People often ask me to define feminism and I sit with a blank expression uming and uhing because how can I define something that is so personal to me?
I never liked definitions, I felt like they confined and constricted concepts, hindering them from ever being considered outside the box. When I tell people I am a feminist I receive a strange reaction, where if I were to read between the lines it would say something like “But you don’t look like the angry-lesbian-bra-burning type”. Here lies the problem with definitions, especially when infused with stereotypes; they give society a reason to not consider other possibilities. It is precisely this lack open-mindedness which causes society to be indolent and intransigent with their ideologies, imagination and introspection.
Feminism within the Western world began in the 19th century. While it can be referred to as a new movement, the relevance of feminism can be applied to as far back to when men and women first walked the earth. On the surface feminism aims to calibrate and correct issues which relate to domestic violence, equal pay, maternity leave, reproductive rights, sexual harassment and women’s suffering. But if you take a look below it, what you will find is that feminism allows personal experiences of women to be shared ones. These spoken and shared stories rid us of carrying weight that burdens us.
I grew up in an Islamic household with traditional Bangladeshi values, a lethal combination to say the least. The resentment I developed from the pressure of adhering to such a robust, reserved and retrograde view of women often left me feeling like volcano that could erupt bringing with it avalanches and mudslides. I had the displeasure of experiencing the men of the household dominate women, women who submissively suffered in silence.
For me the most critical moment in my transition into feminism was when my father pointed out “You’re different from your sister, you’re much more timid and tolerant”. That statement sent me into a mental rage, was my tolerance of his occasional bad behaviour the reason I had suffered through his mistreatment of me? If so, this was a notion I could easily extend to men I have dated in the past, majority of who were narcissistic in nature with little regard for treating women with an ounce of respect. It was that recognition along with my need to go against the tides of social standards that bought me to travel the road of feminism. It is a road which has lead me to discovering some beautiful destinations within myself, within other women and within humanity.
Every Google search on feminism will give you numerous definitions of feminism. However, don’t let that fool you. Feminism is much more than a definition, it is a journey. Feminism has healed me, like the experience of running and yoga, it has been cathartic. Feminism has allowed me to release emotions, ideas, knowledge and potential that I never dreamed possible.
I thank feminism for teaching me the infiniteness of possibilities within myself and within every other being with a XX chromosome and raise a toast in celebration of the fact.
Nabila Farhat is a 24 year old passionate psychology student aspiring to work in women’s health, specialising in domestic violence. As paradoxical as it is, she is both a lover and a fighter, who dreams big, loves laugher and enjoys the simplicity of life.
Mary Wollstonecraft quoted “I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves”. Much of Nabila’s work as a feminist is based on empowering women to take ownership of themselves through instilling self-belief, self-love and self-motivation. She believes empowerment is the key to unlocking the potential of women.
View her blog on: http://nabilagraham.blogspot.com.au/