I Am A Feminist. Not A Humanist.

Let me begin this discussion by saying that I am a feminist. I support and believe in feminism. I think that feminism is extremely important and multi-layered, and that supporting feminism works in the favour of women, men, and gender non-conforming people everywhere. And, by extension, I believe that everyone should identify as a feminist as well.

Not everyone agrees with me. And I’m not just talking about your typical overt misogynist who believes that all women should be barefoot and pregnant and all men should be burly, tough-guy, macho-men lacking emotion.

In 2014, actress Shailene Woodley, who has in the past discussed women’s issues, caused controversy when she refused to call herself a feminist. When asked by Time Magazine if she considered herself a feminist, she said, “no because I love men”. She then continued on to say, “my biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism”. This then prompted many to ask, does she even know what feminism is? After all, the dictionary definition of feminism is, “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes”. Loving or hating men has nothing to do with it; it isn’t about that. It’s about equality, by nature.

But who cares about the dictionary definition, right? As anyone who has studied linguistics can tell you, the definition of words has a tendency to shift and change over time (fun fact: the word ‘awful’ originally meant something more akin to ‘awesome’). So is it possible that what Woodley is reacting to here is a shift in what feminism means? Because she isn’t the only woman who appears to believe in equal rights between the genders, and yet doesn’t identify as a feminist.

Actress Susan Sarandon, for example, has stood up for women’s reproductive rights and other human rights issues over the years, and yet she will not call herself a feminist. Instead, she refers to herself as a ‘humanist’, saying that she finds it “less alienating to people who think of feminism as a load of strident bitches”. And she is not the first woman (or individual, more generally) who I have heard come up with other terms for supporting equal rights, like “humanist” or “equalist”.

And yet, I still call myself a feminist. And I still fully believe that everyone should identify as a feminist. And why?

Well, first of all, I want to get the least important issue out of the way first: humanism is already a thing. It has nothing to do with gender equality, but rather takes a more human-centric view of the world, as opposed to a more theological view.

There. And now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about feminism more specifically.

Feminism is a movement that has fallen under a lot of criticism, and a lot of these criticisms are the reason why some women have chosen to distance themselves from it.

For example, let’s return to Susan Sarandon’s claim that feminism is “alienating”. Why is it alienating? Well, perhaps the reason for that is the prefix – “fem”, meaning woman. There are many people out there who have asked that, if feminism is truly for everyone, then why is it called “feminism”? Shouldn’t it be something more inclusive?

Well… no. No, I don’t think it should be.

Why is it called “feminism”? Because the sort of equality that feminism fights for is an incredibly gendered type of equality – so, of course, it makes sense that the name for the movement would refer to gender. And not only any gender, it refers to the female gender, which is the one that has, historically, been most obviously harmed by gender inequality.

That isn’t to say that the patriarchy doesn’t harm men. It does. But generally speaking, it is women who have been more overtly shunned, marginalized, and looked down upon because of it. Changing the name so that it doesn’t refer to women anymore ignores this history and cultural context.

And, I would argue, it is because of the patriarchy that many men feel uncomfortable identifying with a movement that refers to women in its very name. The patriarchy, after all, always presents femininity as something vapid, stupid, and lesser. Men are encouraged to cast off their feminine side, while women are mocked and belittled, creating a culture where the majority of insults that are thrown at men refer to them as, somehow, feminine – sissy, queer, girl, etc. Of course men don’t want to identify as feminists, if feminist means woman and women are inferior.

But it is exactly this kind of mentality that feminism is trying to fight. So changing the name so that men feel less alienated sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? We are trying to create a culture where men would feel absolutely no shame in being a feminist, even if it does contain the prefix ‘fem’. After all, there is nothing wrong with being a woman, and there is nothing wrong with supporting women.

As famed feminist scholar bell hooks once said, “feminism is for everybody”.

But part of this distance from the term is born from a bit more than that, as well. Generally speaking, feminism has been accused of plenty of unsavoury things – such as man-hating, or trying to strip men of their masculinity, and therein lies Shailene Woodley’s comment that she isn’t a feminist because she doesn’t hate men.

And to argue against this, I am tempted to return to the dictionary definition, as many feminists before me have done. But, as I pointed out before, the dictionary definition means little, doesn’t it? So, instead, I’m going to focus on what feminism has actually done.

Recently, feminists have been involved in such movements as #metoo and #timesup, both of which deal with supporting victims of sexual assault or harassment. Feminists have been fighting for women’s right to reproductive health, fighting rape culture, and combating the wage gap. Some of this might indirectly relate to men, but for the most part, the focus is on women. And even when men are considered in feminism, it is usually in an attempt to better their lives as well – allow men the chance to explore their emotions, move away from toxic outlets for masculinity such as violence, and admit to vulnerability when they have been hurt or victimized.

In fact, feminists have been trying to distance themselves from this image of man-hating for years now. As actress and feminist Emma Watson once said, “The more I have spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.”

Feminists have been dismissed as ‘feminazis’, and yet nowhere in the world, at any point in history, have men been forced into concentration camps by evil feminists. So why do we live with these assumptions?

Well, I, for one, am tempted to side with the argument that dismissing feminists as ‘man-haters’ is, quite simply, a way to dismiss the movement en masse. It is a way to say that what we fight for doesn’t matter, that it isn’t true equality. But I disagree; I have never seen anything, in all my years of identifying as a feminist, that indicates that the entire movement, en masse, does not desire equality.

Now, that isn’t to say that all feminism is created equal. As I mentioned before, feminism is a complex, multi-layered issue, and there are many different types of feminists. There are intersectional feminists, radical feminists, liberal feminists, and so on and so forth (for the record, I tend to aim toward intersectional feminism). I do encourage you to read up on the differences between all these theories in your own time (many of these differences are related to arguments about what equality means, and who women should strive to be equal to, which is much too intricate a discussion for me to begin here). But the simple fact that feminism is such a complex issue, with such extensive history and intense academic research put into it proves to me that it is not a movement to be discarded so easily. This is a movement with a solid groundwork, with so much history and importance, that it seems sort of ridiculous to just cast all that aside in an attempt to distance ourselves from some made-up criticisms that don’t even truly reflect what the movement is.

Historically speaking, feminism, as an umbrella movement, has been the term that we use to refer to the fight for gender equality. It is a term that states that there is nothing wrong with being a woman. It is a term that states that men should be comfortable with the feminine, and women should be allowed to inhabit spaces that have traditionally been reserved for the masculine. It is a term that is backed up by history and culture and academic research, all with the intent of creating a more equal, loving, and accepting society.

To quote Maya Angelou, “I am a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.”

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The Judgement of Women

There is no one right way to be a woman.

There are some women in this world who cannot imagine anything more rewarding than motherhood. Women whose happy ending involves that devoted husband, that stable home, that white picket fence. Women who would prefer to stay at home and take care of their kids than go out and work. Women who identify with the terms ‘wife and mother’, ‘stay-at-home mom’, and ‘housewife’, without any qualms or objections.

And then there are women in this world who don’t want any of that. Women who never really saw themselves as mothers, never really wanted any of that. Women who could not imagine anything more rewarding than their career. Women who never felt the need to attach themselves to a single partner for their entire lives, who were perfectly content with their own love for themselves and their passions.

And then there are women in this world who fell somewhere in between these two spectrums. Women who want both the career and the family. Women who want the children, but not the husband. Women who knew that the white picket fence was never an option for them, but worked their ass off all their life to get as close to it as possible.

All of these women, every single one of them, are valid.

There are some women in this world who enjoy wearing make-up, and dresses, and high heels. There are some women in this world who enjoy going fresh-faced, wearing oversized sweaters or yoga pants. All of these women are valid.

There are some women in this world who enjoy going out to party every single weekend. There are some women in this world who would honestly rather die, and spend their free time with a book, a cat, and some hot cocoa. All of these women are valid.

There are women who wear mini skirts, women who wear hijabs, women who kiss boys, women who kiss girls, women who kiss everybody, women who play video games, women who do make-up tutorials online, women who sing, dance, play baseball, tell jokes, get tattooed, get pierced, shave their armpits, don’t shave their armpits, shave their head, grow their hair long, do every goddamn thing that this world has to offer, and Jesus Christ – can I stop now?

My point is, there are a lot of different kinds of women out there. And all of these different kinds of women enjoy different things. And. All. Of. These. Women. Are. Valid.

Why am I saying this?

Because we as a society have this tendency to get really, really judgemental when it comes to the behaviour of other people – particularly, it seems, with women. And we all have our own reasons for doing so.

I’ve heard this judgement presented in the obviously-old-fashioned-sexist way, wherein it’s super obvious. The old mentality of, “well, she’s a girl. She shouldn’t be doing that.” This idea that women are supposed to procreate, like that’s the whole purpose to their existence (it isn’t. Trust me; people don’t have purposes to their existence, unless they’re purposes that the individual themselves has decided on and says – like an artist saying “I feel like I was meant to paint”). This idea that women are supposed to be attracted to men, and they’re supposed to cater to their every whim and need as though their husbands are children that can’t take care of themselves.

I’ve heard this judgement presented in the case of slut-shaming, where groups of people will get together and whisper about how that girl over there should really be wearing more. I mean, why doesn’t she respect herself more, am I right? (Here’s a thought: maybe she isn’t the one not respecting her. Maybe she wore it because she knows she can, and she feels good in it, and your criticisms of her choice aren’t helping anyone).

I’ve heard this judgement presented in the case of upholding a phony, restrictive definition of feminism, wherein a woman can’t wear make-up, shave her armpits, be in a relationship with a man, or wear high-heels without being a ‘slave to the patriarchy’ (and, yes, I know that there is a larger discussion that can be had here, about how women are encouraged to do these particular things by the patriarchy. But at the same time, if she’s aware of the discussion and still chooses to do it, then isn’t that her choice? Shouldn’t her choice be respected, as a full-grown woman capable of thinking for herself?).

I’ve even heard this judgement presented as a way for women to distance themselves from “other women”. To say that they aren’t like “other girls”; they like beer and sports and trucks, not all of that stupid, vapid stuff that “other girls” are into (question: why is it that only traditionally feminine pass times are dismissed as stupid and vapid? And why are we automatically assuming that all other girls are into the same stuff?).

There are probably hundreds of other ways that this habit of judging women for their behaviour is presented, because it is so deeply engrained in our society that we do it all the time, even if we know that we shouldn’t.

And we shouldn’t. We really shouldn’t. Because there is no one right way to be a woman. There is no wrong way to be a woman. As long as you identify as a woman, then you are valid, and you deserve to be treated as valid.

We spend too much time and energy and judgement; telling other people the right and wrong way to live, even if the ways that they live don’t actually hurt us in the long run. We become offended merely because of the way that the other has chosen to exist. And that isn’t fair to anybody. It most certainly isn’t fair to the women who knows how she wants to live, who knows exactly what makes her feel comfortable and happy, and yet is constantly judged and told she is wrong for doing so.

Women are intelligent and rational beings, with the ability to choose what is best for them. And women should be treated as such, whether that be in the case of a larger life decision, like whether or not to have children, or a smaller life decision, like what clothes they decide to wear that day. Either way, these are her choices to make, her life that she is leading. And we should all seek to empower her, to help her become the best person that she can be. Not tear her down and tell her how to live.

Women, we need to support our sisters. We need to help each other to live our best lives, and we need to do it together.

And there are so many ways that we can do this. All we have to do is change our judgement.

Instead of saying, “look at what she’s wearing”, we can say, “you look nice today!”

Instead of saying, “I’m not like other girls”, we can say, “oh, I’m into this thing!”

Instead of giving a judgement, we can give a compliment. Because while not every woman is the same, every woman deserves to be complimented.

Support women who do not often receive support. Love women who do not feel loved. Because our life choices, our hobbies, our clothes – none of that make us worthy of dismissal.

#MeToo, now #TimesUp

In 2017, we saw the #metoo movement.

I think that we are all aware of it, in one way or another. Maybe you participated, by writing your own story of sexual assault or harassment. Maybe you didn’t feel safe or comfortable enough to publish your story, but you read through them and related, adding to the issue in your own way. And maybe you couldn’t relate personally, but you scrolled through your social media pages and felt that punch to the gut that we all felt when we realized just how prevalent sexual assault or harassment really is. That it is something that affects our friends, our family, and our loved ones – not just faceless strangers on the internet or television.

Now, I have to admit, when the #metoo movement first began, I was both optimistic and concerned. Optimistic because, well… good. Sexual assault and harassment are issues that we need to talk about. They are important, and historically speaking, we haven’t talked enough about it. We haven’t talked enough about the fact that 1 in 3 women aged 18 to 34 report being sexually harassed while at work – and 71 percent of these women admit that they did not report it. We haven’t talked enough about the fact that 1 in 3 Canadian women will experience sexual assault in their adult life – and this statistic changes depending on such factors as sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ability, age, and so much more. We haven’t talked enough about the fact that only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.

So, yeah, I could bore you with statistics until the cows come home, and then I can bore the cows, but I think I’ve made my point here: this is an issue that we need to talk about.

But, that being said, when the #metoo movement first began, I was a little bit concerned, just because this wasn’t something that I wanted to be trending on Twitter for a couple of weeks, and then it vanishes into obscurity like we never said anything. This is an important issue; we need to keep talking about it.

But, much to my delight and surprise, the #metoo movement didn’t quite fall into obscurity. Instead, it took on a sort of life – over and over, we started to recognize the faces of sexual assault and harassment. Not only did multiple celebrity victims begin to stand up and explain their experiences – like Rose McGowan, Salma Hayek, and Anthony Rapp – but multiple celebrities found themselves accused of widespread sexual assault and harassment as well – such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Louis C.K. Now, we were not only talking about these issues – we had faces to put to these issues.

And, again, I was both encouraged and pessimistic. I mean, yay, not only are we talking about this now; we’re naming names. We’re calling the perpetrators out and holding them accountable for their actions. But my problem was, we’re only calling some of the perpetrators out.

Sexual assault and harassment are widespread issues. Issues that don’t happen exclusively or even primarily to powerful women in the public eye. In fact, while sexual harassment is pervasive amongst all industries, it is especially common in low-wage service jobs. There is also plenty of research that suggests that women who work in male-dominated fields experience harassment more frequently than women who work in balanced or female-dominated fields. And this is just in the workplace; this doesn’t even cover sexual assault in the home (roughly 25% of rapes are committed by a romantic partner), at school, at social gatherings, or on the street.

Sexual assault and harassment are not Hollywood issues. They are global issues. They affects all of us, and we all need to be talking about it. So as much as I’m glad to see abusive men who are addicted to power, like Weinstein and Spacey, get punished for their crimes, we cannot stop at them. We can’t get so caught up in what’s happening in Hollywood that we forget that it’s happening here to.

And then 2018 came. And with 2018, we got something new: #timesup.

You can visit the movement’s website here, and read more about what it stands for. And, yes, it is a movement that has been promoted and headed by celebrity women, but the intention is not only to spread awareness about sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry, but in all industries.

The purpose of the #timesup movement is to say, definitively, that time is up. As the website states, “The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.”

No more watching a strange man groping a women on the bus and pretending you didn’t see it.

No more shrugging catcalling off as a ‘compliment’.

No more doubting victims when they come forward, and saying that they “just want attention”.

No more giving rapists lighter sentences, just because it might have a “severe impact” on the disgusting criminal’s life.

We are done with this. We are demanding change. Time is up, and I am now convinced; we will no longer be silent on these important issues.

And to those who reacted against the #metoo movement, calling it a ‘witch hunt’ and complaining that they can’t even hug women anymore, I have only this to say: this is not a witch hunt. This is not randomly accusing innocent people (it is estimated that only 2 to 6 percent of sexual assault accusations are ever false). This is starting a discussion that we should have had centuries ago. Because my whole life, rape culture has just been accepted and tolerated. My whole life, I have seen girls blamed for the invasive actions of their male peers, whether it be a little girl scolded by their teacher because a little boy wouldn’t stop tickling her (“what sort of message do you think that sends to him?”), or grown women being asked why they didn’t just dress or behave differently to avoid being raped. We need to talk about this. We need to think about this. And if someone asks us not to hug them because it makes them feel uncomfortable, or if someone tells us that something we said offends them in this time of change, then we should take a moment before that knee-jerk defensiveness kicks in to ask ourselves why they feel this way. They might have a valid and important reason that deserves to be considered.

This is not a witch hunt. This is not unfair. If someone has never sexually assaulted or harassed anyone, then they will not be accused. If they have sexually assaulted or harassed someone, then they deserve to be accused and held accountable for their actions. That’s the way this should work, and the way that it hasn’t worked for too long. But the world is changing now. Society is so accustomed to letting these perpetrators get away with their crimes, but they won’t any longer.

Now, time is up.

The Issue of Compromise

The issue of compromise is an interesting one when it comes to women and relationships.

When I was twelve years old, one of my good (male) friends asked me out. I told him I’d get back to him with my answer, because I felt like this was one of those things that I should discuss with my girl friends first, and they all vehemently told me that I should accept. I told them that I wasn’t interested in him like that, that he was just a friend to me, and they told me that that didn’t matter. He was a boy, and he liked me, and that was all that mattered. When I stood up for myself and said that I was going to say no, they told me I was making a mistake and that I would regret this.

Something similar happened to me later on, when I was sixteen years old, and a boy in my class decided to pursue me. Despite my constant dismissal of his advances, my friends would ramble on over how sad he was, how much I should give him a chance because he was such a nice guy. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t interested.

When I was nineteen years old, a friend broke down all pretence and told me that it didn’t matter if I was attracted to the person I was dated; I just shouldn’t be alone.

But let’s backtrack a little bit more; let’s go to a conversation that I had with a (female) friend when I was seventeen. She was telling me all about a date she had recently been on, and about how he had bought her dinner. “And, you know,” she said, “after they pay for you, you have to give them something in return.” I was horrified to hear this; “even if you aren’t ready for that?” I asked, and she said, “well, yeah. If they pay for you, then they expect it.”

Growing up, I was told, in multiple ways, that women always needed to compromise for a man. Women needed to compromise their comfort so that they could have a man, or refrain from making him angry. Women needed to compromise their careers so that their man could pursue his career. If the man was unhappy with the relationship, then it was the woman who needed to change; she was the nag, the bitch, the ball-buster, the crazy ex, the prude, the slut. If the relationship ended, then it was the woman’s fault, because she didn’t compromise enough.

A woman’s education is rarely seen as more important than her marital status. A woman’s ability to excel at her job is undermined by her ability to bare and raise children. A woman’s intelligence is not valued nearly as high as her ability to attract a man.

This idea of unceasing compromise created in me a great fear of commitment. I didn’t want to give up everything – my happiness, my ambitions, my comfort – all so that I could keep a relationship going. The way I saw it, there was no way that I could have both. People simply expected too much from women. And, quite simply, the idea of having a man, any man, did not matter to me more than I did.

Some might even say, I’m a rigid, non-compromising, prudish bitch. I’m not ashamed of that; I’ll own that title if you want to give it to me.

Because compromise is important, isn’t it? Relationships are built off of compromise; you can’t stay together if you won’t compromise. Right? And I’d fully agree with this if the compromise that I saw was evenly distributed.

But I recently watched an interview with the great Eartha Kitt, where she is asked if she would be willing to compromise if a man were to come into her life. “A man comes into my life and you have to compromise, for what? A relationship is a relationship that has to be earned. Not to compromise for,” she says. When pressed about whether or not she even wants a relationship, or if she is simply in love with herself, Kitt continues on to say, “I fall in love with myself, and I want someone to share it with me. I want someone to share me with me.”

When I first saw this interview, I watched it three or four times, over and over. I thought it was incredible, hearing this perspective, because it was so different from what I had heard about relationships in the past. This was not “accept the first man who will take you and hold onto him for dear life, because you need him”. This was not “sacrifice everything – your comfort, your dreams, everything, because it will make him happy”. This was, “love yourself first and foremost, and accept no less than what makes you happy. Because when you do that, you will fully, truly fall in love – and that is a wonderful thing”.

This is what a relationship should be.

We should not strive to create a relationship for the sake of creating a relationship. We should not have to give up everything to uphold a relationship that no longer makes us happy, just because that’s what we are expected to do. The purpose of a relationship should be to make us happy. To form a connection with someone who makes us better, who supports us.

Relationships should build us up; not hold us down. And the latter is what I have too often seen, especially for the women. The wives. The mothers who must sacrifice a career they wanted, an education they worked hard for, because their male counterparts were not expected to compromise as much as they were.

I love myself too much to give up my life and happiness for all that.

So I beg this of you now; love yourself, and do not settle for what doesn’t fulfill you. Do not do something for a loved one that you are not ready for. Do not lie to yourself, or force something, just because you feel pressured to do it. Because, end of day, if someone truly loves you, then what matters to you will matter to them. They will find a way to support you, to make your life better. They will find a way to compromise for you.

Here’s to Strong Women

When I was thirteen years old, I started to get into comic books. At the time, I was particularly partial to superhero comics. And as a young girl, I heard all the jokes about how, of course I was so absorbed in a genre that followed traditionally handsome, muscular men dressed in skin-tight clothing. It didn’t seem to matter much if I said that that wasn’t what drew me to the genre; everyone was simply convinced that that must be what it was.

I had a hard time convincing people that, when I opened a Batman comic, I didn’t do it for the sad, rich boy with abs; I was there for the tragic cat burglar who wanted love, but never at the expense of her freedom or independence. I wanted to read about the clown girl who fell head-over-heels for the wrong man, and then learned to recognize the abuse, and, with the help of her best friend (another woman who had faced mistreatment from an entitled and careless man) she got herself out of that situation.

I am, of course, talking about Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy, respectively. Three fictional characters who are not only strong, capable, and fiercely independent – they are, quite simply, unapologetically female.

When I was thirteen years old, these were the sorts of fictional characters that I was attracted to, in all forms of media: power fantasies. More specifically, feminine power fantasies. I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because she was allowed to (un-ironically) love shopping and make-up and gossiping, while still being able to kick some demon ass and stand up for herself. I loved Wonder Woman, because she was fierce and strong, but nurturing and loving all at once. I loved Xena, because she could be both warrior and princess without question.

When I was sixteen years old, my attention began to turn a little bit more toward celebrities, because I suppose that’s what you do when you’re a teenager (or, it was what me and my friends did, at least). The celebrities that I sought out were much the same.

I loved rocker chicks, like P!nk and Joan Jett, women who weren’t afraid to challenge what was expected of women. I loved celebrities like Lady Gaga, who insisted on expressing themselves in the way that they saw fit. I loved Emma Watson, and any woman who was willing to brand themselves a feminist or stand up for women’s issues.

I loved female celebrities who will go unnamed here, simply because there is not time and space to mention all of them.

When I was eighteen years old, I became more aware of the women in my own life, in my family (as you tend to do when you’re facing the possibility of moving out and moving on).

I heard stories about my maternal grandmother, and how much of a firecracker she had always been. I heard about this five-foot-tall woman, growing up with nothing to call her own and having to build her own life from scratch. I heard about the time that her own brother made fun of her until she could stand it no longer, and she stabbed him in the hand with a fork.

I remembered growing up with my mother, who was covered almost head-to-toe in tattoos and dyed her hair a new colour every week. I remember her pictures being published in tattoo magazines, her name being made as a small-time tattoo model, even when she had two fully grown daughters. I remember her telling me that the people who thought she shouldn’t be who she was at her age didn’t matter. I remember her telling me how important it was to be true to yourself, and to be proud of who you are, no matter what that means.

I remember growing up with my sister, who has never once considered not speaking her mind. No matter what, even if what she says is considered rude or incorrect, she will say it. If others tell her that she should be humble, then she will climb to the highest rooftop just to scream out how much of a gift she is to the world. If someone tries to hurt or slight her, then she will do precisely what she needs to do to protect herself, because that is precisely the sort of strong, independent woman she is.

Now, I am twenty-two years old, and I am more aware now than ever that strong women are a gift upon this world.

As women, we are too often told to be something very particular; we are told to be soft, humble, passive, sweet, whatever – my point is, whenever a woman does not subscribe to this limited definition of what a woman can be, the effect can be truly inspiring.

Because the fact of the matter is, women don’t have to be one thing. Women shouldn’t be one thing; there are millions and millions of us, and we are all different. We all look different, act different, think different, love different, and we should reflect all that in how we live our lives.

A woman who does not perfectly reflect society’s definition of beauty, and yet still loves herself and owns what she has, is a rare and beautiful thing – specifically because society tells women that they shouldn’t do that.

A woman who unapologetically owns her quote-unquote ‘unfeminine’ traits, like ambition or assertiveness, is, again, a rare and beautiful thing.

A woman who is, quite simply, herself, regardless of what that might mean, is a rare and beautiful thing.

And the reason why am I writing this, more important than simply reminding the world that strong women are a gift, is because we need to remind the strong women in our lives that they are strong, that they are amazing, that they inspire us. We need to support our fellow women, to encourage them to continue being themselves. Because we exist in a society that sometimes seems intent on tearing them down, but if we can remind them that what they do is important, then maybe they can find the strength to continue.

As women, we need to build one another up. We need to be there for one another, to make one another better, instead of constantly trying to prove that we are better than them. On top of telling women what they should be, society has also tried to trap us in a constant cycle of competition with one another: we must be the pretty-est, the most loved, the best mother, but the truth is, we don’t need any to accept any of this. We have the option of supporting our fellow women, of helping them to become stronger. Because we all deserve to be and feel strong.