One thing that does not get talked about enough is the many ways one can be a feminist.
This has been on my mind recently for obvious reasons because when isn’t fighting the patriarchy on my mind because, over the past week, I have attended two very very different presentations/performances that dealt with the multiple sides of feminism.
Last Monday, I attended a lecture given by Sister Tahera Ahmad (the program calls her ‘Sister,’ so I am going with that, although I seem to recall her being surprised by the title) on Postmodern Muslim Feminism.
Islam is often criticized for oppressing women—which, to be fair, is a valid criticism in oppressive Islamist states. It is not, however, valid for the majority of Muslim practitioners. Ahmad spent a lot of time discussing how Islam, in the Qur’an, does not actually subjugate women at all—in fact, the origins of the religion actually saved multiple female babies from being buried alive, a rather gruesome practice carried out by some of the regional tribes at the time of the Prophet. The talk did seem to be more about critical feminist perspectives being applied to the origins of Islam, but she did eventually talk about the role of women in the postmodern Muslim society. Ahamd spoke a lot about the balance young Muslim women have to work with, particularly in regard to the hijab. One of the most touching things she said was her recount of a conversation she had with a woman on a plane, which will know be paraphrased by me:
ELDERLY WOMEN (sadly): It’s such a shame.
AHMAD: What is?
ELDERLY WOMEN: We fought so you don’t have to wear the veil.
AHMAD: I think you fought so that I could.
I mean, that right there is a huge part of feminism. Validating the choices every woman makes.
Comparatively, I also went to the annual Gal/Valentine’s Day performance of The Vagina Monologue.
If you have never been, bless your hearts, you should go because the performances run the gamut from hilarious to heart-breaking, they are performed by very attractive ladies in black leather and red, and the soundtrack is like 75% Beyoncé. The Vagina Monologues aim another side of feminism: primarily, the idea of sexual liberation.
(I remember going last year with a male friend, who spent the entire time looking amazingly uncomfortable. It is a good memory. I hope he learned things.)
The Vagina Monologues are less of a learning experience for me—mostly because I have seen them before, and I also already have accepted and digested all of its messages—they’re just fun. Of particular note is The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy sketch, which has to be seen to be believed.
So you should go see it.
The most important thing about feminism is its definition: seeking equality of the genders. The second most important thing is intersectionality; is a multi-prong approach; is an understanding that there are many ways to be a feminist and to support feminism. This week highlighted multiple kinds of feminism—and it was awesome.