What Does Feminism Mean In 2019?
A lot has changed in the three years since I wrote this piece headlined: What Does Feminism Mean in 2017 And Why Do So Many People Hate It? In it I explained how uncomfortable I was discussing feminism, not because I don’t believe in equality, but because of the negative connotations associated with raising the F-word and the risk of shutting down a dialogue.
But a lot has changed since then. With #metoo, #timesup and the passing of abortion legislation in many countries across the globe, the tide is clearly turning. I think there is a more inclusive movement of intersectional feminism, that is working toward addressing historical shortcomings and embracing the leadership and perspectives of women of colour, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and other critical voices. And so, I was curious to see how people reacted when I repeated the same exercise, asking them ‘What does feminism mean to you?’
This time there weren’t many awkward reactions, and no one declined to comment. Everyone was falling over themselves to share their thoughts.
I spoke to several women in different parts of the world about what feminism means to them. These were their responses.
“There is a bit of overload at the moment about what feminism is. #metoo, equal pay, motherhood and so on. In the midst of all this, while you might define yourself as a feminist, it leads to different reactions from people around us. I still find that I have to “tone it down” sometimes, in some situations.
Even now, some men ask me if because I’m a feminist, does that mean that I am going to get into a circle with some fellow feminists and burn bras? I feel that that phase of feminism is so long gone. Women have come such a long way since.
When I think of myself as a feminist today, I simply want to stop other people assuming that I need to do anything or not do something purely because of my gender.
Apart from purely biological things like childbearing et al — there is nothing else that I should have to do or not do just because I’m a woman. This applies to private and professional situations. Similarly, there should be no opportunity; be it a job, a promotion or pay-parity, that is unavailable to me just because I am a woman. If I don’t otherwise qualify or deserve it, that’s obviously fine.”
Neeti, mother and lawyer (Hong Kong)
“Respect for choice; for example, in Italy what housewives do is respected more – like putting delicious food on the table and bringing up kids. In Italian culture these are two of the most important things and women are respected for doing them and for making the choice to do these things – in Italy being a home-maker is a normal and good thing to do with your life.
Athanae, yoga teacher and writer (Italy)
“Respect for choice; for example, in Italy, it’s my impression that woman are more respected for choosing those traditional roles like being a homemaker and a stay at home parent, whereas I see so many of my friends in Australia privately struggling under pressure to continue to progress their careers, while facing the dual (and impossible) bind of being expected to be primary caregiver and parent too, especially at at time when their own parents may also be needing assistance with aged care. There is no perfect system and no one-size-fits-all solution, which is why I think respect is paramount, and should be at the foundation of the discussion.”
Tania Tan Wu, student (Taiwan)
“Having respect. I get more enjoyment from cooking and fluffing the pillows over DIY jobs such as putting up a shelving unit or fixing my car but I’m conscious that it is seen as old fashioned/backward.”
Olivia, fundraiser (United Kingdom)
To me feminism is about giving women – all women – the same freedom and choices that have long been enjoyed by men. It’s also about allowing women to reach their full potential, and having in place the societal structures to allow that to happen.
Belle, journalist and mother (Australia)
“Feminism to me is being able to go for my decisions without being questioned about it just because I’m a woman – from professional career choices, to my sexuality, to my personal dreams and ambitions.”
Rebecca Isjwara, journalist (Indonesia)
What does feminism mean to you? Let us know in the comments below.