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I don’t have to smash the patriarchy to be a feminist

It’s hard not to feel like social media is casting a scrutinising eye over everything we do. Particularly during the pandemic, where most forms of social activism happened in digital spaces. There has been increasing pressure to follow trends of posting your political views online and calling out social issues one aggressive Insta-story at a time. 

So it’s not surprising that women can often feel that if we aren’t ‘smashing the patriarchy’ in everything we do, we aren’t doing enough to move things forward for the movement. 

Our Instagram feeds are full of trailblazing influencers who are constantly achieving inspiring things and having their voices heard; think, for example, the incredibly pertinent Reclaim the Streets marches that often take place up and down the country, campaigning for safer streets for women in light of the recent rise in spikings.  

Sometimes it may feel that those around us are contributing more towards the movement than us. Or even worse, feeling guilty about calling ourselves feminists if we aren’t trying to redress the social order in every aspect of our daily lives.  

But today, feminism encompasses how we strive to change the world around us and how we think of and treat ourselves as women.  

The weight of expectation that we carry as feminists to be like the activists that we see plastered across our social media feeds can be motivating. But more often than not, it can make us feel inadequate.  

There seems to be an ‘exceptional women’ trope developing online that idolises women who have done incredible things. No one can or should take away from their accomplishments. Still, we must address that it can be problematic to the community.  

We cannot allow feminism to breed an exclusionist school of thought where only ‘exceptional’ or ‘accomplished’ women are worth our acknowledgement. It’s a form of internalised misogyny staring us right in the face every time we unlock our phones.  

I am here to remind you that you can empower yourself and those around you with small acts in your everyday life. 

Feminists are often branded as radical ‘man-haters’ to undermine the movement’s egalitarian message, but this is so far from the truth for many feminists; put it this way – I am yet to burn my bra. 

Viewing feminism through this lens is damaging – all it does is reproduce further division.  

Ultimately, small and trivial daily acts can be empowering. You can feel powerful in opting to wear modest clothes or investing time in cultural traditions, even if this doesn’t feel particularly ‘transgressive’. You are allowed to feel proud in pursuing your life-long dream of a traditional wedding. You can be a feminist while wearing what society deems ‘provocative’ clothing.  

It can also be very powerful to take an item of clothing usually deemed attractive to the male gaze and rock it as a form of self-appreciation, a simple act of defiance against the damaging expectation placed on women to dress for the approval of others.  

The same is true of our presence as feminists online. If you don’t share that viral post calling out a social issue to your story, you’re unsupportive of the movement. But if all you do is share the story, you risk being written off as performative and passive. Toxic much? 

All this does is encourage a mood of elitism where only specific actions of activism are deemed enough. Advocating for the movement from the sidelines by sharing well-sourced information on your Instagram feed about a facet of feminism you are passionate about is just as valuable as joining a march. Welcoming people around you into these discursive spaces can make just as much of an impact as a protest. 

There isn’t a strict, narrow criterion you have to fulfil to call yourself a feminist. There is no series of boxes to tick. Keeping feminism open to everyone is vital to seeing a tangible change in our society. 

Feminism isn’t one size fits all. Only through making the movement more innately inclusive can we work towards feminist principles coming to fruition.