Am I a feminist? I’m not really sure. The word in my mind, unfortunately, has a negative connotation. I hear feminist, and I see images of third wave feminism – movements like #freethenipple, the idea that being in a relationship is anti-female, and women being told not to wear a hijab because it’s oppressive. These feminist objectives work to disenfranchise a large population of women. Many females at even liberal colleges and universities feel uncomfortable when faced with these highly left-leaning feminist ideals. It can be argued that women who are uncomfortable with these movements are only so because their upbringing and environment deeply ingrains notions that girls should act a certain way.
On the other hand, a movement that serves to free women from a patriarchal society ought to be one that a majority of the female population can support. Examples include equality focused rights, such as the right to vote, abolishment of the wage gap, gender violence termination, and issues of self-esteem (such as if a girl feels more afraid to speak up with boys in the room because she feels inferior/unequal). If a woman is okay with a man holding open a door for her, this etiquette shouldn’t be an issue. Some feminists might criticize her for allowing a man to help her, but if the woman in question feels no loss of power, she shouldn’t be told that the right way to act is to open the door herself.
None of this is to say that I don’t believe in equality, in the fair and equal treatment of men and women. A woman can’t be denied a job because of her gender. She shouldn’t feel unsafe in leaving the house after dark because of her gender. I hate that in India, being outdoors alone at night as a female is deadly, and in many rural districts, widows are still burned at the pyre along with her dead husband. I am a woman. I want women to be treated with the same respect and dignity that men don’t even have to bat an eyelash to receive. However, some of the current ways of achieving this respect are only making the movement harder to support. Who knows, though? This summer might change a lot of my opinions. I hope it does. I know there are inspirational, passionate, and intelligent women behind the current feminist movement. Gaining a better grasp of the logic behind certain individual fights under the push for feminism might better help me get an understanding of why feminism has evolved to where it is today.
I’m working with Sanctuary for Families this summer, a non-profit directed at primarily reducing gender violence and helping survivors of domestic violence. I don’t know too much about the organization yet, but from my short first impressions, every single member that I talked to are some of the most passionate, down-to-earth, kind, and helpful people I have ever met. I love asking them questions about how things work and why they work that way, and every question I ask gets at least a half hour detailed response. The teams I’m working with never get tired of answering. They genuinely care about the work they do, the organization they work for, and passing on crucial knowledge to a later generation. I might be wrong, but I can’t see this as being the case for an intern at a for-profit company. If the intern asks too many questions, I feel like the supervisor might try to start speeding up replies and finishing up their job because they aren’t paid to be a teacher.
This kind of care can be expected of non-profits (although, my experience is super limited, I just rationally deduced that in my head). The employees are not working at a non-profit for the sake of money. They could probably care less about their monthly paycheck. It seems like the work they do, in these large non-profits with more administrational duties, is pretty similar to the work they would do in the corporate sphere, but, with the nature of the non-profit, they likely earn much less. This difference is interesting because a lot of times, America is characterized as this cutthroat, capitalist, profit-seeking, individualist country. But if you dig a little deeper, people like the Sanctuary staff probably could not care less about their own profits. Their sole purpose, joy, and contentment from life comes from genuinely helping other people, even if they aren’t directly involved. They know their work, whether fundraising or communications, further down the line will help someone fleeing an abusive relationship.
That is so beautiful.
The non-profit sphere astounds me. Altruism is something that, in my life, I have been very scarcely exposed to. If someone was helping their community, it was for volunteer hours that they could log and report to get into a top college. However, genuinely helping just for the sake of helping, with no personal benefit in mind, besides the satisfaction of living a fulfilled life in the service of others is (honestly, I am embarrassed to say this) so foreign, but so darn refreshing. We live in a world filled with other people. What is the point of just living for yourself and making the most money possible? Making someone’s life a little less difficult has so much more meaning.