Wednesday, 22 July 2015

What Feminism Means to Me

Firstly, there is such a wide selection of things which are cherished by none other than my welcoming heart - animals, friends and even Oreo ice cream sandwiches if you really want to know - that are all important in the world I respect as my own. Undoubtedly, everybody possesses admirations for various things, which makes their lives feel more special and meaningful: indeed, I doubt that my life would be on a par with residing in a perfect paradise if I didn't have four special kitties to snuggle up to on the day I value their loving natures most, providing warmth during periods of chilling teenage emotions. After all, every one of these things contribute to establishing myself for simply being me - a status of individuality which provides strength, comfort and power as a constant reminder of how independent I am as a person. 

And also a girl. 

In addition to my list of high-valued treasures, there is one particular article that symbolises everything I am within one single, yet extremely powerful word: feminism. Heard of it? I'd hope that, as girls account for approximately 50% of the world's population, you will have come across this word at one point or another. But, like figuring out the meaning of, I don't know, fondu (a.k.a. the gooiest, chocolate-infused desert that you could ever lay your eyes on), feminism is often misinterpreted by both men and women. 

Why? I'm afraid that I cannot give you an answer for that question because, unlike some people, I haven't devoted years to analysing the meaning of feminism, whose interpretation can vary among people. But you know what? It is my belief that feminism represents different things for everybody because, at the end of the day, every human being existing on this planet owns the right to their individuality, which they can either choose to express or repress. Considering that I'm expressing myself at this very moment, you can correctly think that I'm demonstrating an example of the former: never has it been in my nature to swallow my thoughts, feelings and values, and I doubt that I'll ever change my values. 

Values. Such a vital part in our development as people because, if we cannot determine what matters most to us, what does that suggest about our nature and core beliefs? In my opinion, I think that adolescence would be a much easier ride if we figured out our values more quickly yet, like all fine things, reaching that stage takes time. But, after undergoing that awkward transition (for which, as I'm now sixteen, I'm hoping to have nearly reached the finishing line), isn't all the struggle somewhat worth it upon realising our independence? Well, I've long recognised independence as a value because learning to how to do things yourself, take care of your priorities and have the sense to know when to ask for help are vital to setting ourselves up for life: nothing makes me feel prouder than having to courage to think without anybody else's values affecting my treasured own. 

Therefore, I reached the conclusion quite a while ago to recognise feminism - a social movement to establish equal rights for women - as one of my core values because it basically sums up one of my many beliefs in life: everybody, regardless of their sex, age, social status, race and sexuality, should be treated as equals. Why do I think this? I have always felt so strongly about wanting to treat everybody with the same level of respect that I'd expect to receive in return; in fact, I cannot stop myself from wondering whether so many wars, trouble and problems would occur if everyone was willing to show the respect that all people, along with animals, deserves. It saddens me to consider that lives are ruined because of a lack of respect or, indeed, equality towards women - even though I'm fortunate to reside in a country where woman are supposedly treated as 'equals' to the opposite sex, I cannot run away like a scared cat from facts such as women still not receiving equal pay to men (despite the Equal Pay Act being introduced nearly half a century ago) and being discriminated against because of their gender. Unless you pride yourself on being a sexist, I firmly believe that everyone would agree with me in saying that such examples are absolutely wrong: why should one sex be favoured over the over? 

Before this point transforms itself into a full-blown rant, I want to point out that I'm not trying in any way whatsoever to influence anybody's values: instead, I'm simply giving you an insight into one of my most treasured beliefs, with an aim to explain why I think and feel as I do. As I believe in the concept of feminism because of the respect and equality ethos it maintains, I like to demonstrate that respect by being considerate towards other peoples' beliefs. The reason for my thinking this? Obviously, I wouldn't like it if somebody bothered me because of the way I think - would my doing this to another person be appreciated? Not at all. 

In fact, I'm making a point about a movement which has existed for many decades, thriving on the purpose of making women's voices heard in a world which has yet to establish the equality we have long strived for. For me, feminism symbolises pride in being a girl, showing that I'm capable of doing whatever I aim to achieve in my life - without my gender supposedly holding me back from leading a successful and satisfying life. It also reminds me that I'm not the only girl in the world who feels so strongly about these values; somewhere nearby or far away exists another girl whose beliefs are similar to my own. Even while I'm constantly developing a sense of independence in my life, my love of community still remains within me; aren't life's challenges seemingly easier to conquer when you feel as though you aren't the only one banishing them? 

Yet, most importantly, I feel that feminism has taught me to love myself, regardless of my 'flaws', 'imperfections' and typical teenage awkwardness while I still walk along the long, exhausting path towards adulthood. Despite my efforts to avoid believing in stereotypes - which are often misinterpreted, offensive and untrue - I can't fully shrug off the one stating that girls tend to feel more insecure than boys. Well, let's get the facts straight: girls do feel insecure, yet this is known because girls are more likely to express their emotions than boys do. If boys stopped paying attention to the well-known image of 'being a man' - e.g. showing off their six-pack, never crying and devouring as many Mars bars as their favourite footballer - perhaps society would make one important step towards equality. 

Nobody, regardless of their gender, is immune to insecurities about their appearances, behaviour and personalities: for starters, worrying about covering up spots is a problem which affects all teenagers, even boys who supposedly snort at the idea of wearing 'girly' foundation! However, when I occasionally feel that teenage life is becoming too big a deal for me, I have the comfort of knowing that other girls - and boys - can identity with me. After all, nobody loves the erratic emotions that come with the package of being the 'odd one out' - even more so during adolescence!

Now you know why I care about feminism - or, as I've come to think of it, a means of being fair to myself, which can be difficult during the stressful times that occur when you're growing up. Equality means the world to me - and I hope that you can acknowledge it too, but everybody's identity varies. Well, isn't individuality such a prized gift? Hope you recognise the value of it. 

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