“STOP USING GENDER AS A QUALIFIER”

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I hear a lot of people comment about how they believe in the strength and rights of women because they have been surrounded by strong women as they were growing up. Sometimes, it’s used as a qualifier: “I have been surrounded by strong women my whole life, so I definitely believe in girl power.” As a feminist, I definitely believe in the rights of women and their capabilities to show strength, resilience, and independence. As a human, I have been surrounded by strong women as well. However, as I write this and reflect back on the women who have influenced me in my life, I find myself dejectedly realizing that almost all of them had a sense of internalized misogyny within them.
Maybe that’s why they saw themselves as strong women in the first place – in their minds, for women, they were indeed very strong and powerful. It was almost as if they saw themselves as being strong despite their gender, instead of because of it. This attitude could also be found in their fear of trying to out-do the accomplishments of men around them (i.e. “That’s a man’s job” or “A wife should have food ready for her husband when he gets home”).
And, maybe that’s why I always felt at odds with what what they were saying. They wanted me to be strong, smart, and ready to take on any challenge, but at the same time, keep in mind that there were certain things that women were supposed to do by default of being women. To this day, I feel irritated when I hear someone say “She’s very ______ for a woman” or “He’s very ______ for a man.” I honestly do not understand the point of gender being associated with certain behaviors or expectations. In reality, I find this can limit not only the potential of what someone can accomplish or do, but also what they believe they can accomplish or do.
I try my best to call out someone when they use a gender qualifier, but sometimes it is beyond exhausting because I feel as if I have to stand up for equal rights and feminism and explain everything in my head to someone who probably doesn’t care. It is too overwhelming. At this point, my patience has run low to the point where I may just hire a skywriting company to publish “STOP USING GENDER AS A QUALIFIER” everywhere in the world. Considering I am a college student, I definitely do not have the money for it. However, I am definitely adding it to the list of things I want to crowd-fund in my life.
But, this isn’t something that only happens in remote parts of the world; it’s around us every day. Misogynistic attitudes or misandrist attitudes are often internalized within us, deeper than we could ever realize. You have to take into account that everyone comes from different walks of life, and you can’t expect them to have feminist views right away, especially since feminism is something that is not internalized or taught from an early age for most people.
So, long story short, I don’t have a quick-and-easy solution. Maybe, I don’t even know the problem. Maybe, it’s part of something bigger. Regardless, I try to look at it from a feminist lens, with the permanent internal security that if I do so, even if I don’t have the easiest or best solution, trying to find a solution while keeping equality for everyone in mind is something that will at least put me on the right track.

Ree Patel

Community Outreach, What the F Magazine
Art by Erica Liao, Art Director, What the F Magazine
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