Not sure if I am a feminist.

Posted 19 Feb 2013 by Walaa Idris

The other day a friend asked me if I was a feminist. In all honesty, I couldn’t answer straight away and had to take a moment and think about it. Some would say that in itself is an answer. And I would agree with them. Somehow, I get the feeling feminists, like most people with causes, would know straight away if they are or not part of a cause. Be proud of their affiliation with it and have little or no hesitation to admit it. So, to be absolutely sure I asked, what was her understanding of feminism and how would she define it? Surprisingly, until then I never really thought much about the issue.

As you do these days, I googled feminism. And according to good all Wikipedia “Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.” But isn’t that just equality? If we replace the word woman with the word people then feminism is nothing but equality. Then, if that’s the case, why not just say equality for all, and that will of course also include women?

Furthermore, why do we as women, in this century, want to segregate ourselves? Isn’t being a woman, in many places hard enough without the added tag of feminist, or being different?

I then talked to another friend, who I know sees herself as a feminist. She agreed with me on my equality stance and added: “We (Tories) should not leave feminism to the bra burning Harriet Harmans of the world, because equality and equal rights affect people of all political persuasions and those on the right need to hear it from the right’s prospective.” Well, seems being ‘just’ a feminist is not enough, it also has to address feminism form different prospective. Wow, and here I though being a woman was tough enough job – these women are making it even harder.

It then hit me why I am not all that crazy about feminism or being a feminist. Because it’s a label, a pigeonhole, like being black, ethnic or Muslim. Yes I am a woman; yes I’m black and belong to an ethnic group and…… But in all honesty I don’t like labels, unless of course if they are of the Christian Louboutin, Hermes or Channel variety – now these labels I actually like a lot.

Can just hear feminists all over the world audibly cringe. But before tarring me with whatever antifeminists are tarred with, here is why I dislike labels. I think they are limiting, and can in the long run be damaging to women and their empowerment and can therefore hold them back.

What I find truly surprising is if my mother (now 77 years young) in 60s and 70s Africa did not need anything besides her degrees, hard work and dedication to reach the highest levels in business and commerce and become the first female to gain a PhD in the country, become Bank of Sudan officer, become the first company CEO in Africa and the Middle east. Then why are western women today demanding quotas and positive discrimination to lead in their professions? Don’t they want to get there on merit, with the respect and admiration of their colleagues? Imposed promotions and manufactured accreditation only build resentments and undermined women authority. I think women today should fight against all discriminations positive or otherwise, particularly women only lists and quotas, not the other way round.

It is a known fact that men and women are different. They have different strengths, different qualities and methods by which they approach and achieve things. These differences are in fact our strength as human beings. Together they are positives, they are what make us the strongest and smartest living being on this plant, because they complement and complete each other. But somehow, it seems through the years we lost sight of our true strengths and became more concerned with being similar, and identical as oppose to different yet equal. We became obsessed with what we ought to be rather than the best we can be. Don’t get me wrong this is not a lurch back to a time where women were oppressed and voiceless, it is not. This is an acknowledgment of our abilities and limitations, a recognition of our unique individual traits and how best to understand, embrace and capitalise on them.

As for me, I am a mother, a daughter and a sister, a loyal friend and will be there whenever I can for people and causes that matter to me. I can do anything I set my mind to do, so don’t bother making any special measures or allowances for me. However, I don’t mind for men to hold my door, pull my chair, and stand when I leave the table or walk on the outside of me on the street. Because none of these acts take anything away from me and my abilities, but they say loads about the man.

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