Feminist Series — Challenging the Re-definition of Feminism

By Ethiopia Lemma Yemiru

“My name is Ethiopia and I am from Ethiopia,” was my commonly used icebreaker when I met people as an international student doing my undergraduate in the US. Since I have been back to Ethiopia after graduating with a double major in Gender & Women Studies and Psychology, I have been working as a Research Analyst for Includovate. Recently, I have noticed that my conversation starter has changed. It is fairly common for people you meet to ask what your educational background is, or what you do for a living. My answer to either question leads to the conversation about if and why I am a feminist. This conversation which mostly, if not always, leads me trying hard to explain and rewrite people’s understandings of feminism, feminists and gender equality which easily breaks the ice.

© Ethiopia Lemma Yemiru

What I have learned about people’s understanding of the general feminist movement and feminist organisations is, simply put, negative. Once, an acquaintance literally started a conversation with, “why do you work for Includovate?” Confused, I replied, “Because I stand for the cause, for the cause of eliminating the inequalities based on gender, don’t you?” This person then goes on to say, I stand for gender equality, but not for feminism. Even more perplexed, I asked what the differences were. Apparently, people’s understanding of feminism is female superiority. This individual, who is a male, then explained how in today’s world it is, in fact, males who are being more affected on the basis of gender. He then went on to explain how if the police were to come into the room at that very moment, he would be more at risk of being imprisoned or at the very least beaten up. He believes gender-based affirmative actions are negatively affecting males.

Our world is filled with inequality; inequality of all sorts based on our intersectional identities. As a feminist, I stand to eliminate all exclusions, unfairnesses and inequality based on people’s gender, regardless of what the gender may be. I may focus more on inequality based on femininity such as child marriage, rape, domestic violence and inequality of educational access. However, I am not disregarding the fact that there are boys and men forced into child marriages, raped, in violent/toxic relationships, or who do not have access to education. Nonetheless, feminist researchers like myself, and the interventions applied may focus more on the experience of girls and women because research has shown that these incidents affect more females than males. As a feminist I do mention that there are also some society initiated gender-based inequality that mainly affect males: toxic masculinity, lack of emotional expression, and the over-expectation of financial stability. These, I believe, are all birthed by the patriarchal system. All that feminism stands for is to break down that very system. If this is what it stands for and males, too, could benefit from it, I wonder why it is that most are so against it? Is our brain wired to always believe in hierarchies, that one is higher than the other? Should there always be a superior gender? Well, I think not.

Sure, I have met some feminists with whom I did not fully agree. Like all other movements, there are extremists in feminism as well. There are some feminists who have explained to me that they hate all men, that they blame men for all the problems of this earth, and that we as women can do it all by ourselves. I believe in involving men in the movement, in creating a world where all genders work to eliminate any sort of inequality among us. I understand the biological aspects of the sexes and their interconnected and interdependent nature. I will forever hold my head up and fight the redefinition that people have of feminism. I stand to redefine the re-definition, Feminism is not about Female Superiority.

About the Author

Ethiopia Lemma Yemiru is an equality passionate graduate from SUNY Plattsburgh with a BSc in Gender & Women’s Studies and Psychology with a minor in Economics. She has several internship experiences in Ethiopia and abroad. She is young, energetic and always excited to learn and challenge herself. She says this may be the beginning of her career, but she will not stop until she makes a change within the lives of women, at least for those in the developing world. Ethiopia can speak English and Amharic fluently.

Includovate is a feminist research incubator that “walks the talk”. Includovate is an Australian social enterprise consisting of a consulting firm and research incubator that designs solutions for gender equality and social inclusion. Its mission is to incubate transformative and inclusive solutions for measuring, studying, and changing discriminatory norms that lead to poverty, inequality, and injustice. To know more about us at Includovate, follow our social media: @includovate, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram.

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