Why I am a Feminist

Rina Cakrani, Columnist

No one has ever taken me very seriously when I’ve told them that I am a feminist. They usually say: ‘Oh, so you hate men?’ or something equally dismissive. And I am annoyed that I must always explain the concept of feminism and yet still many seem to not ‘get it’ or believe that as a feminist all I am looking for is gender equality.
When I think back to my childhood, I  still remember that ‘running like a girl’ was regarded as something negative and became the stepping stone for many more issues which my female friends and I were later faced with. Among middle school boys, running was only properly done by the male gender. So I grew up with the idea that there was something wrong with the way girls ran. And the thought that the way I ran as a girl was not the right way to run, despite not being anything I could do to change it, served as a catalyst for later  insecurities that would come about as I grew older. Unfortunately, ‘running like a girl’ was not the only thing that made me and many others feel insecure.
In the patriarchal Albanian society where I  lived in before going to an international school in Italy, females were viewed as the weaker sex. The rules and behaviors that they were taught always involved men and masculine concerns. For example, girls had to take measures before going out in order not to catch the attention of men. They would have to cover themselves properly and not wear skirts or dresses that were too revealing. They were taught that their lives should revolve around men and that marriage and creating a family should be the penultimate goal of their lives. So much pressure was put upon women and they were expected to perform well in every direction of their lives.
This pressure wasn’t put on boys. In fact, I don’t recall parents having the same expectations that they had on girls. If boys were good in school, they were constantly praised. The same rule didn’t apply for girls. If they didn’t do well in school, they would be punished by their parents. Boys would get away with it, because ‘boys will be boys.’ There were times I wished I was a boy, because I thought life would be much easier for me.
I know, however, that gender inequality is a huge issue in many other countries, not only in Albania where I come from, and I find it alarming. Even in the countries where we think democracy works well, women are still stigmatized in many ways which men are not, for things that they often can’t do anything about–from the way they dress to the way they lead their lives.
I don’t think I am able to give the ultimate solution for this issue, but I believe that we can educate the future generations with the importance of a concept such as feminism, in order to make the idea of ‘equality of the sexes’ a value and foundation of the existing societies around the world. I believe we should begin by clearing up all the misconceptions about the definition of feminism, which is not seeking superiority of women over men, as it is wrongly thought by many people. It is actually seeking equality of the sexes. Women have been oppressed for so long and even today when we think that this oppression has ended, it is still present in many forms, starting from the small boys that use ‘you run like a girl’ to insult each other, to women being paid less than men for the same job or not getting the job at all because it is more appropriate for men.
Feminism is important because I am tired of being taught that if I get harassed it is my fault. Because I am tired of being labelled. Because I am tired of being warned about walking alone at night. Because I am tired of being considered as an object to admire and not as an actual human being with all my inner thoughts and various talents. Because I am tired of hearing that when a woman chooses career over having her own family, she is strange and heartless. Because I am tired that when I tell people that I want to become a someone important for my country in the future, they laugh at me and say that they think I am bossy and too demanding.
Today, I know that ‘running like a girl’ should be considered  a compliment. I know nobody has the right to make me feel that I am any less to my male counterparts. Today, I no longer wish to be a boy.