What Feminism Means to Me

“You want a revolution? I want a revelation.” - Hamilton: An American Musical

A lot of women - or people in general - have specific reasons why they choose to identify as a feminist.

I never really had a moment where I decided that I was a feminist. It was always a part of my identity, whether I knew the term or the history or the reasons why I should be one. I was raised by a strong woman to be a strong woman myself. My mum has never taken crap from anyone, much less a man insisting their dominance over women. She worked in an all-male warehouse and she was their manager. I think that growing up and seeing her in her office sort of solidified who I was meant to be. I’ve always thought girls had every right to be taken as seriously and treated the same as boys. Thankfully, that’s not something I ever had to wrestle with and I’m so grateful to have had a role model like my mum in my life.

It wasn’t until high school that I really came to grips with what it was that I was really standing for. Until then, I hadn’t been introduced at all to the concept of feminism. Funny enough, it was Tumblr that introduced me to feminism. Actually, it introduced me to a lot of human rights movements. The more I saw posts about this concept ‘feminism’, what it meant, and most importantly, why it existed, the more angry I got. Why were women subjected to this treatment? Why had women been fighting for so long and yet nothing had changed?

Simultaneously, I was reading about the Black Lives Matter movement and the mistreatment of POC. I was 13 years old when Trayvon Martin was murdered, so I was introduced to that at a very young age and it stuck with me ever since. Feminism has always been intersectional to me. I read once this quote in an essay by Flavia Dzodan that said, “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.” That’s exactly how I’ve always viewed feminism. I didn’t know what the term “intersectional” was until I took a women’s history course in university, but I understood that feminism is not for just white, straight women. It’s for POC women, lesbian women, trans women, EVERY woman out there, no matter what.

In recent years, being a feminist has become a more important part of me. Being a teen and then entering adulthood in the midst of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements made it crucial for me to recognize who I am, and what I expect from this world and other people. As much as I hate that women are still fighting all these years later, after the suffrage movement and the women’s liberation movement, I’m slightly grateful that I’ve been able to witness it firsthand as it’s given me opportunity to take a stand. Every woman out there has had some experience where they’ve been sexually harassed and that’s just ridiculous to me.

Feminism has evolved over the years, and has come to include all women from all walks of life and all backgrounds. As a white, cisgender woman, I don’t experience nearly half the pain that other women do. I never will. However, I think it’s up to me and other women like me to bring attention to these women and their suffering, and to make the world pay attention. We have to be allies. If we’re out here only protecting ourselves, or women who look like us, then what is it all for? I take every opportunity to learn more about women’s history, paying particular attention to those who weren’t white, middle-class women. Being only 20 and having only spent about a quarter of my life aware of what’s going on in this world, it’s been a massive learning process but I’m happy to do it.

While my influence on the world might be very minimal, at least I’m doing something. If everyone out there did the same, it would make a massive difference.

Read my other Women’s History Month posts: 10 Inspirational Quotes by Women || 5 Must-Read Books By Women, About Women || 5 Incredible Films with Female Leads

Happy International Women’s Day!

Felicia x

Girls On Film: 5 Incredible Films with Female Leads

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It’s Day 3 of my Women’s Day posts y’all!! This one’s coming in a little late, oops. But a gal’s got to put school first, am I right?

Today’s post is all about my favourite women-led films. These films all showcase courageous women, either actively fighting for equality or just living their day-to-day lives. All of these films pass the Bechdel Test (i.e. two women speak to each other at some point and the convo is not about a guy) which is obviously a super important consideration when it comes to crafting a list of films for Women’s Day! All of these films have left their mark on me in some way, and I hope that they do the same for you.

Without further ado, here are my 5 favourite female-led films!

MONA LISA SMILE

This is one of my favourite female-led films of all time. A graduate student from UCLA comes to the conservative, all-female Wellesley College to teach art history. She quickly realizes that the majority of the students in her class are primarily interested in finding husbands, rather than getting an education and a career. Slowly, their professor starts to show them a different life, one where they aren’t relegated to housewife and motherhood roles which was, at the time this movie is set, considered very dangerous and threatening to the social order. It’s a fantastic film all about sisterhood and strong women.

SUFFRAGETTE

Let’s throw it all the way back to the early 20th century, long before “feminists” was even a term for women’s activists and in fact, women’s activism wasn’t really a thing. Suffragette is a historical period drama that tells the story of a woman who finds herself involved with the women’s suffrage movement in Britain in the 1910s. I stumbled upon this film sort of by accident and just throw it on out of curiosity but boy was I glad I did. It shows the horrific conditions these suffragettes had to face (such as incarceration and force-feeding), being isolated by their loved ones, and facing danger and discrimination all because they were fighting for justice. It’s extremely interesting, and I highly recommend watching it to get an idea of the severity of the suffrage movement.

MAMMIA MIA! & MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN

Yes, I included both the first and the second Mamma Mia films. In their own ways, they are absolutely chock-full of girl power and sisterhood and all the things you’d love to see in a film about women. The first film, of course, focuses on Sophie trying to find her father. However, it’s really about the relationship between mother and daughter, and the power that comes from that sort of love. In the second film, you can see generations of strong women and how they interact with each other which is amazing. Donna Sheridan is one of the strongest female characters in the world. It also puts emphasis on single motherhood and positive female friendships, as well as slams down any kind of slut-shaming because it’s 2019 and we ain’t about that anymore.

PRINCESS AND THE FROG

While this one might put some people off because it’s Disney and an animated film, please don’t let that deter you from watching it! It’s one of the most underrated Disney films out there. This film has an awesome positive message!! First off, it’s got a POC female lead, the first African-American star of a Disney animated film which is huge. Not only that, but Tiana is extremely ambitious, confident, and self-dependent. As a young woman in the 1920s, she defies the strict gender norms of that time that insist she settles down with a guy and has kids, and instead decides to open her own restaurant! #GIRLBOSS. I absolutely love this film so much and wish everyone would give it a chance.

LEGALLY BLONDE

Y’all had to have seen this one coming. What is a women’s empowerment post without mentioning the phenomenal Elle Woods? Elle Wood is incredible. While she appears at the start to be a selfish, snobby rich girl with no brain or determination (an overused film trope), she’s actually everything but all of those things. This film hits the nail on the head. It puts intelligent women at the forefront, gives icky men what they deserve, and highlights the importance of female friendships. Hallelujah. Also, this film gets extra points just for the “You got into Harvard?”- “What, like it’s hard?” scene. Iconic.

What female-led film has left a lasting impact on you?

Felicia x

5 Must-Read Books By Women, About Women

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Hello friends, welcome to Day 2 of my International Women’s Day (or, rather, week) posts! Today’s post is a condensed list of my favourite books about women that are written by female authors. Although there are many, many books out there about women’s stories that I adore, I thought that listing them all off would be a bit much. So I narrowed it down, even though it was very painful to let some of my favourites go. I’ll do another post someday with a list of more of these sort of books… Maybe for next Women’s Day!

With that being said, here are 5 must-read books by women, about women…

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Out of this list, this might be my favourite (though, with these contenders, it’s extremely difficult to pick one favourite). The Alice Network tells the story of two strong women from the two World War eras of the 20th century. The first, Eve Gardiner, is desperate to help the Great War efforts in a way that counts and her wishes are granted when she’s recruited as a spy. The second is Charlie St. Clair, a young American who became pregnant out of wedlock and is on a search to find her missing cousin in the aftermath of World War II. The two women reluctantly join together to embark on a search for the cousin, bringing their stories (and hardships) to light. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking story and I just love how brave each of the women are, in their own unique way.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

This is actually a book I’ve not quite finished (only about 15% left to read!) but have absolutely loved every second of. You may recall Gloria Steinem from yesterday’s post. My Life on the Road is her memoir about her years of travel, both globally and domestically. In her stories, she recounts incredible tales that you wouldn’t imagine have all happened to one person. Her journeys brought her face-to-face with remarkable women and really opened her eyes to different walks of life, not only across the world but in the very country where she was raised. I loved hearing about the people she met, the things she experienced firsthand, and most of all, her activism for women’s rights and equality. If you’re interested in women’s history and/or feminism, this is definitely one of the first books you should read!

Women Talking by Miriam Toews

I only just read this book at the beginning of this year, but it has left such a lasting impression on me, that I had to include it here. This book is unfortunately based on a real-life incident which occurred in Bolivia. In the fictionalized retelling, a group of Mennonite women gather in the wake of a series of assaults on the women by the men of the community. The assaults occurred while women were drugged, and they were told that they had been visited by demons. Women of all ages, including children and the elderly, were affected. Now, they face a decision: do they flee, do nothing, or fight back? The novel is told through the minutes taken during their meeting by a man who has returned from excommunication. The experiences of the women were so hard to read and it’s even harder to imagine that it really happened in our world, not very long ago (the 2000s). It’s an excellent book that I highly recommend!

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead

Yet another very difficult read, sorry! This one is a non-fiction about a group of female resisters during the German occupation of France in World War II. The women engaged in actions against the Germans that were highly dangerous, including the distribution of pamphlets and information to other resisters. Eventually, they are imprisoned and not long after, transferred to Auschwitz. It’s disgusting, and painful, and disturbing. But the point of this novel is not to showcase the horrors of concentration camps, although it does do that very well; it is instead to show the determination and the sisterhood of the women who were captured and arrested. They were all by each other’s sides from the start to the very end, as many became ill or even died. Their heroism was incredibly impressive, especially given the circumstances.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Last, but certainly not least, is a far less gruesome or horrific novel. This actually takes a really depressing real-life story, and makes it far less tragic and even makes it quite funny! Lady Jane Grey had a tough life. She was only sixteen when she was executed, after being Queen of England (maybe not even officially Queen) for all of nine days before Mary I came in and had her - and her hubby - imprisoned in the Tower of London. Her story is short, and sad, and pretty violent. But these ladies decided to change her fate. What if she never died? What if she actually escaped? What if her husband was…a horse? Yeah, it sounds bizarre but you have to take my word for it. This book is phenomenally funny and entertaining, a perfect YA spin on a terrible mark on English history. After all, it wasn’t even Jane’s fault that she was Queen. Why should she punished? This novel primarily features a bunch of strong women, including the not-so-nice Mary I.

Do you have a novel written by a female author that you’d like to share? Drop it in the comments!

Felicia x

10 Inspirational Quotes by Women

Some of you may not know this, but March is Women’s History Month! This month is meant to celebrate and draw attention to the contributions of women throughout history, a primarily overlooked component of our shared history. It also perfectly aligns with International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on March 8 every year and has been ever since the 1910 International Socialist Women’s Conference.

Since this Friday is International Women’s Day, I thought I’d do my own celebrating through a week (well, four days - I had a pre-scheduled review on Monday!) of posts related to women. For my first post, I wanted to share 10 of my favourite quotes by women, from either distant or near history. These women are often noted as being “powerful” women, although I think it must be said that all women are powerful. These are just the ones who history has noted, though so many stories and influential figures have been left to slip through the cracks over time. With each of the quotes, I’ve put a little sentence or two about the woman who was quoted, so that maybe you might learn something new about women in history today that might just encourage you to look deeper into the lives of these fascinating women!

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“I ask no favour for my sex; all I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” - Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (b. 1933) is currently serving as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. As one of few women in her class, she attended first Harvard University and then Columbia University for law school, where she graduated first in her class. Her career has been marked by significant advocacy for the rights and equality of women, perhaps most controversially supporting abortion rights in a time where abortions were particularly scandalized. She has been a justice on the Supreme Court since 1993.

“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn. We are filled with the popular wisdom of several centuries just past, and we are terrified to give it up.” - Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem (b. 1934) is a journalist, feminist, and activist who has spent the majority of her life on the road. Creator of the liberal feminist magazine, Ms., she has spent her career actively fighting for gender equality, travelling across the nation in order to speak to and learn from a wide variety of American groups. She has also been involved in a number of political campaigns, from the late 1960s onwards.

“Here’s what I think. Feminism is not here to dictate to you. It’s not prescriptive, it’s not dogmatic. All we are here to do is give you a choice.” - Emma Watson

Emma Watson (b. 1990) is mostly known for her decade-long role as young witch Hermione Granger in the popular Harry Potter movie series. After filming the final instalment of the series, she continued her education at Brown University where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. She has since been appointed a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, has travelled globally to promote education for girls, and has spoken at the UN Headquarters to launch the HeForShe campaign.

“I do not wish [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.” - Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 - 1797) was an English writer and early women’s rights advocate. Her most well known work is her feminist writing, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) in which she opposed the presumption that women have a natural inferiority to men. This position was extremely controversial in an era where women had prescribed roles in society which placed them below men. She was also mother to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of the Gothic novel Frankenstein (1818) and another boundary-pushing woman of her time.

“No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.” - Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai (b. 1997) is a Pakistani woman who is an activist for education of girls. In 2012, while on a bus after an exam, Malala was shot in an assassination attempt by a Taliban gunman who opposed her activism. Although she was hit in the head with a bullet, she recovered fully and now continues her activist work, despite further threats from the Taliban. She has since written a bestselling memoir called I Am Malala and in 2014, she became the youngest Noble Peace Prize laureate at 17 years old.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.” - Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë (1816 - 1855) was an English novelist and a third of the famous Brontë sisters. Charlotte lived a short life plagued with tragedy - she watched her sisters pass away before succumbing to a pregnancy-related illness herself. While she wasn’t outspoken about women’s rights or equality, her famous novel Jane Eyre was driven by progressive ideas, such as the right for women to have an occupation and inner beauty. This quote from Jane Eyre is quite personal to me, and I think it really embodies women’s independence.

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” - Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014) was an American poet and civil rights activist. Her work, particularly her autobiographies, have raised awareness of racism and sexism, through her own experiences of both throughout her lifetime. In 1993, she became the first female poet (and second poet ever) to recite poetry at an inauguration of a president. Her writings displayed the importance of intersectionality - she was not a feminist, nor a civil rights activist, but rather a combination of both.

“Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, ‘She doesn’t have what it takes.’ They will say, ‘Women don’t have what it takes.’” - Clare Boothe Luce

Clare Boothe Luce (1903 - 1987) was an American author and politician who was the first woman to be appointed as a U.S. Ambassador to another country. While she was not entirely feminist in her thinking, expressed most prominently through her belief that all women must marry and have children, her determination in progressing in her career, despite possible discrimination against her gender, made her a strong female role model in that sense.

“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.” - Jane Austen, Persuasion

Jane Austen (1775 - 1817) was an English novelist who wrote six main completed novels in her lifetime, two of which were published posthumously. Her novels analyzed and critiqued the English landed gentry, as well as place importance on a marriage for love rather than marriage for financial purposes. In her novels, she portrays women as being strong, independent and often courageous, which has led many scholars to view her writing as early feminism.

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” - Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde (1934 - 1992) was an American writer, feminist, and civil rights activist. Throughout her career, she brought issues of race, sexuality, and gender to light through her writing, most specifically her poetry. She simultaneously attended Hunter College and worked to fund her education, and then after her graduation in 1959, she got her master’s degree in library science at Columbia University.