Trigger warning: this post talks about police brutality in America and mental health issues.
Happy international women’s day! Roughly around the time that I started this blog, Emma Watson made a speech at the UN for the HeForShe campaign. This is what lead me to start identifying as a feminist. Before this, I didn’t want to use the words “feminist” or “feminism” because I thought they were toxic – so many people are afraid of the word, but it all comes down to women having the same rights as men. So I’m writing this post to talk about some of the women who I look up to.
I feel like I should include Emma Watson first because she was why I started to identify myself as a feminist. Her speech really struck a chord with me before, and made me realise that feminism is not a bad thing. I remember when I was 12 I asked my religious studies teacher what feminism was, and she explained it to me. I told her how I don’t think I am one because I don’t like how a lot of feminists hate men. Of course, I was young and didn’t understand that this is called radical feminism and that is personally not how I think feminism should be like. And then when I was 16 after watching Emma Watson’s UN speech, I emailed the headteacher of my school and told her that I had watched the video and that I think this is an extremely important issue and could we please educate the rest of the school on it. We were planning to put on an assembly, but I had to leave the school because of other issues. It was nice to hear that a few months later the assembly still went on and was a success.
A year ago I started watching Parks and Recreation and fell in love with Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope. She was a character who knew what she wanted, how to get it, was extremely positive and loved herself. I had heard about Amy Poehler from when she was floating about in the media because of her’s and Tina Fey’s Golden Globe speech a few months before, but had never really looked her up. Now I don’t know what Amy Poehler is like 24/7 because I don’t know her (how I’d wish to though), but the projection of herself that she puts out to the media isn’t far off Leslie Knope. I found Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls on the internet and ended up buying her book Yes Please and was inspired to really try and pursue the things that I want to do with my life.
I don’t have a particularly exciting culture. I’m half white British, half Middle Eastern, but I don’t know any of my Middle Eastern family or really connect to it that much. If you put me side by side with an Iranian person, I guess you could tell by my facial features and dark hair contrasting with my pale skin that I have some heritage from there. But I have pretty much grown up with white culture. Amandla Stenberg, however, opened me up to the struggles that people from other cultures, mostly black, go through. I always knew that racism was bad and don’t discriminate people based on their skin colour, but then the police brutality towards black people in America began to get more media coverage and I was shocked. And then black people started to get even more coverage for speaking up against things like cultural appropriation vs. appreciation. I never even realised this was a thing. White people are able to do things like put their hair in styles from black culture like cornrows or dreadlocks, but if a black person does it they’re more likely to get shot by the police because of it. Call this topic controversial, but I am personally against cultural appropriation. Sure, I don’t know everything to do with the subject and have got a lot more learning to do such as what exactly can be classed as appreciation and where the line is drawn towards appropriation, but if minorities who are a part of a culture different to white don’t like white people using part of their culture as something like a fashion statement, then I believe that we shouldn’t do it. It’s simple. If something upsets or angers someone else, then I don’t do it, and that’s the same with cultural appropriation.
I really admire Demi Lovato for everything that she’s been through. I grew up watching her on Disney Channel in Camp Rock and Sonny With a Chance, and now as I enter adulthood I still have a massive amount of respect for her, if not more. I remember when she was in the media a lot when I was about 12 for punching a dancer whilst she was on tour, but I didn’t think much of it. I vaguely knew that child stars had a tendency to go a bit “crazy” like Lindsey Lohan, but I didn’t think that the people I watched on Disney Channel were going to become those kinds of people. I didn’t even really register them as children since they were all about 6 years older than me, they just seemed like adults/older teenagers. And then a couple of years ago I started to really get into Demi Lovato’s music, and naturally I looked her up. It turns out that she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder not long after she punched that dancer, and now she’s a big advocate for mental health and getting people to feel good about themselves. I just have so much respect for her because she went through something like that in the public eye whilst she was still incredibly young (not much older than I am now), and recovering from all whilst the media was focused on her. I know that recovery is a day to day basis kind of thing, but it still doesn’t deny the fact that she’s an incredibly strong and brave woman.
**UPDATE: WED 9 MARCH 2016**
I realised that I forgot to include Rowan Blanchard on here so that’s what I’m doing now.
I came across Rowan Blanchard’s views on feminism last year, and I can’t believe I didn’t include her in this post the first time round. I just saw a recent tweet that she posted about women either having to love their body entirely or completely hate it and it just opened up so many new views about my own body that I didn’t even realise I could have. I can like some things about myself and not others, the others can just be a work in progress that I’m learning to like, because I really do want to like them. Rowan Blanchard is a couple years younger than me, which kind of blows my mind, because I know her more for her outspoken views than her work as an actress on Disney Channel (I do intend to watch her on Disney Channel though). She is just everything that I aspire to be. She makes me feel empowered.