editor’s note: while we wholeheartedly support Ausma, Diversity and the greater LGBTQ+ community at large, this is a commentary written by one extremely motivated, hard-working and intelligent young Woman and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ningbo Guide as a whole. that being said, hooray for Feminism!
By Ausma Bernotaite
Feminism and feminists are often misunderstood even in Europe, where feminist organizations are ample and there are many conversations about equality in different societal classes. And still, there are many misunderstanding about what feminist is, what feminists try to achieve, it is commonly believed that men cannot identify as feminists, etc.
I knew I was a feminist when I was 12 years old and was trying to tell my farmed uncle that I wanted to become a long-distance lorry driver. He told me that I was not strong enough because I was a woman, and I responded: “But look at mommy, she is very strong and loves gardening and lifting heavy boxes, uncle I am a feminist, and I think that women are equal to men”. Then my uncle told me something that pushed me towards activism at a very young age as I went on calling out my relatives when they made fun of females. My uncles said: “Ausma, feminists are not beautiful.”
“Feminists are not beautiful.”
That was his ultimate argument. Even my never-sober uncle knew that the most important quality for women is beauty, not strength, not independence, not skills, but beauty.
First and foremost, when we talk about feminism we need to understand what we are talking about, and it is: Social, Political and Economic equality of all genders. Feminists, especially intersectional feminists, fight not only for the equality of women and men, but also those genders are not marked in our binary passport model. Again, I cannot repeat myself enough that feminists do not try to kill and burn all men, but rather they are trying to achieve equality. Before we go into details, let us talk about one more important concept, which we need to identify in ourselves as intersectional feminists or allies. This concept is privilege.
When we talk about privilege, we are talking about a certain amount of blindness that most of us have. To better explain privilege, we usually play a game in our workshops: we hand out scrap paper to all the people in the audience, and we pick one place in the room where we put a basket. The audience rolls their pieces of paper into paper balls and tries to shoot. Naturally, the people closer to the basket have higher possibility to score a hit, and people further away from the basket have lower possibility. None of them know that we were going to play this game, some just get lucky. It is the same in our society – some of us just get lucky, being born rich or white or able-bodied or male. When we look at the world from a position of an able-bodied straight cis-gender male – just like if we sit in the first row aiming at the basket – it is very hard for us to see what difficulties other groups of people are going through in a comfortable patriarchal society.
Most of us have some sort of privilege, mine being white, cis-gender, able-bodied, well-educated. I did work hard for my education, and the other privileges just happened. It is easy to start feeling quite guilty once one realizes what privileges they have. However, the best way to go round it is to use the privileges that we have to help others without these privileges. This is the reason why we need more intersectional feminist men, who would be standing up in gendered meetings and job interviews and vouching for women when there is inequality. A comment coming from another woman in a situation of discrimination would not be half as effective.
The most important thing is to understand each other, listen to each others difficulties, know one’s own privileges, and keep learning. These are the very basics for Intersectional Feminism 101. Out a sexist or racist joke this week and we will get one tiny step closer to equality.