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What Does Feminism Mean to Me?

"Feminism is seen as such a dirty word nowadays."

Feminism is seen as such a dirty word nowadays.

It is almost a slur to those who are worried that women having rights will take the limelight away from them for more than five minutes.

It is a hateful, spiteful insult thrown at us when our counterpart cannot articulate an intelligent argument in response to us asking for autonomy over our own bodies.

It is a word uttered at a dirty bar over a stale pint when we leave an abusive situation to truly blossom and become who we want to be.

It is the excuse used by many to justify a physical attack, a rape, a murder.

“She was a fucking feminist anyway.”

But what does this word mean?

"Feminist" is thrown around by everyone today, and whilst that’s not necessarily a bad thing, what does it stand for?

Whilst I agree that the Oxford English Dictionary definition is, maybe broad, but a pretty accurate definition, I have found that the definition of the word is different depending on who you ask. Which is why I decided to do this series.

In this short series of works, I will be asking a group of different men and women in my life what feminism means to them among other questions—and I guess it would only be fair to start with myself.

I, Harley, am a 20 year old student and author of this blog. I do not claim to be an expert on feminism. I do not believe I know more than you, the reader. I am merely a young woman living in this world, and here’s what feminism means to me:

Firstly, what does feminism mean to you? (Make it as personal as possible.)

Even though I wrote these questions, I am struggling with this one. Feminism... What even is it? To me, it is an outlet for empowerment. It is coming together to fight for basic human rights, to fight for the ability to thrive in any career without having our sexuality, our past, our upbringing, our intentions, our relationship status, or our ability questioned. And that goes for men and women. I want to see more creative men in the makeup/hair industry without having to be asked if they’re gay. I want to see more women KILLING IT in the engineering field, teaching her male counterparts without being laughed at.

Feminism to me? It’s coming together to be accepting, to be loving, and to live in harmony.

Were you raised feminist? If not, what age did you discover feminism?

At the time, I didn’t realise it, but I was. My mother was single for a lot of my early life, and for the most part, it was just me and her. She worked two jobs to support the both of us and she did a fucking good job of it. One thing I will always remember my mum telling me throughout my life, (most recently after a particularly messy breakup), is that I should never rely on a man. I watched my mother being an amazing woman, and independent and strong, and I think that has had a lot of impact on me now.

Have you ever questioned/doubted your feminism?

On. The. Regular.

I never know if what I am doing is enough, or if I am being the "right" kind of feminist.

Who is one woman you look up to, and why?

Sandi Toksvig.

Sandi was one of, if not the first, publicly out woman in British TV. She is also the first woman to host a late night panel show on the BBC. She was warned she would never work again if she came out to the British public, but against all odds, she came out as lesbian to set an example to her children and to teach them that they should never be ashamed of who they are or have to hide out of shame for something they cannot help and should be proud of.

Who is one man you look up to, and why?

Ashton Kutcher.

Ashton Kutcher has taken a step back from his career in acting to free young women and children from sex trafficking. Need I say more?

If you could re-write the definition of the word "feminism," what would it be?

The movement to make women be treated as human.

Was there an event in your life that made you realise you are feminist? If so, what was it. If not, what inspired you?

I can’t say there was one particular standout event. It has been one thing after the other adding up. As I previously mentioned, my mum laid the foundations of my feminism and it all built up from there. From seeing these bullshit laws deciding what a woman can and can’t do with her body to the man in the van on the street that shouts, "Nice tits," to me. It has all lead to my feminism today.

What is one misconception about you/your feminism you are fed up of being asked about/having to explain?

“Doesn’t that mean you hate men?”

(No. It doesn’t. Although chances are, if you have asked me that, I do hate you.)

If you could see one change in the world happen tomorrow, what would it be?

Baby changing tables in all men's toilets. Single dads exist too.

What do you believe YOUR purpose in life is? (As a woman, as a feminist, as an advocate etc.)

It may be lame, but I believe my purpose here is to learn. To continue to grow and to develop my understanding to pass onto my children so they can help shape the world into a better place.