Feminist Awakening

Originally posted in To The Contrary with Bonnie Erbé blog.

June 30, 2015

It’s been five weeks, five weeks that have gone by with such rapidity that I cannot begin to comprehend. In five weeks I have matured as a person, a maturity that has come from being surrounded by successful women, who are making tremendous progress in a country where gender bias/inequality is still a predominant issue. 

Prior to working here, I was aware of the issues that women face in today’s society. Like a decent human being, I supported equality for all. I read articles and kept abreast of the women’s movement. However, I lacked a passion for the subject. I looked on as an outsider, and I wasn’t bothered enough because I felt that these issues do not affect me directly. Concerns like wage gaps between male and female employees or employment benefits for expecting mothers never irked me. Even though I agreed with most of the views of this movement, my attitude towards it was very passive.

What changed? In my first week, TTC did a segment on “Femvertising”. This advertisement of women empowerment got me thinking about how far women have come. From a time when women were restricted to home/family care (a role not to be disparaged), to women making grand political moves, I realised that my nonchalent attitude was like spitting in the face of women’s accomplishments and what we still strive to achieve.

In my time here, I’ve met several independent women, who in their everyday lives, strive for gender equality in every sense of the word. Eleanor Smeal the president of the Feminist Majority Foundation embodies this struggle. From equal pay for women in the workforce to military sexual assault, to sex trafficking, these women add a deeper meaning to the issues that plague women’s rights in this nation and the world.

Someone like Siobhan “Sam” Bennet has talked broadly about experiences as a victim of trafficking. Yet, she overcame those challenges to become a prominent politician, with a congressional run under her belt, prospects of a long political career, and countless other achievements. She is living proof that women rise to the challenge everyday.

That’s when I started paying attention. Suprisingly enough, I realized that I had been subject to male chauvenist behaviour even within my family, and I’d never noticed. I started remarking things that my younger brother would say to me, like “You won’t understand why we play these video games. You’re a girl” or “The women’s worldcup won’t be fun to watch. These girls play like girls.”

The afternoon he said that, I felt a jab in the pit of my stomach. I immediately snapped back, asking him to retract the statement. He laughed, made a joke out of it and continued to watch television. That got me thinking: If he’s making such statements now at only 16 years old, how will he treat women when he’s a grown-up? I have made it my mission to change his attitude before he’s 18 years old.

Being here has exposed me to so many realities of women’s rights. I now have a deeper understanding of our plight as the female gender, and how much further we have to go. I also have a greater appreciation for women who work hard everyday to achieve these goals.

Am I a feminist? I don’t know yet. I have more growing to do as far as the women’s movement is concerned. I also need to acquire a broader, beneath-the-surface knowledge of the subject of feminism before I label myself as one. However, I am definitely grateful for this awakening courtesy of To The Contrary with Bonnie Erbé.

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