Standing up for Feminism (Even If It Makes You An Outsider)
I grew up partly in the U.S. and partly in Russia, where sexism is not really considered a problem. Many Russians believe that all women’s problems come from not having a man. Still, I’ve been interested in feminism and girl power from the moment I learned English.
When I was younger, I tried to hide my feminist side because I was afraid people would bully me. Russian school was sometimes harsh; when I was little, I remember being asked to list women’s and men’s household tasks. And if you wrote the same things for both, you’d be wrong. I’ll never forget the look my angry female teacher gave me after grading my response.
Now I'm 12, and I study in an American online school where everyone is open-minded and supportive. Nothing makes me happier than hearing my teacher talk positively about Malala, Harvey Milk, and Betty Friedan. But not everyone feels the same. I recently made a comment to my very close male relative that judging a woman by her appearance is sexist and unacceptable in the 21st century. Five minutes later, he responded with confusion and told me that I’ve “become too brainwashed.” With an emoji, for emphasis.
Recently, my father and I were invited on a very popular Russian TV show. But instead of helping my father find a wife—the concept of the show—I was humiliated and bullied by the three middle-aged TV hosts. After being asked what I discuss with friends, I replied “feminism and strong women.” One of the hosts replied with absolute wrath, “You can’t be a feminist! You don’t know what feminism is! What’s your struggle as a woman? You don’t have one!”
Everyone in the room applauded—not for me, but for the spiteful host. I was upset, and spent the evening watching videos of women I admired, like Adwoa Aboah and Emma Watson. And lots and lots of clips from movies and TV shows with badass queer female characters.
Then I decided to strike back, but in a smart way. With some technical help from my father, I made a long video with every detail of how these TV hosts have hated women for the last 10 years. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was treated without respect on that show; it’s a systematic standard that produced money. For the last month, I’ve been tweeting parts of my video to nearly every official, politician, public person, online newspaper, and blogger there is in Russia asking them to support and help me shut down this TV show.
I asked the Investigative Committee of Russia to investigate the cyberbullying and threats I received after the episode with me was released. There wasn’t much response; however, a newspaper did interview me about the incident. I’ve chosen to be active and not passive in order to make an impact.
My number one and only real wish for the New Year is that in 2018, women will unite more, act more, and make a difference in bringing down the patriarchy. I am only 12 years old, and I want to live in a world where women have equal social, political, and economic rights. Where they are not catcalled on the streets. Where every girl in the world can receive a proper education. And where young girls like me are not humiliated on the state television.
By Nika Elin Raiffe, 12