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What Feminism, Womanhood, and Women's History Mean to Me in 2022

I am a professional teacher, writer, researcher, and learner. I always try to learn because there is no age for learning.

Introduction

When I was in high school, I remember the boys would say I was a feminist, but to me, feminism meant bra-burning lesbians who didn’t shave their armpits and burned their bras (when did those bras become so powerful that they could be set on fire?!). This stereotype of feminists as angry man-haters wasn’t far from the truth when I looked back at women’s history throughout the 20th century. For many years, women were viewed as second-class citizens whose main purpose was to serve men and have children while they were still young enough to do it well.

Woman in White Shirt Standing on a Green Grass

10 Things I Wish I Could Have Told Myself as a Teenage Feminist

I wish I could go back in time—just a little bit—and tell myself 10 things about what it means to be a woman today. I wish I had known that womanhood is as vast and varied as there are women who can embody it. There’s no one way to be a woman; there’s no right way to be a feminist. The same is true for feminism itself: It encompasses such an expansive set of ideas that one person’s conception of it will vary wildly from an-other's. That doesn't mean we have nothing to learn from one another; rather, we should embrace our differences. While both feminism and womanhood come with many challenges, they also come with incredible power and strength—which is all too often negated by society. Learning to accept both can make us all stronger. And while being a woman in 2018 may seem unimaginably different than it did even 20 years ago (let alone 80 or 100), we still share certain commonalities: love, pain, triumphs, heartbreak... you name it. As we continue forward together on our journeys toward empowerment, let’s take care to remember how much more alike than different we are. Here’s what my 18-year-old self needs to know about those topics so close to my heart...

I Did not have All the Answers

I will always be a feminist. I will always fight for gender equality. I will always do my best to help bring women into positions of power at all levels of society: local, state, national, and global. I am proud of my womanhood—I love that it has allowed me to support others like me who have fought for what they believe in; it makes me proud that we can look back on our history as female humans and see just how far we have come as a species.

Woman Wearing Green Coat and Sun Glasses

Don't let Anyone else Tell you Who you are and What you can Do

It’s no secret that women face more institutional barriers than men do when it comes to succeeding professionally. This means you have a unique opportunity to challenge what’s expected of you as a woman—and carve out your path. There will be times when people who aren’t supportive of your goals will try to pressure you into giving up or doing things their way; don’t listen. You can succeed by following your own rules. Stay true to yourself, forge ahead with confidence, and be an example for future generations of women everywhere. We need you!

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You Deserve Self-Love

Think of your self-love as a balloon. Over time, your balloon loses air. Some of it seeps out as you get older or when someone puts you down. But most of it comes from all those little instances we experience each day: When a guy cuts you off while driving but doesn’t even look at you; when people judge your body in public; when co-workers assume that because you’re quiet and polite that they can walk all over you. To combat those instances of hatefulness or microaggressions (against both ourselves and others), it’s important to surround yourself with positive friends who make our lives easier instead of harsher—those who love themselves just as much as they love others.

Telling your Story is Powerful

I’m from California. And even though there are people that say that feminism is dead or irrelevant now because women can vote and have careers (but no equal pay for women), that’s not my experience. My experience as a woman is still one of the things like catcalling when I walk down the street or feeling weird about taking up too much space (take up too much space? I don’t know how!), or being told I like your confidence! instead of just I like you. Those are small microaggressions but they add up to be everything. So what does it mean for me in 2022?

See Yourself as Important even if No One Else Does

The reality is that you are a very important person. Not everyone will understand why, but don’t let that stop you from seeing yourself as worthy of love, respect, and acknowledgment. There will be moments when it feels like nobody understands or supports your beliefs – stick with what you believe is right even if no one else does. See yourself as important even if no one else does. And remember that you are only a very small part of a much larger picture; so while your contribution may not seem significant at first glance, every little bit adds up! You have a voice; use it wisely!

A Group of Women Sitting on a Couch

If No One Will Pay Attention to Me, Then I Will Speak Up Myself

I will do what I must do to make people hear my voice. Sometimes I will be loud and obnoxious; other times I’ll be quiet as a mouse. At some point, hopefully not too soon, I will learn how to stop being afraid of other people seeing my vulnerabilities. My true feelings matter just as much as anyone else`s. When did it become only okay for men (or women) who disagree with me to see that? When did it become okay for those who disagree with me to convince me they are right by invalidating my thoughts and feelings? To pretend like their perspective is all that matters because they are more capable than me?

I am My Own Savior

I’m learning that I am only responsible for myself. And I hope that one day, no one will need a savior. I don’t need a savior. We don’t need saviors anymore. This is what my feminism is all about: We are our saviors. And hopefully, it won’t be too long before my savior-free femininity no longer feels like an act of rebellion but simply how things are supposed to be. Equal rights. Equal pay. Equal opportunities. Equal power and influence within society, government, and culture itself—because we deserve those rights as human beings. Everyone deserves those basic human rights without exception or exclusion based on their gender identity or sexuality or any other physical trait they were born with (or not). No exceptions! Because humans should not have to fight for these basic civil liberties—they should just have them from birth!

Afterword

chose 2022 as a year to reflect on my choices because it will be 25 years after I graduated high school. I feel that year is far enough away so I can look back and still remember but not so far that my memory of details will be fuzzy. This also leaves some flexibility as to what will occur over these next 15 years. Some of these may have already happened by then but you get my point;) So, although there is no way for me to know exactly what life has in store for me or how it may impact how I identify with women or feminists, I hope that when 2026 rolls around (and hopefully longer), I will continue using them both in ways that make sense and are empowering.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Ghulam Nabi Memon

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