Womanism - The New Feminism
I personally am not sure I want to wear my feminist badge with pride anymore.
Firstly, lets get clear on what we are discussing here; according to the Oxford dictionary: Feminism means the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of sexual equality.
Earlier this year I attended a celebratory lunch for International Woman's Day.
I honestly (and now I realise naively) believed I was about to be showered with the energy and wisdom of successful women, publicly sharing their unique journeys of life ascending the corporate ladder.
And then, if I was lucky enough to be seated at an inspirational table, to indulge in the mutual joys and tribulations of our own personal journeys as a woman in 2009.
However, the reality was slightly different.
I am the first to appreciate woman are still competing in a man's world on many different levels.
I personally have been reproached by men for 'looking a bit too young', 'too blonde' and for my 'non-suit' business dress code.
But surely when approximately 1000 women are all gathered in a huge conference room to celebrate the simple fact we are women, there should be a sense of unison and celebration? Apparently not from where I was sitting.
The speakers were highly accomplished women.
Their success, as described during their introduction, would leave any impressionable 15 year old girl either giddy from excitement at the possibilities of life or nauseous at the societal benchmarks to be classified as a female success.
As lunch was served, the room lay motionless in anticipation for the pearls of wisdom from each speaker.
It soon became apparent their words were not to be seeds of acknowledgment for the feminist journey travelled to date, but rather a bleak prediction for the long winding road that still lies ahead.
So with this dark shadow cast over dessert, I turned back to my table in the vain hope of igniting some inspirational conversations to salvage what I believe to be a victory thus far on the feminist road.
Yet to my horror I witnessed a synopses by each woman in turn on the performance of the speakers.
One was encouraging, others scaling.
I found myself holding on to my seat for support as I listened in disbelief to the judgments and verdicts sentenced to each speaker by their fellow women.
Admittedly some of the speeches weren't the most spectacular known to mankind but doesn't this lack of camaraderie simply add mileage to the long winding road ahead? We are all entitled to our opinion but would that opinion be better served working with other women rather than against them? Doesn't feminism suggest men are suppose to be the persecutors? Success for women is such an interesting concept.
Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers deserve medals for the freedom they safeguarded for us.
But do you think they knew they were fighting for this modern concept of "successful women"? A success whereby I must earn over $200K p.
, pop out two beautiful children, be happily married, ensure my business is growing to the next level, graduate with honours, monitor my figure, bake with Nigella's grace and ensure my roots aren't showing to earn the societal title of being a success? Okay, so this is a little far fetched but really, what is it one is supposed to be doing to be successful? Only yesterday a colleague reminded me of the pressures on a woman with a university degree.
Goodness help the graduate who just wanted to settle down and have a family.
It is a brave and courageous woman who acts against this unspoken decree that "your education would be wasted if you don't 'use it" or "what was the point of 3-5 years of study if you're not going to earn a big salary?" or "have you heard about my friend Sally's daughter who was asked to assist the company's CEO - she's only 27 you know!" Don't get me wrong, education is an essential part of life, but how you use it should be based on fulfillment and happiness not guilt or pressure.
Despite my luncheon experience of doom and gloom, from where I stand it is quite plain to see that we, women have come a very long way, an extremely long way indeed.
We only need to be on the circulation list of an incessant email 'forwarder' to read the old exert from a 1960's woman's Good Housekeeping Guide about 'How to keep your man happy'.
Enter the definition: women's liberation; the liberation of women from inequalities and subservient status in relation to men, and from attitudes causing these.
The topic women's liberation is something that can really liven up a dinner party, be it fireworks of praise or criticism, every one has their own opinion and experience of how far women's liberation has really come.
However, I am curious.
If feminism has liberated us from the inequalities, attitudes and subservient status in relation to men, then why do I feel so trapped as a 30 something year old woman with the world as my oyster? Don't get me wrong, I am not ungrateful for the opportunities that lay all around me, but I am simply unclear on how this liberation from men has magically shifted to wanting to be liberated from women? Stop! I think I made a mistake.
I need to exchange my feminist ticket for a different journey.
Actually I already have.
And I know several other women who have.
My ticket to life now reads Womanism not Feminism.
One way only.
An amazing friend of mine who was also sat at this fateful table summoned this term to describe her similar belief that women aren't always a member of the same sisterhood and men aren't always the enemy.
This is not to say issues such as the glass ceiling no longer exist.
It simply stating we must not lose sight of all the other parts that make up being a woman and how we can approach life from another perspective.
For me, Womanism is about being authentic to who you truly are in this world.
To be able to know where you stand in life and be able to build a world around you that reflects your values, beliefs and most importantly honours who you are on the inside as well as the outside.
Womanism is authenticity.
Womanism leaves space for sisterhood as well as our male friends.
Womanism is unique to each of us.
We all bring our own different palette of colours to this world.
Why aren't we embracing this? Imagine if we as women, decided universally to just stop.
Stop with the 'how far we still have to go' talk, stop with the liberation fight, stop with the negativity, stop with the balancing act, stop with the bitching, stop with the glass ceiling battle, stop judging our sister who too is striving for happiness, stop with the need to be perfect, this list is endless.
And what if we all decided to just be who we are.
Not who we should be, but simply who we are meant to be.
Imagine if we all wore clothes that made us feel ultra feminine in the professional arena, imagine a variety of vibrant colour and sensual fabrics walking down a city street at lunchtime.
Imagine bright red nail varnish, 'just because I felt like it today' or imagine shoes that expressed a glimpse of who you are rather sensibility.
Obviously there may be consequences to any extreme make-over but the point is in being the full you and not a muted down version of the fabulous you.
I think it is time to stop and imagine.
What life am I choosing for myself? What life am I subscribing too? What is my very own personal definition of success, liberation, feminism and even womanism? Do I really want to adhere to the fruits of feminists labour? Am I obliged? Ungrateful if I don't? Is this what I want for my daughter? I honestly feel we have come to a cross roads and being a woman is harder than ever before.
Our identity is up to us, individually and also collectively.
Who you choose to be, how you choose to spend your time, education, money, happiness etc is down to you.
Please choose it wisely as our daughters need pioneers to lead us forward into a safe future of light, not darkness.
I know for me, I need to lead an authentic life.
I choose to wear a badge of Womanism and welcome any woman who wants to join me.
I want to confidently turn to my daughters or nieces in years to come and with my hand on my heart encourage them to embrace who they are, be true to what they believe and to ensure that the term "success" is clearly mapped out and defined according to their personal values.
As they learn about the great achievements of feminism, I want them to hold on to the woman inside and proudly stand tall as the world is honoured with her true authentic presence.