I’ve been a freelance writer for a few years now, and I’ve written about the issues than women face when we enter fully into the world that differ from the issues men face. I’ve written countless pieces on safety in travel, solo backpacking for women, how to face the world as a single woman, how to dine alone as a woman when traveling… the list is pretty extensive. If you would like to read my travel writing, let me know and I’ll point you to the right direction.
As a result of all this writing for women, my inbox and FB messanger app is jammed full of quetions and comments (some nice, some not so much) from both men and women about the work I do.
Honestly, I love hearing from readers, especially when its to exchange stories, or hear about your travels, or the specific things that you encounter as female travelers. I really do. I don’t love getting rape and death threats but that’s another story altogether. I am always happy to open up a respectful and passionate debate with you guys about feminism, travel or any other subject you want to chat about.
When I’m reading the hundreth email asking me why I identify as a feminist when I should be calling myself a humanist or a equalist, I just want to punch my computer screen. Since I rely on this technology for money, it’s not advisable, so I’ve devised a list of questions I get asked on a routine basis, and alternative ways for you guys to ask me these things without making me want to cause physical harm to computers or housemates.
I do not want to shut down the conversation. Feminism and the women’s movement, like all good causes needs as much conversation as possible. I just want to steer these conversations in a more meaningful direction, so that we can learn from each other. And also make it so that your questions don’t come to me with the attitude of “Defend your ridiculous beliefs so that I can disagree with you” instead of “I want to have a conversation with you, I’m interested in your perspective and what I can learn from you and your expertise” because really that’s what we all should be aiming for.
I’m sure you’ve tried to have conversations with feminists you know in your daily lives, only to find that he or she is putting up a wall, and you find it hard to break that down. You may have asked a question only to have us roll our eyes at you. What you need to understand is that the eye roll comes from a place of encountering the same misconceptions over and over and over and over and over and over and over…. are you sick of it yet? It’s truly exhausting.
So next time your mouse is hovering over the send button, consider the following list before clicking.
1. Can you teach me? Otherwise how will I learn?
It’s not my sole responsibility to teach every single person on the planet about how to be a decent human. Really, that’s your parents job. If you made it to adulthood and you’re still not sure, then I suggest you look to other avenues, and I am not one of them. Pick a role model and follow their lead. They don’t have to be someone famous, or even noteworthy. My role model is one of my best girlfriends. She teaches me every day how to be more patient and kind in the face of frustration, and she doesn’t even realise it. Whenever I feel the anger rising I take a deep breath, channel my inner Anisa and go from there.
If you’re looking for information on a specific topic or issue, then start with Google. Feminist writing is everywhere. Read widely before you come to me. If you have specific questions regarding something you’ve read and my thoughts on that, then I am happy to share. But if you want me to teach you feminism, I’m out. Take the time to educate yourself first, because again, it’s not my sole responsibility to educate the planet. Top tip: You won’t learn about feminism by sending death and rape threats to feminist writers on Twitter. For reals.
2. Why call yourself a feminist? Humanist or equalist is more inclusive. You should do that instead.
In short, I believe that a movement that acknowledges that some genders are marginalized more than other, and focuses in on the systemic forces that make it so, is more grounded in the reality of our lives. This is why I choose the word “feminist” rather than any of the alternatives. I don’t see the issue in my being specific, especially when it comes to an inequality that does not impact everyone in the same way.
Rather than telling me how you think I should identify myself within my inequality, ask me what feminism means to me. Everyone has a different version, so find out what makes my feminism different to someone who has a different experience in life. And if you’re going to ask me something so personal, make sure you show some respect and actually listen to my answer.
3. But what about men? If you’re for equality, then why aren’t feminists concerned about men?
But we are. And I am.
There are loads of articles on the internet that cover the role of men in feminism, and the impact that sexism has on men and many other issues than feminists fight for in the fight for gender equality.
A cause does not have to include men for it to be a worthwhile cause, just like saving one endangered species (say rhinos) does not need to include chimps to be important. It is important in and of itself. Addressing the inequalities that women or other marginalised folks face is important all by itself, and doesn’t need to include men to be a worthwhile cause.
When you ask me “But what about men?” each time you’re trying to address a problem, it makes me feel like you believe that the struggles of men outweigh the struggles of other genders, and that is exactly why we need feminism – to call attention to gender minorities.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear while we’re on the topic of men. Just because I am against sexism, and I am for gender equality, does not mean I hate men.
When you talk to me about the issues men face, don’t derail the conversation with your defensiveness. Listen to what I have to say, you might learn something. Be mindful of the fact that your privilege is what compels you to prioritize the concerns of men over other genders. If you let us, feminists could be your best allies.
4. You’re so critical of everything! You need to chill out more, not everything is offensive!
As a woman it is actually really difficult for me to find any media that is a reflection of the reality I live. There is very little out there that validates my existence in a positive way, or in a way that doesn’t have my world revolving around only my looks, or how quickly I can lose weight or what I wore, and what people thought about it. And I’m a white woman. Imagine is I was transgender, pansexual, asexual, non-binary or any other person in a minority gender or sexuality.
I will always be critical of mass media and internet “jokes”. This is not because I am constantly looking for something to be upset about, but because the world in general offends me. We are so closed off as humans that we have no idea how to relate to one another anymore, and so I am critical of living in a society that doesn’t validate all it’s members in ways that are positive.
Feminists are critical of the media because the media represents something deeper about the society that we are a part of. For example, the glorification of violence against women in video games and popular TV and film reflects a deeper problem of misogynistic violence in our society. The lack of queer people in films and TV only highlights that society consistently erases and ignores their existence in the world at large. The lack of positive representation of people of colour can deeply impact the ways that young children of colour see themselves.
So when you tell me I’m being too critical of the media I cannot hide from, remember that my criticism comes from a place of concern, anger and pain. If my critiques are too overwhelming for you, then don’t read my words. Or ask me what media I DO enjoy. Give me an opportunity to geek out on the stuff I do like, and tell you WHY I like it. You might find we have something in common, and that might surprise you.
5. Feminism isn’t really needed anymore is it?
Imagine, just close your eyes and try to imagine a time that you worked really hard on something. Maybe it’s a paper you wrote for school, or a project you worked on, or the time you built a replica Eiffel Tower from tooth picks.
Now imagine I came up to your Eiffel Tower of toothpicks, knocked it over and told you that you just wasted all that time.
You’d be pretty angry and hurt right? I’d be a giant dick. You would be justified in feeling this way?
This is exactly how I feel when you tell me that feminism is dead, and we don’t need it anymore.
Telling anyone that something they passionately believe in is unnecessary invalidates the enormous amount of work that has taken years to get to the point we are at now. From your perspective, maybe it could be true. Perhaps you’ve not encountered the level of street harassment reported by women around the globe. Maybe you get paid more than your male counterparts. Perhaps you live in a lovely place that doesn’t judge or compare or humiliate or harass. But you need to remember that most people still experience inequality, and it’s not a secret. Marginalized people have been writing, speaking, singing, and protesting for decades and we’re not going to stop now.
Instead of invalidating my struggles, ask what led me to identifying as a feminist in the first place. Ask me what causes I’m passionate about. But first, read widely, educate yourself and approach me from a place of love and intelligence instead of judgement and accusations. Remember that just because you haven’t experienced what it is that I am talking about doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.
And always remember, no one is obligated to converse with you. I am making a stand. I will now no longer reply to emails that come from a place of judgement, harassment or accusation.