It is always interesting to tell people I am a feminist. Some people think it is completely natural, while others try to challenge me about this identity that I hold dear.
“There is no such thing as a pay gap.”
“Men can be domestic violence victims too.”
“What more do you want for women?”
“Why do you hate men?”
All I have done is to describe myself as a feminist, and everybody and their dog suddenly has an opinion about my beliefs as a feminist.
My definition of being a feminist
I consider myself a feminist, simply because I uphold the absolute belief that girls and women should have as much rights as men. I think that women should have the rights to education, work, reproductive choices, vote, safety, and to be able to participate in society as much as men can.
In the simplest of terms, I believe that women should have access to the equal rights of men.
When people around me ask what more I want for women, tell them I want more women to have full access to their hard-earned rights. Women (and men who allied with them) before us have fought hard to put the systems in place for women to have the right to study, to work, and to vote, but not every woman has access to those.
How I became a feminist
Growing up in an Asian family, specifically one with Chinese cultural values, I am lucky that my parents were never the type to specifically want a son over a daughter. However, that cannot be said for my other peers born in the same generation.
In 1980s China, when the one-child policy came into place, many female babies were either abandoned or killed due to the Chinese family’s preferences for a son. It grew into such a huge issue that in 1984, the government allowed for couples to have a second child if the first child was a girl.
My personal experience
In the country I grew up in, I witnessed Asians who were boomers or Gen X show favoritism to their sons, compared to their daughters. Some favoritisms were subtle, such as picking the best part of the chicken (the thigh) for their sons. There was also overt favoritism, like nagging their daughters to wake up early and help with household chores, while the darling sons got to sleep in.
I witnessed all these through many years and was also subject to some beliefs that would never have been inflicted on a son. In an Asian patriarchal world, the women seem to be boxed in further into certain roles, and breaking those roles meant being a subject of gossip and judgment.
For example, I went to Australia to study in university. I heard through the grapevine that certain relatives had been talking about how women didn’t need to study so hard, or that I did not need to go to Australia to study, that I should stay at home and look after my parents.
It was hard to believe that people have said that about a son. I grew up certain that I want a better and safer world for women to be in, where their choices wouldn’t be judged.
Now, my generation are now parents to young children and teenagers. I am thankful to see that at least the people I know adore their daughters as much as their sons. However, I know that this experience is not universal across the world still – or even in my own country.
What I want to do as a feminist
Contrary to popular belief, I am not actually an active feminist. I am a person who just happens to also be a feminist, trying to get through each day without breaking down – but that is a tale for another day.
As a feminist, I want other women and young girls growing up to be able to have access to their rights. I am also determined to fight to keep my rights, because that can change so easily depending on the powers-that-be.
Should I ever be a mother, I would want my sons and daughters to be feminists in the way that I am. I want my sons to be self-sufficient without having to rely on a woman to cook, clean, and do other duties traditionally associated with women in the household.
For my daughters, I do not want them to feel held back by their gender in whatever they set out to do. We still have a way to go for women to truly feel that e.g., no woman has held the position of the President of the United States.
Therefore, until then, and likely even after, I will still consider myself a feminist. The rights I have now are thanks to them, and as such, I am grateful to them.