Black Friday may conjure up images of rampant retail – but there’s a feminist history here as well. Black Friday is also the name of a protest in favor of women’s suffrage in the UK on 18 November 1910. 300 women protested, and many were assaulted and arrested.
This might not have been the first time women experienced violence for demanding their rights, but it’s worth recalling why these protests were important and what this means for today – Black Friday – and tomorrow – the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women. Let’s talk about the powerful movement that gave us the right to vote, amongst other critical rights and fundamental freedoms – FEMINISM!
So, on the day after Thanksgiving, I’d like to say Thank you, Feminism!
I’m often called upon to justify feminism for skeptics. Not a problem, I say. I’ve always worn the title proudly.
Here we go:
At its core, feminism is a belief in and desire for equality between the sexes – a belief that females and males should have equal rights and opportunities – and full freedom to exercise these choices.
A quick history lesson. We generally refer to “waves” of feminism. Here’s a fast summary: The first wave of the late 1800s and early 1900s pushed for political equality. The 1960s brought in the second wave, for legal and professional equality. And the third wave advocates for social equality. While we’ve made progress, we haven’t succeeded fully in achieving equality in any of these areas.
A further challenge is this: political, legal, and professional equality are easier to measure. We’re better able to tell if we’ve gotten there or not. But social equality? That one is sticky. At its core it is about oppression and unconscious bias. While the first two waves fought against institutions, this third wave is up against attitudes, beliefs, and practices. This is the most important – but the hardest – battle yet. This is about human rights and social justice – and we’re all still coming to agreement as humans on what exactly this entails.
Feminism as a philosophy is fairly clear. And it is also a political movement, a social identity, and now has dedicated institutions. Feminism is now more than just a cause and a calling – it’s also a career. I’m living proof. This doesn’t mean that it should be. In fact, I keep saying there is something wrong with the world if a demand for equality is a career rather than common sense.
There is a need to unpack the F-word – understand what it means at its core – embrace the values that it promotes. This means restoring feminism as a political movement – back to its original intent. In many ways, our present understanding has become diluted, stripped of power and politics in order to be made more palatable for the masses. But in order to be effective, and to be true to its origins, feminism is about reimagining – and rebuilding – society based on equality. That is a radical call to action, not a mainstream movement, a hashtag, or a sweatshirt slogan.
[And when I do wear feminist apparel – it is precisely because I embrace the full fight and depth of this movement and am therefore able to publically proclaim it]
[And the first time I tweeted #feminist, within minutes I was told by a troll that my “feminism is inversely related to my ability to get laid”. Because, troll’s logic is that feminists must be ugly. And unable to get laid. Otherwise why would I elect to tweet such unsavory things?]
Feminism isn’t just about resisting – that’s important, but there’s more. It’s about LEADING.
Marcie Bianco, managing editor of the Clayman Institute at Stanford University, says that feminism as politics is a movement of people, but as ethics feminism is about movement of self. It is about the individual and their ability to imagine a possibility where freedom and equality exist fully in all aspects of our lives. And then we need to collectively develop strategies to make that freedom a reality.
To have a movement, we need people who are willing to MOVE – move from a place of comfort (and complacency) to a place of potential discomfort. A place where power is challenged and politics is redrawn. A movement built on women’s rights and women’s agency.
Feminism is not history. It’s a process. One that is social and political – with the intent to challenge male entitlement.
Marcie Bianco also said that those who have power are not dreaming about empowerment. That’s up the rest of us.
Challenging patriarchy is invariably political. And it’s not just a movement for women. And it doesn’t mean that the “problem” of inequality will be solved by a female president or the same number of males and females in a given place. [Although that would be a good start!]
This means we can arrive at a future where any individual – male or female – will uphold respect for all individuals equally. After all, men can – and should! – be feminists too. Why would anyone NOT be?!
Thank you, Feminism!