First published in issue one of Cinders Magazine

Feminism is still a tricky word for some people – that’s a fact that we at Cinders would love to change. Here, editor Méabh McDonnell talks about her journey to becoming a feminist.

The more people who realise that Feminism merely means believing that women deserve equal treatment, respect and rights to men, the better. We need to de-mystify the word. We also need to acknowledge the importance of intersectionality, the idea that some women have more to deal with than others. While you may feel that feminism has done its job for you, it may not for your LGBTQIA+ friend, your POC colleague, or your non-cisgendered idol.

Feminist superhero
Illustration by Méabh McDonnell

Feminism will never be a movement that we can achieve singularly. It only works if we stand together as We. Not as an us, not as a them and definitely not as an I. It works if we work together, listen to each other’s stories and experiences and acknowledge them as valid.

It works if we encourage people to learn more about feminism and intersectionality.

We will never gain allies by telling people they are wrong (even if they are).

We gain allies by showing them why our point of view is right and by teaching with patience and most importantly, without judgement. Many girls – myself included- have been reluctant to call themselves ‘feminists’.

For many years I was reluctant to say that I was a feminist because I felt that I was overstepping my boundaries.

That feminism was an extremist movement advocating the extermination of men. That I would be seen as asking for too much if I declared myself a feminist.

That I would be asking for more than my fair share.

That I would be judged for saying I was a feminist and I would have to give my reasons why.

 I wasn’t sure that I’d have any.

“Feminism will never be a movement that we can achieve singularly. It only works if we stand together as We”

 All of those are bad reasons to not want to say I was a feminist. Not least because if I had used the above definition – I was absolutely a feminist, I just had the wrong meaning in my head. That was many years ago now, but I still find myself wondering how I ended up with that incorrect concept of feminism?

Why was I so afraid of that word?

The only reason I can think of is that up to that point the only portrayals of women identifying as ‘feminist’ in media were highly negative. They were portrayed as angry women who were unreasonable and difficult. Women who were still fighting a fight that the media wanted me to think was won in the 60s when bras were burned and the sexual revolution raged on.

“I do think that there is a much better attitude toward the word now than there was even five years ago.”

I don’t fully know when I got that in my head. But I do know that if that was what I thought, then it was also what countless other girls were thinking and thought about feminism. I do think that there is a much better attitude toward the word now than there was even five years ago. That’s a great thing and not to be underestimated. But I still think the misguided attitude I had is still around. It hasn’t fully gone away. And every time someone says ‘I don’t need feminism’ or ‘I don’t want to say I’m a feminist because I think men and women are equal’ it perpetuates the idea that feminism is somehow obsolete and misguided. It also completely ignores the thousands of women who are denied education, denied reproductive rights, access to proper bathroom facilities, or mistreated because of their race or their sexuality who all very much need feminism. It does them a disservice to say we don’t. I would still be denying my feminist nature if it weren’t for the smart, educated patient women who are my friends, colleagues and idols. They are women who have shown me what it is to be a feminist without judging.

“I was ignorant before and through research I have hopefully taken steps to become less ignorant and more pro-active”.

These women encourage us to ask questions about feminism and learn more as feminists. Because there is always room to learn more. I was ignorant before and through research I have hopefully taken steps to become less ignorant and more pro-active. I still have a lot of learning to do though.

For now, I am proud to say I am a part of the We.

 I am a feminist.

– By Méabh McDonnell