Notes from an introverted feminist
Lauren Chassebi, a lifestyle and mental health blogger based in London, shares her thoughts on quietly campaigning for change.
Feminism. It’s not everybody’s favourite word, I know, but it’s one of mine. It’s a word that makes me feel stronger, like I’m part of something. Like change is happening.
People don’t like the word because it sounds big and loud. It sounds abrupt and intrusive when it’s spoken in sentences and written in article titles.
Feminism, as a word, has been made to sound crude and loud. It has developed an association with ‘man hating’ women. Violent and loud women who don’t want equality, but something more. Women who don’t know their place. But if you are a feminist, you’ll know that this isn’t what it is at all.
Feminism, as a movement, is full of different volumes. It’s screeching voices and hushed whispers. It’s mothers passing down truths to their daughters or it’s daughters in the dead of night, discovering those truths for themselves. It’s standing alone and screaming out loud, or standing in a crowd with a pin on your chest. It’s making waves, but also making ripples. It’s quietly observing whilst simultaneously taking a stand. Feminism is whatever we need it to be. And recently, this multitude of volumes within the movement are levels I am starting to understand.
I’m quite a shy person. Maybe not on the internet, but in real life at least. I think a lot, and my head is always loud, full of big ideas and big waves, but I’m cautious over which of those thoughts I let out of my mouth. In most things that I do, I am an over-thinker, an over-analyser and generally quite an anxious person.
Growing up this way, I’ve been good at watching things from the sidelines. I realised from quite a young age where I fell on the spectrum between introversion and extroversion and I was quite happy to take up my space at the quieter end, observing my extroverted peers with awe.
As I grew up my fascination with strong women developed. It started with the Spice Girls dancing around on my TV screen in the trendiest of outfits, laughing and yelling over male interviewers’ questions in a display of dominance I’d never seen from girls before. It continued with a love for female TV presenters like Fearne Cotton and Jameela Jamil, my eyes fixed to the screen in awe of these women who managed to command a stage and an audience with such ease.
In recent years, this admiration for women who exhibit a strength that makes me feel stronger has extended to the incredible girls and women taking stands in their communities, and screaming not only to make their voices heard, but other people’s voices too. Emma Gonzalez. Malala Yousafzia. Amika George. These amazing women who are using their voices for change, helping to add fuel to fires and showing how important it is that we give space to strong women and their ideas.
“Feminism is about working together, helping to amplify the voices who are quiet by choice or being quietened by external forces”
Feminism has taken a new face in recent years, one that can feel quite overwhelming if you try to view it as one coherent movement. I’ve often found myself wondering, “am I really a feminist?” and I’d beat myself up over the fact that maybe I wasn’t. That maybe I had the wrong opinions, or I didn’t give as much thought to certain things as I should. That maybe it was only for girls louder than me, stronger and braver than me. That I was too young or shy or passive, that I’d not done enough to prove myself.
When you think of feminism like this and start comparing yourself to other people, it becomes incredibly daunting. My biggest realisation in learning to own my feminism has been that there is no one goal, and no one correct way to be. Sure, the overall consensus is equality, but in reaching that point there are a heck of a lot of really cool people working together to add more fire to the cause. That means that whether your feminism is loud, proud and powerful, or quiet, small and calculated, you’re still adding to that fire.
I’ve learnt that maybe my place isn’t on the front line, standing outside parliament on a box and rallying the cheers of thousands of people. There are amazing, brilliant women out there doing that right now and I admire them.
My place is somewhere different, it’s writing my thoughts and helping to educate. It’s reading so I have enough information to talk to family and friends and help them to learn more. It’s buying from independent female business owners and supporting films from female directors. It’s being a supporter on the sidelines – yes, a quiet one, but a powerful one in my own right.
Most importantly, I am learning that in order for feminism to really succeed, it’s about working together. It’s about all of us using our assets and the gifts we’ve been given to make our messages heard. That means helping to amplify our sisters’ voices who are quiet by choice or being quietened by external forces.
Whether you’re loud and proud or working from the sidelines like me, the key part is that you’re willing to offer your skills to help all women feel they’re a part of something. That is where feminism comes together. That is where my voice can help.
Feminism should never be about comparison, or become a competition between women. It should be multiple movements working together in harmony. Loud voices amplifying quiet ones. Quiet voices spreading the word of loud ones. Women together, with one mission. To make every breathing being equal.
Also from Lauren: Why I Didn’t Support The Conservative Party on World Mental Health Day
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