Offended by the title I chose? Please don’t, at least not before you read the rest of this piece.
And before I start, let me state for the record that I am a feminist. This piece is a reflection of my experience being a feminist in an environment that does not consist of feminist, in which feminism is even considered a dirty word.
I often get criticized by my surroundings for taking offense to what people say about the typical gender roles. I am a strong believer of working moms. They don’t necessarily have to work at tall buildings downtown, but I believe that moms need to have another job beside being a full time mom. They could be casual translator, part time teacher, small business owner, or even a part of any organization.
This belief often irritates some of my male friends. “You need to be fully focused on your child,” was one of their arguments. Or “We need the females to take care of the household needs,” or “Stop being an ambitious career woman—men will be terrified of you.”
In response to this outdated views, I would have to take a couple of deep breath to calm myself down, before explaining to them why moms need to have a side job. Do they know that it’s not fair for women to not apply their education in ways that men are applying? Do they know that for some women, being 24 hours with the children could stress them out and make them less affectionate?
It is a surprise for me that they didn’t know what I had presumed to be common knowledge. But, fortunately, having been informed, they would usually come to understand and may even change their views on the issue.
Now, would they have done the same if I had just gotten mad and shouted at them about my right as a human being?
Another example: I once told my grandma about my plans to continue my education. Her reaction was disappointing. I had hoped that she would be happy and supportive, instead she told me that I should be getting married rather than getting another degree. I didn’t know what to say, so I kept silent and cried on the way home.
I chose to not confront her, but I shared he story to my cousin, who was shocked and angry too. Then we decided to get my cousin’s mom, my aunt, to talk to our grandma to explain why women need to be well educated. Now I am so happy that my grandma is giving her full support and no longer doubts the importance of education for me and my cousins.
Do you get my points? Let me break it down in a way that might be useful for you to control the urge to defend yourself as a proud feminist whenever you feel offended.
- It is not always about you.
I can hear your eyes rolling, but, hear this, just like you, they are just holding on to what they feel right. They think that it is the right thing for men and women to take on traditional roles: a husband who is at work the whole day and arrives home to food served on the table by the wife; or a guy who is older and has higher education than his girlfriend.
Well, guess what: I bet that many feminists once thought just like them too. But at some point, we felt uncomfortable or disregarded or under-appreciated that we looked for other alternatives. Then we came across this idea of feminism that made us who we are today: independent, respectful, humble, and confident.
Don’t you think it’s about time for them to also meet our beautiful friend, feminism? Would you introduce them so they can be good friends?
- Acknowledge their ignorance.
My seamstress once asked me an honest question: why are young women now so sensitive when I ask them about marriage? I gave her my answer, then I suggested that instead of asking her customer if they were married, ask them if they had been busy.
She was shocked. She hadn’t known that asking that question would bother people that much. She presumed that it was the only way people live their lives: school, university, work, marriage, retirement, before we all expire.
Is it her fault that she doesn’t know beyond what she has been conditioned to know?
- Why be angry when we can be friendly?
One of my friends hates feminists a lot. Like, a lot. He believes feminists are a group of girls that are not happy with how the world evolves and wants to push their own man-hating agenda. He is one of those people who call us “feminazi”.
At first, I always got worked up by his comments, but eventually I decided to laugh it off. I also decided to try to understand him by putting myself in his shoes. While I was with him, it was not all about feminism. Overtime, he got to laugh with me about feminism, patriarchy, misogyny and, surprisingly, we laugh at the same jokes. That could mean two things: he is becoming a feminist or I am becoming less feminist. But I can tell you that I am still a feminist AF.
What if I had stayed angry every time he offended feminists? I really think that he wouldn’t be a feminist today. Sometimes we need to soften ourselves to get people to accept the bigger point.
I hope I’ve made my point clear. And I hope there will be no more “feminazi” and no more “angry feminists”, as there will be no more anti-feminists.
Shafira Jumantara is a post-grad student in Australia who is trying to not let the government fund go to waste. She is the kind of person who still has faith in the government, the kind of person who always has a thought on everything, but who never wants to take sides—a.k.a. avoiding conflicts.