In Kool Kanya’s theme of the month ﹘ Feminist In Progress ﹘ we decode the nitty-gritties of practising feminism laden with imperfections.
I’m questioning my feminist outlook after I stood up for my beliefs.
Dear Kool Kanya,
I stood up for my beliefs today, but now, everyone thinks I’m anti-feminist.
I’m all for female solidarity and sisterhood, of course, but lately, I’ve been questioning it a lot. It feels like I’m obligated to have the same views as my female coworkers, even when I don’t agree with them. Should I agree with them just because we’re a part of a sisterhood?
Everyone seems to think I’ve switched teams because I do not share their beliefs (for instance, I don’t think female leaders are necessarily better than male leaders). But feminism is all about respecting personal choices, so why am I being scrutinised? I feel like my agency and identity are being questioned.
What should I do?
Sincerely, Not an anti-feminist
Dear Not an anti-feminist,
First off, we just want to say we totally get you. In a workplace, it is not unusual for employees to resort to groupism in many situations. Also, great job on standing up for yourself! That takes a lot of guts.
Sisterhood is great, but only when your individual beliefs are respected. When it fails to do that and meddles with your beliefs, it loses its meaning.
We believe in the importance of standing up for your values, no matter what. As long as you have respect for human dignity and people’s right to their own life, you should be fine to stand by any opinion. Solidarity and sisterhood mean that you can freely talk about different opinions. It also means putting in more effort to explain your point of view. At the end of this conversation, they may still disagree with your standpoint, and that is okay. As long as each individual has a say and is heard out, and their opinions are respected and valued.
There may not be much you can do to influence their opinion, but we strongly suggest you try a few handy tricks:
The first step is to talk to your coworkers if this sisterhood at work is something you really care about and want to salvage. If you feel like you’ve been misunderstood, try to have a healthy dialogue with them about your beliefs. You are not obligated to explain why you believe in your views, but do share them if you are comfortable with it.
Make your stance clear. Remind them that feminism does not entail mutual agreement in all spheres but an openness to new ideologies.
It isn’t clear what stance earned you this title, but we do hope that it was a positive stance and that you had a good reason for it. Be honest and transparent with yourself, and ask yourself why you feel cornered, or why your colleagues feel they had to label you an anti-feminist.
Talk to your coworkers about why they believe you are in the wrong and understand where they are coming from. Leave room for new opinions; that is fundamental to feminism!
Do not feel guilty
If you do, you might want to change that. You do not need to apologise for what you strongly believe in. Feminism entails respecting one’s personal choice. You do not have to agree with your coworkers, nor do you have to prove yourself to them.
Feminism means that everyone gets to share the spotlight and talk about their views. Trust us, you have not let down your sisters. We’re sure they will support you now that they have heard you out. Instead, be proud of yourself for standing your ground.
Hold onto your moment of self-realisation
Sometimes, we forget that this idea of ‘sisterhood’ assumes a consensus among all women about what is right for them. But, not all women are the same – there are innumerable differences in experiences and ideologies. Feminism and sisterhood are not set in stone; they are constantly evolving and becoming more inclusive of different wants and needs. Your letter suggests you realise this too. You do not have to agree with your female colleagues if you don’t want to, and it does not make you any less of a feminist.
We’re so glad you understand the need to advocate for others and speak your mind ﹘ a true feminist in progress! There are many colours to feminism; not all look the same. Nor do they have to. Hold on to that, and do not be discouraged by this incident.
It’s essential to have a community that respects your identity and beliefs. The Kool Kanya Community is one such safe space. Keep the company of those who understand and support your views. We sincerely hope that your coworkers understand your perspective and feel comfortable disagreeing with you while you still fiercely support each other.
We hope that you do not feel alienated due to this incident, nor disheartened. You have extraordinary courage for standing up for your beliefs, and that makes you nothing of an anti-feminist.
Let’s raise our power together, fellow feminist!
Love, Kool Kanya
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