I have been having quite a few conversations lately about feminism. And I am surprised at how so many people still have this antiquated idea of what feminism is all about. The vision of a man-hating, bra-burning woman usually comes to mind, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Feminism means rights for women
It's really not that difficult. If you support women having the right to choose their own life, you are a feminist. If you agree that women should have equal opportunities to men, then you are a feminist. If you think women should be allowed to live their lives without being sexually harassed, guess what? You're a feminist. It's not a matter of not wanting to label things, or not wanting to identify with a certain movement. Feminism isn't a movement anymore, it's a way of life.
The right to choose
As I said before, as a feminist I acknowledge that women have the right to make their own choices in life. This also means that a woman who chooses to be a stay-at-home-mum can be a feminist. There is nothing that says that all women have to be ambitious and have to want to be CEO of a company. Women are also free to dress the way they want. Therefore, a woman who chooses to wear tight clothing, high heels and a lot of make-up can be a feminist. A woman who chooses to be a sex worker is no less a feminist than the woman running for president. It's all about the right to choose your own life.
Having said that, the patriarchy has been around for a long, long time. There are certain ideas and behaviours that have been engrained in us over time. We all have a lot of internalised misogyny, simply from how society has been structured over the ages. I can write a whole article about engrained misogyny, but all I want to say here is that women have been conditioned to stay away from certain jobs. And men are not happy to give up their traditionally male dominated fields of work. One need look no further than the gaming industry to see how toxic those environments can be for women. A lot still needs to change for women to be able to choose whatever life they want. Certain options are simply not open to us yet.
No one size fits all
There is no one way to be a feminist. There is no uniform, no handbook, no guidelines to follow, other than respecting women. And if you say you respect women, then you should respect all women, irrespective of their choices. From stay-at-home-mum to sex worker to CEO, all choices are valid from a feminist perspective. Let's just treat all women with the respect they deserve.