A Feminine Voice

I haven’t written an article in quite a long time due to my hectic schedule and social life. Also, because I knew that I wanted to say something important, but I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

A few weeks ago, I met some of the most influential people I’ve known. Lyon is a pretty “young” city, full of life, students and parties. It also has a very big LGBT community so it wasn’t surprising that I befriended a group of lesbian friends. They told me their stories and taught me things that I would have probably never had known on my own. And one of them was having a feminine voice.

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Feminism, \ˈfe-mə-ˌni-zəm\, noun: The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. (Merriam Webster Dictionary) Can you tell me where you see “aggressive belief that women are superior to men and so all men are idiots”, in this definition ? Matter of fact, look up feminism in any dictionary and it will give you the same definition: feminism is the belief that women should have equal rights as men.

When I was little, I despised the fact that I couldn’t run around playing tag with the boys in my class. People would tell me it wasn’t “lady-like”. When I was a teenager, I attended a boarding school in France whose values were not only hateful towards my identity (being black, evangelical Christian, unafraid to befriend boys) but to my gender. For a year, I was taught by ignorant sexists that my role was to serve men. My goal in life was to be somebody’s quiet housewife one day. I am not quiet nor will I ever be a housewife because that’s just who I am.

My parents taught me differently. They always treated my sister and me the same way they treated my brothers. My father treated my mother with the utmost respect. He never once told her that he was the boss of her (seriously at least). My father wasn’t in charge of the family, they both were. My mother explained to me that I had to dress appropriately to respect my body. Many women however, prefer to dress appropriately so they won’t be labeled as sluts.

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A few weeks ago, a female friend of mine posted an article about feminism on Facebook. The article was saying how people have huge misconceptions of feminism, associating it to hating and humiliating men. A young man commented on the article saying “Why isn’t Feminism just called Humanism then?” Here’s why: feminists want women to have the same rights as men. And why is that? Because men still haven’t given it to us. We wouldn’t be feminists, fighting for our equal rights if we had them already. Instead of complaining about us, do something about it!
I don’t know, like, give us the same salary our male co-workers get. Stop telling us that rape is our fault because we wear attractive clothes. Because that’s complete crap! If your brain has been replaced with your private parts don’t expect us to treat you like you have one.

I am not saying that all men are the same and you all treat us like sexual objects. But truth be told, many of you do without realizing it.

Many men (and sadly many women) claim that girls who dress seductively deserve to be sexually harrassed. What message are you sending to your children? “It’s okay son, if she was wearing a skirt, you can slap her ass.” Did you know that almost every single woman has been or will be sexually harrassed at least once in their lifetime? That would mean your mother, your sister, your girlfriend or your wife has probably felt or will feel humiliated and unworthy for at least a minute.

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Now that it’s summer, a lot of women are wearing skirts, shorts and tank tops just as men wear shorts and t-shirts. I believe in modesty not because I’m scared of others’ opinions about me. It’s because I personally do not want to expose an excessive amount of my body.

So when I’m wearing a skirt just above my knees, walking down the street in broad daylight, there is NO excuse for a man to whistle at me, calling me “sexy slut” and harrassing me. I’ve noticed that this doesn’t only happen due to certain people’s poor upbringing. It’s also due to the fact that most girls ignore the cat calls, thinking it’ll just stop.

I’ve recently started to respond in a way I used to think would only mean trouble. A week ago, three completely sober, middle-aged business men whistled at me and called me obscene things. I turned around, looked them in the eye and said, “Shut up. You should be ashamed of yourselves, setting such a horrible example for your children. Surely you thought I would ignore you but now that I’m here, what in the world could you possibly get out of this?” As I walked away, I was surprised that they were completely silent. Maybe it was because they had daughters of their own and I had guessed right.

When you’re in a safe and public environment (where you cannot be assaulted without being seen), I urge you women to respond. Do not bring yourself to their level by insulting them, just respond. We are not silent objects, we are equal to men; we have a voice. Speak up, or sexual harassment will continue.

As for you men, the next time you or a friend thinks it’s funny to call a female passer-by a “whore”, imagine someone doing the same thing to your mother. Then fix your bad habit before it becomes your personality.

That’s how men and women can both be feminists.

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