By Lili Prodanova
It’s a cool summer morning. Well, as cool as August can be here in the south of Eastern Europe. I turn my Stava app on, CastBox app on and...go. I start my daily morning run tuned in to Tim Ferriss. Today I am on episode #245 and suddenly a sentence from the podcast strikes me…“I realized it would be possible to create these things I wanted to do…because you need this guy who you looked up to and he is incredible, one of the best in the world and he is still just another person...so if you work hard and pursue something you can get there if you just don’t quit.”
The magical triggering power of role models. Someone showing you that you have potential to grow and achieve so much as a human being as long as you put the work into it. But are role models like this for all of us? Or in a society full of naturalized social norms, do accepted models of behavior only limit some people’s development? Cultures and societies taking for granted the paths that dictate where we should go. But what if they are taking us where we don’t want to go? Gender norms, but also perceptions of religion, race and sexuality, serve as indicators of which ‘train’ we are allowed to get on in life. Constructed by society, strong, almost unmovable infrastructures of norms, polished daily by the media, regulate what is wrong and what is right. Boys don’t cry. Girls shouldn’t be so loud. What kind of wife would you be if you cannot cook well? How can you call yourself a man when you…..? Are you sick – how can you sleep with her/him?
Don’t you feel irritated to keep going down this path which is leading us to…somewhere where few would be truly happy, because barely anyone checks all the requirements of their ‘label’? There is an urgency for role models who show it is unnecessary to have judgmental labels. Role models who are looked up to for more than just what they look like, something which only damages the wonderful diversity of humanity. Role models that show magic exists. That it is possible to create these things that we want, for example, building an aircraft or being a nurse, regardless of skin colour, nationality, religion, gender or sexuality.
But where does all this fear, judgement or prejudice based on gender and other factors come from? Is it the urge to create a binary of “the better us” and “the bad other”?
I am often “the bad other” when I express my passion to strive for an equal world and call myself a feminist. As if that is а dirty, nasty word, synonym for ‘man-hater’. But I love men... so am I a feminist? What does it mean to be a feminist? I sought and found my answer. I am naturally, first of all, human. My most authentic version is utterly human. I prefer to identify myself, in essence, as a human before I identify as a woman or anything else. And so my humanity, the feeling of belonging with all humans eliminates any urges to judge, to feel superior or inferior to anyone – be it of different gender, race, religion, or any sub-culture. To me, to be a feminist is to be human. Feminism is for all. It is for women and it is for men and all of those who do not identify with either of these terms. For people who want to be authentic. Feminism is for people who want to prioritize humanity rather than consider the fluid social construct of gender (that is destructive to us all) as an essential part of their identity. Feminism is part of a broader humanism that urges us to love. Love all.
This does not mean we should accept any action and brutality, but that we should accept all nature, and respect human rights. Stealing, violently hurting, blackmailing, etc. are crimes and are not to be praised. But we are currently facilitating a culture where physical violence is more acceptable than the tears of men; where sexual assaults on girls or boys (from touching their bums without permission to shamelessly raping them) is less condemned than being not lady like. How hypocritical are these moral stands? How can we dare to judge who people chose to sleep with, who they love, what they feel and what they desire and at the same time simply ignore when someone’s human rights of education, freedom of choice and dignity are denied? Aren’t we all, before anything else, souls worthy of love and not hate?
”In the beginning, woman was truly the Sun. An authentic person.” (Hiratsuka Raicho) A manifesto showing that because of their humanity women are powerful and can realize their liberation through releasing their inner genius, a spirituality that is not gendered. Emphasizing our humanity is what I see as essential to accepting diversity on all grounds. Realizing that I have not come to this world to live in the shadow of anyone, and neither would I ever dare to think someone has beaten all the odds of existence to only live in my shadow. We can all shine. Moreover, loving oneself truly, not egoistically but comprehensively being aware of one’s own labyrinths of mess and darkness, can help us empathise with others and help them instead of putting them down.
I am human so I am a feminist. For me feminism is not about being the same, but about respecting differences and celebrating them as features that make life so much more colourful and exciting, instead of perceiving them as threats. Feminism is about being brave enough to love without fear, fear of the unknown other that may act in ways not prescribed by the label they have been stuck with.
You have someone you love for sure, so do I. And someone loves you, too. Maybe you love your family, friends, your nation, and others with whom you share something important. Can we not bravely extend that love to all, simply because we are all human, because we share so much more than what makes us different? Love encompasses all humans. Now imagine you feel that love and you can empower others with it. You can be that role model who shows people can have all kinds of unexpected combinations of characteristics and they are still worthy of respect, honesty, trust and love.
So who are you? Are you, first of all, and ultimately human?
- Tim Ferriss podcast, episode #245 - https://www.acast.com/thetimferrissshow/245-the-magic-misdirection-and-mindset-of-david-blaine
- Hiratsuka Raicho, In the Beginning, Woman Was the Sun – The Autobiography of a Japanese Feminist , Translated by Teruko Craig (2010) - https://cup.columbia.edu/book/in-the-beginning-woman-was-the-sun/9780231138130
Lili Prodanova was born and raised in Bulgaria but her interest in Japanese culture took her to Leeds where she studied International relations and Japanese. She has experience in project and events management. She is currently a student doing MSc Global Innovation Management. Her interestes include gender relations, equalities and entrereneruship. She enjoys dancing and photography as ways of expressing and exploring humanness.
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