Today is International Women’s Day, a “global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future”. As a woman, feminist, and human being – it is a day that I hold very close to my heart.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, I thought I would share with you some takeaways from a woman who I have never met but deeply respect and admire. A woman who is committed to advocating equality and human rights. A woman who stands up and challenges the fictions and labels we create and often automatically accept as truth in society and as individuals. A woman who is actively working to do everything she can to raise awareness and lower the horrifically high statistics around women being abused, injured and killed by men. So today, for our book review of the month, I share with you some key lessons or takeaways from her best-selling book that is raw, honest, thoughtful, challenging, insightful, intellectual and inspiring.
The woman is Tara Moss and the book is The Fictional Woman.
I could write A LOT about this book and the lessons and takeaways within it – but instead, I will summarise just a few and encourage you to get your hands on a copy to read in full for yourself.
Consciously look for fictions
The main message I personally took from Tara’s book is to consciously be on the ‘look out’ for fictions or myths, particularly around women.
Throughout her book she directly challenges many of these fictions using facts and figures, and her own experiences. Some of these include, but are not limited to, the ‘dumb model’, the ‘real woman’, the ‘ideal body’, the ‘victim’ or ‘surviver’ of violence, the role of ‘the mother’, the stereotype of ‘the feminist’, and perceptions around beauty.
I found myself deeply bothered and uncomfortable reading through each of the chapters – because I could see not only where these fictions are prevalent in our society, but where they have become so engrained that sometimes women believe them and their beauty and talents are consequently held back by this belief. As a business + life passion coach, I have supported clients who have felt that they were running out of time to find their purpose because they were approaching a certain age, where their self esteem was tarnished because of their perceived lack of beauty or the fact that they had an ‘undesirable’ body shape, where they felt torn about prioritising their own needs because they didn’t align with what is seen to be the perfect mother, and where they haven’t felt worthy or intelligent enough to pursue a dream because of past abuse. As part of helping women reach their goals, I often need to challenge these myths, and help women discover the ‘truth’ about themselves, their needs, and their abilities. It was therefore refreshing and incredibly empowering to hear these fictions challenged directly, openly and honestly in so much detail by Tara. I love that she is opening our eyes to fictions that have been ingrained in many of us throughout time and encouraging us to scratch beneath the surface of what we are being led to believe.
Feminism is not a dirty word
There are a number of people, including women, who venomously dislike the word feminist and all that it involves. Many of these women, however, do appear to (sometimes unknowingly) agree with feminist principles. In Tara’s book, she pithily says that feminists “want gender equality or fairness”. She includes the dictionary definition of feminism:
feminism (noun): the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of political, social, and economic equality to men.”
I personally do not think that feminism is a dirty word or label. Like Tara, I think it is time for us to ‘reclaim’ feminism. I think it is important that we remember the core meaning and purpose of feminism – and be aware of those who (knowingly or unknowingly) try to taint it or change it’s true meaning and underlying principles. It is time that we start challenging the myth that feminists are “man haters” or want to be above men – we want to be equal (i.e., same value or status).
Men can be feminists too
My Dad calls himself a feminist – but once was unable to join a feminist movement because of his gender. In her book, Tara says:
“Feminism is an ideology. It seems logical to me that one does not have to be born with a particular gender, or to identify as a particular gender, to believe in a set of ideals – that those without the Y chromosome are equal to those with the Y chromosome, and deserve to be treated as equals, given equal opportunities, rights over their own bodies and so on. The belief in women’s rights and equality, and the advocacy of those principals is what makes you a feminist, not your chromosomes. You don’t need to be a woman to believe in feminism and more than you need to be same-sex attracted to believe in marriage equality.”
She also explains that you can be a supporter of feminism, without personally identifying as a feminist too.
Tara believes, however, that feminism must be led by women – that even though men can be advocates, that they should not be “deciders of what women should or should not do or what should be done within the women’s movement.” She uses the example of, in her view (and mine too), that our male Prime Minister Tony Abbott being the Minister for Women is inappropriate.
You can read more about Tara’s view on whether men can be feminists on her blog here.
Separate to Tara’s work, but also on this topic, you can encourage the male feminists in your life to subscribe to the He For She campaign – a movement that is encouraging those men who are standing up to address inequalities and discrimination faced by women and girls. You can watch Emma Watson’s fabulous speech about feminism in launching this campaign below:
Finally, I’d like to leave you with this video of Tara talking about the need to end the “toxic silence” around some of these issues as she discuses her book, experiences and observations of women and girls being abused and mistreated.
I’d love to know in the comments below what feminism means to you and/or why you are a feminist.
Let’s soar together,
Please note that if you use any of the links in this blog post to buy this book, I may receive a small commission from Book Depository.