Teaching, Studying and Living Feminism

Part 3: Living Feminism

Some time ago, I started a three part series devoted to feminism. I did not want it to take that long before I actually completed it, but it is never too late!

The first two parts were about teaching feminism and gender equality in high school and about ways to study feminism. Of course, they were just my personal experiences, but they  were both very interesting to write as they enabled me to see how much could be done in the classroom (from experience) to improve gender equality and to realize how much more can be done still.

This is when part 3, living Feminism, comes in. It is one thing to read about feminism and gender equality; teaching the subject is another – in both cases, you are making steps towards equality. Even if both these experiences can be painful, as you may very well be discouraged to discover how sexist the world still is or to hear students tell you that feminism is for angry, ugly women, they are enlightening. There is also something intriguing about searching “feminist” on Pinterest and finding pictures like this one, which rings very true:

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Only to find that one as you scroll down:

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Don’t get me wrong. I love fashion and I am always impressed by the creativity of some pieces, but how do you go from searching “feminist” online to being shown images of fashion, jewelry and makeup? Is that because feminism is about women, and just because it is about women it must lead to what we are all told women like: shoes, dresses, mascara, diamonds (a girl’s best friend for sure ^^) and pearls? And in that context, is it really possible to live feminism?

Some people will tell me: yes, it is. Of course, it is! I do not disagree… But there is still a long way to go. A little anecdote will serve as my example.

I know a girl who studies feminism; she does not study it as I do – it is actually her field of study. She rages and revolts when she hears sexist jokes; she is very independent and she lives her life like a pro. But then… love comes in and everything seems to disappear. We are back on the same old tracks. All of a sudden, it is alright that the guy she likes has sex with her whenever he likes, but will not be there when she is the one who wants some affection. He will go, take what he wants, and refuse to sleep next to her. And she finds excuses for him – and she will say that it is normal that he did not agree to be with her when she wanted to because he was busy and she was being tiresome, as if she had forgotten that she, too, could say no and that her body was not his object. That he should treat her with respect.

Of course, in real life, things are a little more complicated – there are issues of self-love, trust and commitment on both the boy and the girl’s sides. And I am not saying that the boy is an ass, only that my friend sometimes forgets about all the values she defends so fiercely when she is around some men, as if male presence muted her.

The sad part is… it is true of many women who believe in equality. How many times have I seen very outspoken lady friends fall silent when around men? How often have I noticed that in a group composed of both men and women, men usually speak the most? They just direct the conversation. Then again, not always. Not all men. Not all women. But the pattern can be observed everywhere…

Such observations make me wonder if I am quiet because I am girl and not simply because I am quiet. They make me ask myself if I like cooking and a clean house and being a good, nicely dressed hostess because, as I often jokingly say, I was “raised to be a housewife” or just because I actually do enjoy these things and would still like them if I were a boy. They make me wonder where I would be right now if I had been born male.

Because of such observations, every time I see a girl wearing a lot of makeup, clinging to a boy, I wonder if she is happy or if she does everything FOR the boy because that’s what magazines have told her she must do ever since she was a child. If she’s happy and she loves makeup then it’s awesome. But what if she is afraid the boy will not like her anymore if she does not wear it? What if she is actually really self-conscious because other girls are mean to her because of her looks? Then it is a sad situation.

In a weird way, I think maybe that’s what living feminism is: rather than just trying to live by a set of rules, it is questioning the world around you. Always. And questioning yourself, your habits, your thoughts, your prejudices and preconceived ideas, for we all have them, and taking a close look at the way you treat women, but also men.

As as Maya Angelou would say:

“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this world a better place for all people”.

The Art of Finding Home

The Art of Finding Home

Close your eyes
Feel the snow under your feet
You are not cold.

Fireflies –
They dance to your heartbeat
Your thoughts unfold.

Crystal flowers bloom
Sparkle against the deep night skies
You are warm – you are home.


       As I lay in bed last night, tired with sleeplessness, I started thinking of all the places I had ever called home and of the door that is soon to close behind me. “Home is where the heart is” – the idiom popped up in my head – but if so it must be, I pondered, I am not quite sure where my home is.

      “Where is home?” is, I suppose, a question which cannot be answered without first asking “What is home?” Such simple-looking questions – three familiar words, used several dozen times a day… Just like the house, the flat or the city we live in, they must have had us startled and confused at some point, when we had only just discovered them in childhood.  Then we became quite insensitive to them, as we do to most things. This resembles what philosopher John Dewey would call the anaesthetic malady. Mechanical, repetitive labour, for example, places human beings in a state of constant repetition and humdrum that hinders creativity and all other forms of aesthetic experiences, by which one simply means experiences that hold a sense of reality and vitality essential to intellectual activity.

        The same is true of the places we frequent on a regular basis. Remember the first time you moved to a new place: when everything was new and unfamiliar still, all seemed full of wonders and mysteries. You may have been overwhelmed with the uncomfortable, yet thrilling sensation that you did not belong. Yet, every step was an adventure! The first walk you took around the neighbourhood feels much longer in retrospect than all the other walks you later took down these very same streets. Only after leaving for a period of time and returning or trying to share your favourite places with someone else brings you back to the sense of completeness and actual experiencing you first felt because then, your personal attachment and the memories, painful or dear, you associate with each spot, each nook and cranny, come into play.

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      What, then, is home? My parents have sold the flat I have been calling home for years. My first impression of it was one of disgust. We fixed the place together. It grew on me and then… I stopped noticing the nice little details about it. It was just home. Still I know that I will miss  secluding myself in the green bedroom with the drawing table and black curtains to read, to paint, to write or dance in the middle of the night. I have associated memories with the flat, but leaving also means starting anew. That place is only a material representation of home, so will another feel less like home? I have moved many times before and always adapted. No one house or flat has ever felt more like home than another. What I know, however, is that I have never felt quite at-home in the city where I currently live, which brings me back to the opening question of this paragraph: what is home? And why do we ache for home even when we seem to have no fixed place to call home?

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
– Maya Angelou
       Yes, we ache for home because we crave safety, protection and completion – home is a feeling, a feeling that I get when I see two things. The first is the ocean…
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A view from the Newport sea side, Rhode Island.

  The second is my little brother with my mum, my friends Veronica and Nicholas, Vinny, Jeremy, Dave, Mathilde, Thomas, Doris, Mehdi, Fred and Lucas, and currently Koray, Catherine and Mathieu. I hope one day we can all meet by the ocean shore… and just for a day, feel perfect and complete. Be at peace.