Exploring Feminism

Growing up, I didn’t know anything about feminism but I had all these ideas, thoughts, and questions about life that was answered as soon as I started learning about feminism. Basically, I was a feminist before I even knew it. I grew witnessing sexism, oppression and injustice and I all thought was why isn’t anyone feeling the same way I feel about this and how does all this seem ok to them? I started questioning my reality, my society and the way people around me define justice. Why can’t I do this and he can? Why is it wrong only when I do it and when he does it all is forgiven? Aren’t we all human? Why is society harsh on women, judging, criticizing and making decisions for every one of us and setting a certain path on which we must follow? We’re not perfect, so why they expect us to be? I never understood the social pressure that is placed on us all, women and men too to be a certain way.

When I first started reading and doing my research about feminism I came along many negative ideas about feminism and stereotypes that were associated with the word feminist, so I choose not to identify as a feminist at first based on things I heard about it. But the more I learned about, it the more I fell in love with this movement. The basic definition for feminism that we hear and read everywhere is equality, equal pay, equal opportunities. Although this definition is accurate, it doesn’t describe what the goal of feminism is. The best definition I found for feminism is from the book Feminism Is for Everybody by Bell Hooks, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” This definition gave me a new perspective about feminism, that we should fight sexism and oppression of all kinds and ways it’s not only about sexism against women or oppressed women but about fighting for anyone who is oppressed or being discriminated against. Such a beautiful concept, it startles me how people say that feminism is no longer needed today, we progressed and we came a long way but systematic oppression, societal pressure, patriarchal violence and sexist ideologies still exists so the movement still has a great purpose to fight and end oppression.

I started at a young age observing the imperfections of my surroundings, overhearing conversations between the women in the Zwara. The women whispered amongst themselves their horrendous stories.  I heard them share about when their husbands abused them and forbid them from going out with their friends and the responses and reactions I heard and saw just blew my mind, they would tell each other that it is ok, all men do that, they would ask if he was angry or if they have done something wrong as if he had the right to discipline her. Them normalizing these incidents didn’t convince me but fueled my rage. I wondered and wondered and I never stopped thinking why are these incidents very common between us. Is it ignorance? Is it patriarchy? Masculine toxicity? Deep-seated sexist ideology? Misogyny? Or is it all of them? This story I overhead is just a small example of what I witnessed women go through in life they endure the pain and laugh the tears away thinking it is “normal” to be disciplined by the male sibling or partner. Every one of us either experienced it, witnessed it or know someone who did.

منال صادق المويل

Morgantown, WV

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