Why I am a feminist
1 March 2023
Why are you a feminist? To celebrate International Women's Day, we put this question to ActionAid community campaigners. Read why they consider themselves feminists - and why it's important to them.
"Oppression isn't simple"
It's natural to attempt to understand life in its simplest terms; to conceptualise life through lenses that blur its complexities. It's easy to forgo nuances in favour of simplicity, so we see black and white, male and female - instead of the intricacies within these labels.
But with all the complexities of life considered, the reality is that these things are far more layered; these layers intersect and overlap.
Intersectional feminism gives meaning to these overlaps; it accounts for the grey in between the black and white.
Intersectional feminism is understanding that oppression isn't simple. It isn't merely black and white, male or female; it's knowing that our identities are multifaceted. It gives black women, trans women, queer women, disabled women, Muslim women, every woman, the opportunity to be seen and heard.
Intersectional feminism is recognising that the experiences of a black woman are different to those of a white woman and thus, it brings colour to feminism. It makes it more than black and white - it helps us see and hear each other more clearly.
Elizabeth Oyetunji, 19, London
"This patriarchal society that we live in benefits no one"
I am a feminist because I believe in equality. As a cis woman, I've been affected by sexism my whole life. Growing up, insults included ‘you throw like a girl’. When we needed courage or to be brave, we were told to ‘man up’. Reaching your teens and having your school uniform policed. Period talk being taboo.
I always knew this was unfair. It wasn’t until Emma Watson’s speech at the UN event in 2014, launching the HeForShe campaign, that I understood we could push back. Activists were demanding change.
I was able to start unpicking my own internalised misogyny that had been taught and reinforced by a patriarchal society and understand the importance of intersectional feminism. I was seeing the world through a new lens, empowered but also horrified.
This passion led to discovering activists, learning that the sexism I had experienced growing up was only the tip of the iceberg and the different privileges and inequalities faced depending on your identity.
Every gender, every race, every class, every ability deserves to be represented and respected. This patriarchal society that we live in benefits no one, and that is why I am a feminist.
Danielle Francis, 23, UK
"I believe that women have the right to be in charge of their sexual reproductive health"
I am a feminist because I believe in women standing up for themselves and not remaining in toxic relationships. I support women who are survivors of domestic violence by always being there for them, listening to their stories without judging them, and encouraging them to keep pushing to achieve their life goals.
I am a feminist because I believe women should have the right to earn income in their various capacities and not be completely dependent on their partner’s finances, as this could lead to severe economic hardship. I have encouraged women - especially those in rural communities - to set up small-scale businesses to support their families economically.
I am a feminist because I believe that women have the right to be in charge of their sexual reproductive health. I believe a woman should have the power to choose her methods of family planning as she demands.
I am a feminist because I believe that women are smart and, like everyone, they have the right to a quality education - and also to specialise in any career of their choice. I have always been an ardent supporter of self-development and I never miss an opportunity to advise women to develop themselves.
Cynthia Igoche, 41, Nigeria
"Change will not come overnight"
I am an intersectional feminist because I care about equal opportunities and community spirit. We might have different backgrounds and might come from different countries, but we all have valid experiences. This is why we should all work together for a common cause.
I am an intersectional feminist because, after I've lived in different countries and experienced misogyny from multiple cultures and places - including here in the UK - I know that, generally, people continue to learn throughout their lives. We can all be continuously educated about feminist causes and can campaign on global issues together, like we do with ActionAid.
Change will not come overnight, so the process might take a long time and might not be visible straight away, but continuing to care about others and raising your voice for what is right will eventually pay off.
No one person will make things right, so we all have to work together to support as many people as possible. We have to stand with people that are marginalised, seen as the scapegoat, systemically discriminated against, left to live in poor conditions and forced to overwork just to make a living.
Ana Iscru, 26, Reading
"Feminism must be intersectional"
I am a feminist because I would like to imagine a better future for myself. And I believe every woman deserves to have this same hope.
When a girl is being married off as a child, I would like there to be an alternative scenario wherein she has the privilege of choosing the trajectory of her own life, can pursue an education, pursue her interests and not be a victim of our current economic system that forces women to be inevitably oppressed.
I joined ActionAid because I wanted to contribute my own perspective and represent experiences of women who might not have the resources that I do.
Feminism must be intersectional. If the women in sweatshops, ones who aren’t listened to, ones that are indoctrinated by society into internalised misogyny - are not able to access feminism, the result would aways be the empowerment of one group at the expense of another.
I am a feminist because I refuse to believe the current state of society - and especially of women, where the right to their own body is threatened - is the best that we can do. I want to campaign for something much better.
Mishita Khurana, 19, Edinburgh
"Wanting equal rights for all women is what true feminism is, not one group over the other"
There are a lot of feminists out there, and I’m one of them. Among these feminists are subcategories (Liberal, Radical, Social etc.), yet the mere word “feminist” still generates judgement. I believe I’ve always been a feminist but didn’t find a way to articulate this until my late teens, since feminists are met with such criticism from closed-minded people.
I have a brooch that says “Girl Power”, which I bought a few years ago, but the moment I stuck it to my bag I was reminded of all the women before me and the women to come after me.
For me and many others, wanting equal rights for all women is what true feminism is, not one group over the other.
Feminism is a movement for equality, so once I realised that women of colour, trans women, queer women were often excluded from the goal of equality, that's when I bought a brooch to symbolise all women and wear it proudly!
Sienna Norris, 22, Essex
"Feminism helped me to understand the world"
Language is beautiful - it was my first love. I found that words were much more complicated than the story they lay out in front of me - they were stories: of intertwining relationships, international friendships, interconnected histories. My discovery of feminism felt similar.
Then feminism taught me that language is a paradox: it allows us to explain our relationship to the world and to each other, but it also defines through its limitations.
Feminism helped me to understand the world - it gave me a new vocabulary with which I could name injustices. Like my own, which I'd experienced, but that I never had a name for. It named other injustices that either I had seen and not spoken about, or that I hadn’t even realised existed. Feminism gave me access to understanding, answers, and even more questions.
For me, feminism is a way of learning how to operate within the paradox of language. It is the relationship between theory and the down-on-the-ground.
Feminism is a force for positive change for everyone, but it is self-aware in the knowledge that it will take imagination and transformation to implement the change that it seeks - the change that it has not yet named.
Sarah Talboys-Smith, 32, Oldham, Manchester
This International Women's Day, join us to celebrate feminism
Feminism is for everybody. It means different things to different people, but it unites us all in our struggle for equality around the world.
If you believe that every all women, everywhere, should be able create the future they want, why not join ActionAid today by donating to our work?
If you're not able to donate today, there are still ways to get involved - sign up to become a community campaigner today to help us fight injustice and inequality in your community and beyond.