Written by Sally O’Grady
This is my Feminist Manifesto 2022. I write this in my voice as a cis-gender white woman still learning.
These are my ideals, the values I do my best to live my life by and to encourage others to do the same. I believe them to be feminist ideals because to be a feminist is to be a humanist. They are one and the same. All feminism does, in my mind at least, is more clearly highlight the imbalance that exists when it comes to gender equity specifically.
As a woman, I claim the right to be treated with the same respect, dignity, and honour of which all humans are deserving, but are so often denied. A person’s security should not be determined by where they were born, their gender, sexual orientation, or their religion. An injustice committed against a person in Kenya is as wrong as one committed against a person in Ukraine or Louisville, Kentucky. All are horrific. All deserve global action and attention.
As a feminist, abuse survivor, and whistle-blower, I have experienced firsthand bias based solely on my sex. Through listening, watching, and reading, I have come to learn that my experience is safe from the intersectionality of race, sexual orientation and identity, and religious prejudices. Until all of us take up the fight for broad-based equity, regardless of any of those identifying factors, we will not succeed. Although it is true that love finds a way, so too does hate. If these last six years have taught us anything, it’s that contentment is foolhardy. We must wake up and pay attention not only to our own discomfort and upset but to that of communities of colour, First Nations, and LGBTQ2S+. In the sunshine of our complacency, hate and bigotry have grown.
I do not believe that happiness or success is a pie, with limited ‘slices’ available only to a chosen segment of the population. A black woman’s success does nothing to limit my possibilities. A trans youth’s achievements do nothing to hamper the potential of my grandchildren. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Imagine a world where everyone had what they needed to be healthy and secure.
I do believe that the North American construct of masculinity harms men as much as it harms women. Boys are taught at an early age to be strong, don’t cry, toughen up, be the provider, and shoulder the burden. Emotion is a ‘feminine’ trait that boys are denied. I believe if boys were allowed to feel as freely as girls, their anger, frustration, and aggression would diminish and their self-satisfaction and love would improve. And that would make things better for everyone.
I believe that women fall into the gender constructs that have confined us for years because it’s so deeply ingrained into the fabric of our upbringings, that we don’t even notice that fabric is silencing us. Until we, as women, acknowledge and commit to changing these biases, we will be contributors to our own repression.
My value is not determined by my bra size, my waist size, the home I live in, or my bank account. Nor is anyone else’s. The person living on a street corner has value and deserves respect in the same measure as I. People who are incarcerated are victims of a system designed to subjugate and silence people of colour and until this reality is changed, we are deserving of the rage that comes from those communities. Until white lawmakers, politicians, influencers, and voters acknowledge their role, especially if their role is one of silent observation, in the suppression of communities of colour, all white people carry the shame.
My freedom is squandered if I sit by and do nothing so I choose to act by writing to my political representatives. I spend my money with companies that don’t participate in dehumanizing employment practices. I refuse to give my financial endorsement to businesses that turn a blind eye to the atrocities of the governments of the countries in which they do business. I try my best to be a good global citizen in the hope that it encourages others to do the same.
I am not a whore or a slut or a freak because I have taken ownership of my own sexual identity and reproductive system. I have known what I need for my body when I need it and I would trust a teenage rape victim, a trans youth, or an abuse survivor to do the same. It is not for me to make their choices for them. I trust them, I believe them, and am committed to a world where support services are provided to them with the same ease and gentleness that I have received.
I have given birth to three sons and am proud of each one and the men they have become. I have done my best to instill in them the ideals that I profess here but acknowledge the changes in them fostered by a culture that demeans women, diminishes their impact to sexual interference, or objectifies them. I am committed to continuing my education of my adult sons and listening when they have lessons to teach me about their male experiences.
I am a cis-gender white woman trying to do right in a world where so much is going wrong. I know that I am not alone and I celebrate other women who have done far more than I to effect change.
Together is the only path forward. And forward we must go.
Text © Sally O’Grady
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