“It is confidence in our bodies, minds and spirits that allows us to keep looking for new adventures, new directions to grow in, and new lessons to learn – which is what life is all about.” -Oprah
Simone de Beauvoir once wrote that “women are not born, but made.” What she meant when she said this was that the gendered traits most often associated with women- how they dress, how they act, how they talk with men, how they talk with women, how they pursue relationships- aren’t intrinsic to being born female, but rather are imprinted on female children as part of their socialization process. While this is true of all genders, and isn’t strictly determined by assigned sex, she made a very good point about what women are expected to become. To a certain extent, she suggested, women never cease becoming- they must constantly change to reflect the dominant forces in their lives at any given point in time. While the world has changed dramatically since she penned “The Second Sex,” this remains fairly constant.
I don’t mean to make sweeping statements about women and their behaviour. All of us in that category are so diverse that generalizations are often pointless. What I do intend, however, is to talk about how being identified with certain gender(s) and sex(es) impacts our lives.
Because it does. While it’s foolish to say that all women walking down the street are targets for sexual violence, it’s also foolish to say that being a woman doesn’t come with an increased risk of being targeted in that manner. Similarly, while it’s ridiculous to say that all women are always put on a pedestal by all men, it’s true that men in a variety of cultures will go out of their way for certain women simply because they’re women. Being a gendered person- someone who fits into categories like “man” and “woman,” or someone who defies the same- comes with ups and downs that are derived not only from our own behaviour, but from how everyone around us “reads” us and expects us to behave.
This column isn’t going to be a regular “How to Keep Yourself Safe” set of tips. Safety on the road is important, and I promise you that safety is a topic we’ll visit frequently. But those safety articles that we so often see in women’s travel magazines and the newspaper only accomplish two things. One, they put the blame squarely back on you if something does go wrong by implying that, if someone hurts you, you clearly didn’t do enough to “keep yourself safe,” and that’s a bunch of nonsense. Two, the implication of this plethora of articles is that sexual safety is the only thing that women travelers should focus on. I’d like to state unequivocally here that sexual assault is NOT the only issue, nor even the most important issue, that we engage with whenever we pack our bags to go somewhere. Just as each of us is a unique person in spite of the label “woman” that we attach to ourselves, so are the challenges and adventures we encounter around the world. Moreover, as women who are exploring as many places in the world as we can, we are also meeting women around the world who can’t do the same. Every dollar, Euro, or yen that we spend speaks volumes about us and creates ripples throughout this globalized planet.
Feminism is a label that frightens a lot people for a lot of reasons. Some flee from it because they can’t stand the idea of a “ball-busting angry chick.” Others shy away from it because, especially in the States, it’s been applied to a narrow category of people to which they don’t belong. Still others avoid it because they don’t believe it’s necessary to be a feminist anymore, because “we’re beyond all that.” I cry foul to all of the above. Feminism can be as political as waving a sign or as personal as choosing to take a vacation. Feminism means the safety and freedom of all people, not just the ones with white skin from middle-class America. And yes, feminism is still very, very important.
Go Girls- Go Folk- are feminists in many ways. We push our boundaries. We ask questions. We go to new places not simply for our gratification, but to make a difference. All of us who write for, read, and are inspired by Go Girl Magazine know that what makes us unique is that we’re not passive tourists, but active participants in some very important changes in the way cultures and countries interact around the world. Sometimes we’re caught in crossfire, but sometimes we’re first-hand witnesses to enormous steps forward. Welcome to the Feminist Go Girl.