a strong-willed teenager who loves her friends and what she believes in and just so happens to cover her hair with a hijab.
Because of this, I watched the entire three seasons in one week and I boasted about it to my friends. It was the first time I felt represented. It was the first time I felt like a group of people understood what it meant to be a Muslim girl, especially in a place where not everyone makes an effort to understand my perspective without the alienation that comes along with it.
Sad to say, this is a Norwegian show and I am still living in America where not a single television show I have seen or heard of has a Muslim protagonist that isn’t involved in any illegal drama. That statement says a lot about the representation American youth receive and the representation youth deserve.
We look up to the people we read about, we see on television, we have dreams of becoming.
I deserve to be able to look in the mirror and not see anything wrong with me. So do you. So does anyone who has ever felt underrepresented in media. However, the people who preach about self-love and sisterhood also believe that only specific people should love themselves and only specific people should be included into this sisterhood. They make exceptions to their feminist beliefs. However, that is not what feminism is.
We are overthinking it. Exclusion is always going to be why women still do not see eye to eye. It will always be the reason we are stuck with stereotypes of being hysterical and jealous. It will always lead to the name-calling—homewrecker, diva, drama queen. It will always lead to the mansplaining—a man’s need to explain something to a woman, and ultimately, make her feel like less than him. It will always lead to girls thinking they are not good enough and that they must tame themselves to fit in.
And lastly, exclusion will always lead to the feeling that we cannot stand up for ourselves in fear of saying what we actually think without the support from the sisterhood we speak of.
But if I have to look outside of one of the most diverse countries in the world to find representation in media, we need feminism now more than ever before.