The environment I grew up in wasn’t the best for a woman to thrive, but compared to how bad my grandmother had it, we have come a long way. I grew up with dreams and motivated to reach them, but several unwelcome things were imposed on me over time.
In elementary school, I was already being asked to imagine my dream wedding. Twelve-year-old me was surrounded by magazines telling me how to be skinny and hairless. Grown-ups around me chanted pro-tips like boys don’t like girls with short hair.
My high school chemistry teacher once told us a story of how she quit her previous male-dominated job where men constantly walked over her and never even considered her as a professional. She warned us that one day we will experience it too.
What a great message for a young woman dreaming about career heights to hear!
It feels like I was still a little girl just three Christmases ago but a lot of things have already changed.
I can’t say that women are no longer choked by beauty standards or given condescending looks by an alarming percentage of men, but the the boundaries have significantly expanded. Not shaving, not looking pretty for anyone, not desiring to marry or have children are being normalized — and it’s a beautiful thing to witness.
Some of the behavior that violate commandments of the unwritten rule-book for women are not just normalized — they’re straight up put on pedestals.
However, while we have plenty of encouragement to emancipate from standards the society once forced them to follow, women who don’t rush to run through the open gates are being shamed.
The same way, body positivity is largely going in a single direction. Bigger bodies that were once looked down on are now celebrated. Meanwhile, body shapes that were once admired are written off as “unrealistic” and preferred to not be shown on magazine covers.
Women who choose to be stay-at-home moms are put on trial by the newly empowered society for giving their male partners freedom to go up the career ladder instead of doing it themselves. Some women even feel superior over those who chose to juggle raising kids and making the most out of their careers.
Double standards have reached opinions on clothing too. Girls that dare to show their bodies on social media are often met with applause by other women for their courage but women wearing hijabs are not always greeted the same way even when it’s clearly their choice and in some geographical contexts, courageous too.
Feminist accounts on Instagram re-posting vintage images of women wearing niqabs invites a heavily polarised discussion. Some women express their views on Islamic attire with comments like this:
Meanwhile, others are telling mean comment writers to do their research and claim that Islam is a religion that empowers women.
What symbolizes feminism?
Everyone has their own opinion.
For some, it’s showing a middle finger to patriarchy by refusing to look attractive for the males. Others demand freeing the nipple. There are even women that feel strong and unified practising their religion, working at their dream job, having a particular lifestyle, or showing off their unique looks.
While the diverse list of priorities indicate that everyone has a choice regarding what being a feminist means to them, it creates room for a ton of disagreement and disunity.
Not all feminists are equal.
Why don’t we focus on what unifies us rather than what makes us different?
It’s high time we finally look at feminism as standing up for women’s rights to make their own choices and be treated without discrimination — without assigning any kind of behaviour, religious beliefs, clothing choice, and career paths to being a feminist.
I’m a feminist, despite how feminists are viewed in society and how some of them choose to behave. But I still think that a community that stands for Girl Power would be a more inclusive one to be a part of if its members stopped telling each other how to act and dress a certain way just because they can.
Everyone should feel welcome regardless of their location on the modern woman spectrum. Not every woman is ready, able or willing to take a leap. Not every female lives in a society that is ready to accept them as they want to be, and they sometimes have to take a slower path to progress , for their own safety and long-term success.
It is more productive to search for reasons and solutions rather than forcing women into the unknown.
Feminism is about giving women the freedom to choose and be — free from external pressure. Forcing girls to follow the new ultimate female framework is just taking one step forward and two steps back in the journey of women empowerment.