Feminist to Follow: Seema from The Subtle Hipster

This month’s Feminist to Follow has made feminism and public health her life’s work.

Seema Bhakta is not only a storyteller and photojournalist, but a researcher and advocate for various organizations and nonprofits that support and promote women’s well-being, including MCH in Action, a student organization centered on maternal, childbirth, sexual and reproductive health.

Seema is the blogger behind The Subtle Hipster, where, in addition to highlighting news in feminism, she writes about books, adventure, food and more. Below, she shares a thoughtful essay on why blogging about feminism is important to her. Read on!

Feminist to Follow: Seema from The Subtle Hipster

Blogging about feminism is important to me because I believe the movement is not only about equal opportunities for women, but increasing the support of diversity, reducing stigma and fighting for the rights of everyone discriminated based on their ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Just like everything else, I don’t think feminism is a black or white topic. It’s a spectrum and there are definitely a lot of gray areas. I’ve read articles and tweets from people who say they don’t think of themselves as feminists because they never faced inequalities in life or work. There are also the misguided folks who say, “I’m not a feminist because I don’t hate men.” Out of respect, we are all entitled to our own opinions but reality is, these stereotypes don’t touch the true meaning of feminism.

As I look back on my life, growing up in a very liberal state but in a more conservative community, I never expressed my own opinions or realized that I even had any. I always thought that these fights are not mine, that I had nothing to worry about. Ignorance, perhaps. I grew up thinking I was not a feminist because like others I never faced (or realized) the discrimination. But now that I am older and wiser, I realize that the challenges women face is universal regardless of whether I have experienced it or not. Even if I feel that I have not had to face unequal opportunities, being a feminist should mean that as a woman, I support other women in their fight for equality.

I read Yes, Please last month and loved this quote from Amy Poehler: “Good for her, not for me.” When I was in graduate school, there would be debates about what is right versus what is wrong for women in childbirth. This really frustrated me. You can give me all the data about healthy birth practices, parenting methods and breastfeeding, but at the end of the day it is the individual’s choice about what is right for them. (I recommend checking this photo campaign out, End the Mommy Wars.)

My maternal and reproductive interests broadened when I read a book in the summer called Golden Boy. It’s about an intersex adolescent who begins to question their sexuality, identity, and how to keep secrets after an incident with a childhood friend. I have always been an LGBT ally, but as the world opens up slowly about being intersex, asexual, and trans, feminism does not just benefit cis women, but anyone who struggles because of their gender and sexual identity.

Not only do gender and sexual identity play a vital role in feminism, but race and ethnicity do, too. Racism is a feminist issue, and so is social justice. Earlier this week, we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so I want to end with this quote:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

If you want to read more from Seema, check out her blog, The Subtle Hipster, and follow her on Twitter. Here are some recent highlights from her blog:

Reflection on Sex and Gender | The A-Word, Stigma & Storytelling | No More: Together We Can End Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

Check out other Feminists to Follow here.

Do you have any favorite feminist bloggers?

Feminist to Follow: Shannon from Awash With Wonder

Few bloggers these days have me latched onto their every word the way Shannon Butler does.

And when I asked the blogger behind Awash With Wonder to tell me why blogging about feminism is important to her, I should’ve known she’d respond with a blog post-length essay worthy of publication on a site that actually reimburses its contributors.

How lucky I am to have her thoughts for free.

For that reason, I’m keeping my introduction to this month’s installment of Feminist to Follow short and will let Shannon’s words show why she’s a feminist and blogger you should know. Read on…

Feminist to Follow: Shannon from Awash With Wonder

Blogging about feminism is important to me because I care about women and our role in the world.

In a recent interview with Roxane Gay, Lena Dunham is quoted as saying, “I just think feminism is my work. Everything I do, I do because I was told that as a woman, my voice deserves to heard, my rights are to be respected, and my job was to make that possible for others.”

I see feminism as my work, too.

I did not grow up wanting to be a movie star or a doctor or an astronaut. I had no clear goals. The only thing I’ve always known and that has become truer as the years passed is this: I love to be a woman and I love other women.

Even with all the bullshit women face, I have never wished I wasn’t one. I see it as a privilege to be able to befriend smart, funny, interesting women and get to experience that divine miracle that is supportive female friendship.

But do I wish there wasn’t so much bullshit? Yeah, I do – especially because there is so much of it.

Recently, a lot of women have publically asserted that they do not like catcalling. The response has not been what a rational person might think it would be. Imagine a world where people say, “We do not like this thing you’re doing; it makes us feel threatened and harassed” and the response is, “Well you should like it, it’s a compliment, stop being so ungrateful”?

Affordable birth control is still being fought for in 2014 in America. Just let that sink in. This in a country where maternity leave is either nonexistent or an absolute joke.

The response to a woman saying she was raped – which only a tiny percentage of rape victims report – is often not, “Are you okay?” but, “How much were you drinking?” or “How short was your skirt?”

Think about how many people you know who have a female boss or how many stories you hear about men having to fight to get paid the same amount as women who have the same qualifications and do the same job as them. I’ll wait.

That’s just a small percentage of the problems women face in America. Let’s talk global.

Malala Yousafzai was shot for daring to be a girl and wanting an education.

The 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped by the Boko Haram have reportedly been “married off” to their kidnappers. Those girls are under thirteen and are facing a lifetime of imprisonment and sexual assault.

Reading about girl babies globally who get abandoned, aborted or denied medical care by their parents because girls aren’t valuable in their societies is numbing. The authors of Half The Sky, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, report: “More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century.”

The number of people currently sold into sexual slavery and forced labor is hard to pinpoint – trust that it’s more than you think – but everyone fighting to save those people agree that woman and girls account for more than 90% of them. I can go on.

In her book, Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay wrote, “It’s hard not to feel humorless, as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things. It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away. The problem is not that one of these things is happening; it’s that they are all happening, concurrently and constantly.”

There is so much to be concerned about. It’s hard not to believe that fighting for gender equality is too difficult, that it would be easier to just give up and accept that the world is dominated by patriarchal societies and we just have to deal with the misogyny and oppression that comes with it.

But part of being human is to hope for a better world and to believe that you may play a role in making it so. Fighting for gender equality is one of the most important things we can do to make the world a better place – not just for women but also for men.

Former chief economist of The World Bank, Lawrence Summers, believes “investment in girls’ education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world’” and the United Nations Development Program found that “woman’s empowerment helps raise economic productivity…and increases the chances of education for the next generation.”

Giving women the chance to excel – a freedom they have been denied for centuries – will change the world. That’s why I write about issues that affect women and the way feminism has helped to give me hope.

I am not naïve enough to believe that just because I identify as female that I’m going to like every woman or support every decision she makes. But that’s not what feminism asks of me. Feminism simply asks that I fight for every woman to live a life where she is not oppressed or disadvantaged or allowed to die because of her gender. It is not too much to ask. It is the bare minimum, actually.

 

If you want to read more of Shannon’s thoughtful, eloquent writing on feminism, you’ll enjoy these:

Let’s talk about rape culture
Does your partner need to be a feminist?
Why representation matters

Thanks so much for sharing your words, Shannon. Be sure to check out other Feminists to Follow here.

Who are some of your favorite feminist bloggers?