I think it is safe to say that I am a feminist, and I have given a lot of thoughts before I came up with this statement. But being a feminist means that you expose yourself to constant dialectics in your life, because everyone seems to have a lot to say about how you should behave as a feminist, and what a feminist is.
That is, in fact, the point. We have no singular and absolute definition of what feminism is and what feminists should be like.
There are all strains of feminist movements out there: liberal feminism, radical feminism, postmodernist feminism, eco-feminism, even Marxist feminism. Our feminist writers come in various forms too, ranging from Virginia Woolf, Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Stanton, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan and a list of other thinkers. Not one of them has imposed a single definition on feminism on us thus far.
Today some feminists are fighting for LGBT issues, some for pay gap issues, some are fighting for more representatives in politics and public policies, some for more freedom. And many are fighting against injustices. For me, feminism is realizing that women are struggling everyday around the world.
Feminism, to me, is trying to make the world better for women in the world. It is knowing that women are often the victims of injustice. It is also understanding the perpetrators of the injustice include government, media, school, family, culture, religions, and others. Feminism, for me, is trying to change some things in this world to improve the welfare of women, so that they can live free of pressure or threats.
So why do people keep telling me how I should act as a feminist? And why do people keep telling me what I should want, what I should desire as a feminist?
This problem appears when I try to explain the kind of man I would like to be my partner, in answer to a question. I prefer the type of man who meets the stereotype of “masculinity” in our society. I want someone who is physically big and strong, tough-skinned, courageous, independent, contained, grounded and capable of doing physical things.
I want them to be able to fight and do activities I consider manly like playing guitar, doing sports, and mechanical stuff. A guy friend of mine remarked on my preference, “Don’t you think it’s a bit of hypocritical if you label yourself a feminist, yet you want that kind of man?”
What I would like to explain is this: I understand and believe strongly that we all are different and unique. I know that not all men are rough, many possess feminine traits, the way many women who are identified as “tomboys” like to wear guy’s clothes and adopt masculine mannerism. Some of us are gays, some straights or bisexual or whatever. I appreciate all the difference and I love all human beings. But being open to differences are not the same as having a preference. Your preference doesn’t always represent your belief.
We do not become who we are instantly. I call myself a feminist after a lot of thoughts and readings, and after having resolved some of my confusion. But I am not just a feminist. My identity, including what I prefer, is shaped by my childhood, teenage and early adult phase. My desires are shaped by the teenage novels I read, the cheesy romantic movies I watched, and the experiences I have had as a person.
I may hope for all women to be prosperous and safe, and that is how I define feminism. And, still, I want men who fit the criteria I find attractive. To say that I shouldn’t want something or someone because I have declared myself a feminist is rubbish. When you say something like this, you belittle the rich narrative of feminism.
My kind of feminism is way, way more than my preference for men, and you should not mind.
Ankapyo is a senior at the University of Indonesia, minoring in Media Studies. She enjoys learning about media and how people use it for different purposes. She loves books, old rock songs, and photography (Instagram: @ankapyo), and she is saving up to travel around the world, hopefully soon enough.