Latinitas Blog-A-Thon Day Three:
The "F" Word: Tell us a personal experience about how feminism/being a feminist influenced (or continues to influence) your life.
How beautiful is the little girl on the left? Her expression so innocent. She's probably around two years old, with the potential to do great things in the years ahead of her. This picture was taken in a small town near Jakarta in Indonesia.
When I look back in time, I realize one of my first encounters with some kind of feminism began when I was around seven years old. I remember asking my mom why she had to be the one to cook our meals and serve our food at the table. In some way, it made me feel kind of guilty, but also fearful. I was beginning to identify myself with my mother, who was my example to follow as a woman. From then on, when I fought for her, it was like fighting for myself.
There was of course a bigger story to this whole dynamic. Such as the influence of culture, gender roles and the individual purpose behind the action, but this had just been the beginning of my understanding on feminism. It began with a sort of feeling of injustice, although with time I realized that it was much more than that. Experiences have led me to understand that feminism is more about courage and unity than anything else.
During my teen years, I remember reading articles and following groups who would protest against the injustice in the work force, or the repression on women having to stay at home rather than work, and I considered that I myself was a victim of it. I really disliked the differences between my brothers and I- like the curfews, the permission to date, the restrictions on what to wear, amongst other things. It humiliated me that someone would consider me weak, when I knew in my heart that I wasn't. I spoke up, and never gave up a battle when talking about the differences between men and women at home. My ferocity probably provoked the men in my family, just as much as they provoked me. But I felt this huge concern over the misconceptions on women that I didn't know how to express, and instead of using my words and beliefs, it transmitted in the form of anger and dispute. I had endless battles with my parents, trying to prove that "I am no different than my brothers. I can do everything they can."
Truth be told, what worked the most for me, was to separate my own thoughts and beliefs from that of my family. I began to understand that my concern over the misconceptions on women didn't have to do much with me, as it had to about others. As I traveled to different places around the world, I came across with women who had gruesome and very difficult hardships. They were in desperate need for change. My heart began to soften, and I became grateful for the fortunes I had in life. I treated the issue of feminism with more desire to unify than to protest.
When I was teaching in Thailand, I remember seeing young girls with a great potential to grow and learn, and the opportunity to continue doing so taken away from them. This devastated me. Not being able to receive further education and take advantage of the future opportunities that life can offer, that is a true injustice. Not just to women, but to everyone. To the future children of those women, and the people around her. I try to imagine all the books, work of art, scientific achievements, discoveries, and milestones that could be achieved if so many women around the world had the opportunity to expand their choices.
I had choices in life, which is the only reason why I can find myself today writing this post. For women like me and anyone else who is able to write a post on Latinitas, it is only clear that our role as feminists is to find ways in which we can uplift the women around the world, not only educationally but also spiritually and emotionally.
That is my experience with feminism.