Equality signifies something different to everyone.
As our individual experiences shape who we are, they also highlight the issues most predominant in our lives and, therefore, the injustices we seek most to overcome.
Feminism, the very term in and of itself, may set people up with an opinion of how to respond regarding it - for or against - when it should rather be an ever evolving discussion that is neither standing still nor dogmatic.
Monira Akther, a Grade 11 student at College Heights Secondary School, spoke of what feminism means to her and how her experiences have shaped its importance in her life. Monira talked about how specifically as a person of colour, feminism was something she always needed to have growing up.
“You need to speak up for yourself,” she said. Monira explained how her young age is precisely the reason feminism is so relevant to her, as it provides a sense of empowerment and strength that allows her to speak up, regardless of her age. Though she said she has not experienced everything feminism ties into, such as the workforce, it cannot nullify what she has faced in her life so far.
Feminism also provides for her a certain lens that enables her to feel proactive in striving to advocate for equality within her life.
“Feminism has definitely made me more critical of my culture and the culture that surrounds me, in a way of ‘is this how things really have to be, or can this be reconstructed into something else that’s better?’”
This sense of empowerment won from feminism, however, can sometimes be concealed. Monira and I found that feminism having become this buzzword in the media actually made it less welcoming and seem less universal. It felt like there might not be any room for our specific discrimination and issues, when it became a favourite over-generalized term.
Strange as it sounds, it was something of a thrill when we realized feminism could advocate for our rights too. It sounds strange that this was not obvious, but when feminism was inadvertently introduced to us through the media, the lack of representation would have fuelled a vicious cycle of aversion from us as well. However, beyond the surface, the universality is apparent.
Monira explained how the problems she inherently deals with as a person of colour, in being condescended and stereotyped, seemed altogether avoided when she would try to speak of it in conversation on feminism.
“It either gets brushed off or they get very uncomfortable,” she said how she noticed the overall discussion of race and racial privilege in feminism seemed to be generally averted. And it is very likely again the buzzwords and overgeneralizations that may conflict with this truth and create avoidance and discomfort in its discussion.
Education is the way to start when trying to understand any movement; history, of course, plays a massive part in how we think, and hope to improve our world today. Monira and I discussed how fantastic it would be if the fight for feminism could start there, and in schools, with light shed on diverse ranges of women historically. Even if it was brief, it would still be there and a part of public knowledge and understanding.
If this was the case, wide ranges of people speaking on feminism would not seem so outrageous and unnecessary to some and we would be able to far more easily find common ground, even if opinions and perspectives vary.
Having a diverse range of voices within feminism is incredibly important. It is the only way equality could ever be reached. The issues we see today may have far more sources than we expect and a wide range of perspectives is needed to dismantle them.
As Monira said: “feminism is a value, and we use our values when an issue shows itself, but it’s important to analyze the roots of the issues that come up, as there could be a root problem.”
In focusing on these root problems, we could help the wide ranges of people needed to challenge them in the first place.
Feminism becomes incredibly powerful when we open the doors to all of these perspectives. Monira and I talked about how much it empowers us to just know we are not alone.
“There are millions of women fighting for the spot they deserve just like me, and if I know they can achieve theirs, I know I can too,” Monira said. “They’ve finished the path I'm currently on, and if they could finish, so can I.”