It should be enough to say that, globally, about 1 in 3 women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. Or that 250 million women alive today were married before they were 15. That 1 in 10 girls worldwide has experienced sexual violence. Or that there are 10 countries in the world where women are legally bound to obey their husbands. And that 80% of the victims of human trafficking worldwide are girls.
It should be enough to say that, today alone, 22 women will be killed in “honor killing” murders in India, 3 other women will be murdered by their partner in the USA, and less than 0,6% of all those crimes committed against women worldwide will end up with the perpetrators in prison. Which makes sense, since 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not even a crime, and because only less than 10% of the women who experience violence today will call the police.
It should be enough to know that, on average, women earn 78 cents for every dollar a man makes.
That worldwide, just 24% of senior management roles are held by women. Because, as recently as March of last year, a European deputy said in parliament that “women are weaker, smaller, and less intelligent than men” and, therefore, should be paid less.
These facts should make any woman – and man, for that matter – a feminist. But they don’t.
And to be honest, it’s not because of them that I am a feminist either. Because none of it significantly affects me.
You see, I am a feminist, but a very privileged one, I have to admit – I had exactly the same education I would’ve had if I were a boy; I studied at one of the best schools and one of the best universities in a country where women have (pretty much) the same civil rights as men; and I was even favored when getting my first job at a top consulting firm because they wanted to balance their gender ratio by hiring more women (or so the rejected men at the time said).
So why, then?
I am a feminist because I’ve been told by a guy I liked that he would never marry me, as he thought I’d be (professionally) more successful than him. (And, obviously, he couldn’t accept that.)
Because I’ve been told by a man in my family that I probably didn’t have a boyfriend because I intimidated boys. And that maybe I shouldn’t sound so smart and confident so I wouldn’t scare them away.
Because, in my country (Portugal), women are more than half of the labor force, but yet are paid, on average, 16,7% less than their male counterparts.
Because I’ve seen a woman lying in the middle of the street motionless after being beaten up by her husband.
In the same holiday town where I had to run home with my two little cousins while being chased by a creepy man in a car at night.
Because I feel the need to hide my body whenever I’m walking in the street alone.
Because my former tennis coach went on maternity leave and the club didn’t welcome her back.
Because I’ve witnessed a woman incapable of defending herself and her children from her drunk husband’s violence.
But most of all, I am a feminist because of every single woman I have heard say that they were not feminists.
That they thought the movement was an exaggeration and that women could do better without the victimization.
Women, we should all be feminists!
We can blame men for many of the dangers and injustices we face, but we are to blame too.
Men are much better at loving us than we are. We criticize and judge each other way more than men criticize us. Which is understandable, in the same way we are much harsher on ourselves than we ever are on others.
If we don’t treat other women, and ourselves, with due respect, how can we expect men to?
Last week, my neighborhood (and, later, WhatsApp groups) was invaded with posters with the name, photo and contact details of a woman with the headline “The whore of the neighborhood”. The author was, of course, another woman, who was accusing the “whore” of having an affair with her husband and destroying her family. My question is – why wasn’t the cheating husband the whore of the neighborhood? Why are women so quick at pointing the finger at each other?
Monica Lewinsky makes the same point. After her famous affair with Bill Clinton, Hillary, his wife, ended up praising him for “trying to manage someone who was clearly a ‘narcissistic loony toon’ [Lewinsky, obviously]”, and ended up forgiving her cheating husband. Lewinsky, on the other hand, became a Halloween costume and had the nickname “America’s Blow Job Queen” glued to her for the rest of her life.
Even more worrying is the fact that Hillary Clinton also blamed herself for her husband’s affair.
As Monica notes, Hillary’s impulse to blame the two women in the equation, and not the man, is both troubling and revealing of who the winners (and losers) of the blame game always are. And shows that, many times, women themselves are the worst perpetrators of misogyny.
We need to stop pointing the fingers at each other. Instead, we need to listen to each other, protect each other, praise each other. Judge women by the same standards we judge men. That’s what feminism means – “the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”. Not putting women above men, not hating men, not giving advantages to women in detriment of men. It’s just about equality and justice.
According to a recent survey by the Huffington Post and YouGov, only 20% of Americans consider themselves feminists.
However, when asked if they believed men and women should be treated equal, 82% said yes. Only 9% said that men and women should not be equal. This means that, in theory, the other 91% are feminists. But they don’t think so. 37% even said they consider “feminist” to be a negative term. Which leads to the conclusion that the problem with feminism is bad marketing.
If you don’t want to call yourself a feminist, just call yourself a human.
And love and respect all humans equally. And exponentially.
Let’s love women more. And men. And everyone else in between.
And maybe one day, the 1904 vision of Rainer Maria Rilke, whom I consider to have been a feminist way beyond his years, can become true:
“Someday, there will be girls and women whose name will no longer signify merely an opposite of the masculine, but something in itself, something that makes one think, not of any complement and limit, but only of life and existence: the feminine human being. This advance will change the love-experience (…) into a relationship that is meant to be of one human being to another, no longer of man to woman. And this more human love will resemble that which we are preparing with struggle and toil, the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.”
Note: Last year, I decided to walk the walk and empower another woman to have a better life. Her name is Malipo, she’s a war survivor from the DRC and thanks to Women for Women International and my sponsorship she has been able to get an education and provide for herself and her family. It’s one less dinner out per month for me, and she gets to go to school. Knowing that feeds me much more than any dinner could. Is that why I do it? Maybe, but who cares? Malipo sure doesn’t. Go to www.womenforwomen.org if you would like to be part of this amazing community of sisters as well 🙂