Strength in having choices

When I think of what feminism means, I think of my mother. My mother, born to first-generation Italians, decided that she wanted to study math at University of Waterloo.

My grandfather, a kind and loving man I swear, warned her that she may be wasting her education because she may want to have children one day. Why would an employer hire someone who will just have kids and leave?

Ignoring my Nonno, she went and was one of three girls in her class. Shortly after graduation she began work as a programmer and continued in that line of work until the birth of my sister.

After that she was a stay at home mom, but she occasionally worked from home or volunteered at our elementary school to tutor kids in math.

During the Christmas break, my mother stated that she did see herself as a feminist, not simply because she succeeded in a male-dominated environment, but because she had the ability to make these decisions for herself. She made the choice to work and she made the choice to stay home with us, both decisions holding equal merit within her feminist belief system.

I never came to the conclusion myself, but, after she stated this seemingly obvious fact, my personal value system made a lot more sense.

This is the problem with the perception of feminism. Feminism doesn’t always mean thinking in the grandiose but at times it seems like this is the only option we ever hear about. People tend to equate feminism with academic feminism, reading authors and feminists like bell hooks and Judith Butler. Their works are incredibly fascinating, but, for some, could be intimidating. Don’t get me wrong, hooks and Butler are my girls but they’re not for everyone.

Regardless, we need to start small.

Feminism is the desire for gender equality. Men and women, of all races, have equal rights. If you agree with that, you may be a feminist.

Feminism is being outraged at William Kabogo, a Kenyan politician who recently said that he believes that if you’re 35 and still unmarried, something is wrong with you because if you cannot manage a home, you certainly cannot manage public affairs. He has since apologized, but it doesn’t make what Kabogo said acceptable

The biggest problem with feminism is that a lot of people assume it stands for making women superior or giving women certain entitlements over men. The dialogue is becoming jumbled and over-complicated: we need to scale it down to its grassroots.

For an example, recently MyDaily and EliteDaily, both online magazines, have written articles about the recent trend of young girls going to social media declaring why they don’t need feminism. Such signs include “I don’t need feminism because I respect men. I refuse to demonize them and blame them for my problems” and “I believe in equality not entitlements and supremacy.”

I don’t understand how this disconnect between what feminism really means and what people think feminism means was created. It’s upsetting to watch. I also don’t understand why some people seem to be scared of or intimidated by feminism or feminists. Feminism is nothing to be afraid of or to shame people for identifying as one.

The negative connotations that come with defining yourself as a feminist are still prevalent and ridiculous. I am not a man-hating lesbian, a whiny liberal or a dirty hippie and even if I was, what’s wrong with that? By trying to insult someone with that, you’re essentially saying that being defined as a lesbian is degrading which is a whole lot of bullshit.

There is so much controversy around feminism that, at times, it feels like it’s the new “F” word. It’s not a dirty word, so stop treating it as such.

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