Image Credit: Supplied

Being and living as a woman has never been easy, nor has it gotten any easier. There are times when it has felt like we are carrying mountains on our shoulders, and other times, when it’s felt like we are pushing tribes out of our bodies.

But despite all of what continues to weigh on our shoulders, in our bodies, and on our minds and spirits, I continue to believe that being a woman is the most beautiful existence. It is a manifestation of the most exalted of meanings — the meanings of life and fertility, and of love.

Being a woman, and living in the body of a woman, is a miracle in and of itself. Life is born from a woman, and only within the frame of perfectly calculated and most sophisticated menstrual cycle — an awe-inspiring and sacred state of being that is considered taboo to discuss by cultural practices or deemed unclean by religious ideologies.

Indeed, it is not easy to live as a woman in this world, in a world where many women have fallen and continue to fall. With this awareness, it becomes an ethical responsibility for all of us, men and women, to answer the Feminist call and to continue to look for ways through which we can pick each other up, and as essentially, to love one another in our humanity.


Today, more than ever, I am saddened by how far from kind women are treated. A statement by the Executive Director of UN Women, as recent as April 2020, reveals that in addition to the trying human suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, an increased and heightened reality of domestic violence against women is being lived today across our globe.

As I read about these realities, I am heart-broken and deeply disappointed, and I ask: but why is this the case?

I am currently translating an Arabic novel for Syrian author Najat Abed Alsamad, and in my process of translation, I found one possible explanation. Abed Alsamad narrates, that according to a Syrian tale:

More on the topic

Perplexed by the miracles

“At its early stage of formation, the consciousness of a man was perplexed by the miracles that dwelt in his woman’s body:

The miracle of life — without being wounded, a woman bleeds every month, but unlike wounded men, she does not bleed to death. Her blood subsides on its own, and returns to bleed again on time.

The miracle of creation — from a woman emerges a child who is nurtured by the bliss of the third miracle.

The miracle of food — a woman’s milk pouring generously out of her breasts like bountiful rain.

Because of how awed man was by his woman, he feared her. Afraid of her power, he discovered his role in conception, he was no longer amazed, laid siege to her, and paved her way to enslavement.

I believe that there is truth to this, and it is for this reason that I live a Feminist life and teach about Feminism. Feminism is to offer possibilities for all of us to work together on finding ways to break free from a patriarchal siege that continues to shackle the bodies, minds, and souls of women.

Feminism is about asserting women’s rights, and it is about resisting patriarchy. To deny the hardships of women is to turn a blind-eye, and to act as a bystander, on a pressing and urgent social justice issue. On the other hand, to act is to take part in a Feminist movement.

Why call yourself a Feminist?

Some of my male and female friends have asked, “but why must you call yourself a Feminist?” It is in reply to this question that I write this article, in the hopes of unknotting a misunderstood Feminist label. In my effort to unpack Feminism, I will resort to the works of two important Feminist scholars: bell hooks and Sara Ahmed.

First, I will preface my thoughts with the fact that I am a mother of two sons, whom I love very much, and as importantly, whom I am also raising to be feminists.

Every time I look at my son who is now seventeen-years-old and over six-feet-tall and still growing, I stand in awe of his masculine beauty, and as importantly, of the miracle of having carried him in my womb for nine months.

I will also add here that the last thing I want to do today is to contribute to a dichotomy of women against men, us versus them. I despise binaries and insist on dismantling the many divisive walls that have been erected, ones that have not only succeeded in dividing us based on gender but also under an endlessly long list of labels.

When we hear the word feminism, or what is often referred to as the “F-word”, many of us, both men and women, think of feminists as a bunch of bra-burning angry women who want to be like men, and, as explained by bell hooks, of “how ‘they’ hate men; how ‘they’ want to go against nature.”

But, in actuality, Feminism has nothing to do with hating men or being anti-male. Feminism in the simplest term is a call for gender equity, where women are afforded equal opportunities with respect to their similarities and differences with men. In other words, Feminism is about extending equal and equitable opportunities to our daughters and not only our sons — no more, but definitely no less.

Feminism is about ending patriarchy and its practices, where patriarchy is the inherent belief in the superiority of men and male norms, and where societies act and function based on this belief.

Patriarchy is the foundation on which sexism is constructed, where sexism is the systematic oppression of women, a system that affords unequal distribution of privileges and resources based on one’s gender, which also then brings patriarchy to mean institutionalised sexism.

So, Feminism becomes the call, the collective movement, to fight institutionalised sexism. Here, I especially like bell hooks’ definition on Feminism, “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.”

Note, this definition does not name men as the problem. It is naming sexism as the problem — all sexist thinking and actions, are the problem here; as importantly, it is critical to understand that sexism is not only enacted by men, but also by women onto other women.

What we must continue to also keep in mind is that this movement came to be, and as importantly continues to be needed, because these issues and struggles have not ended — sexism has not ended just as racism, classism, ableism (and the list of the “isms” continues) have not ended.

Women's liberation movement

Feminism is a notion that embodies women’s liberation movement, and it is an act of resisting patriarchy. It seeks to free our daughters from systematic male domination — tell me of a mother, or of a father for that matter, who would not wish this for their daughters. Doesn’t this then make us all inherently Feminists?

Sara Ahmed wrote a book titled “Living a feminist life.” She explains that Feminism is about “how we pick each other up. So much history in the word; so much it too has picked up.”

She adds that the word Feminism brings to mind women who have stood up, spoken back, risked lives, homes, relationships in the struggle for more bearable worlds. Feminism is about co-constructing a world where it is possible for us, as per hooks’ words, “to be fully self-actualised females and males able to create beloved community, to live together, realising our dreams of freedom and justice, living the truth that we are all ‘created equal.’”

Indeed, it is not easy to live as a woman in this world, in a world where many women have fallen and continue to fall. With this awareness, it becomes an ethical responsibility for all of us, men and women, to answer the Feminist call and to continue to look for ways through which we can pick each other up, and as essentially, to love one another in our humanity.

A Syrian thinker writes, “Therefore we can resolve that the existence of the other is a condition for the existence of the self, and what adds the most value for one’s existence lies in the amount of love one holds for the other. I love you, therefore you exist; for to love is to be whole with another.”

To be Feminist is to love a woman, and to love a woman is to become whole in her love, not one but whole — in a yin-yang sort of way where an opposite other is needed for harmony, and wholesomeness, to exist.

Ghada Alatrash teaches in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department and the General Education Department at Mount Royal University. She holds her Ph.D. from the University of Calgary in Educational Research: Languages and Diversity