If you’re still basking in the glow of International Women’s Day, it’s probably a good time to ask ourselves why many people, including women, shy away from feminism.
For those of us afraid to call ourselves feminists, what exactly do you think feminism actually means? Hating men? Having a pushy and aggressive personality? Not being feminine? Having a tendency to be oversensitive, with no sense of humour?
“Why Feminist, Why Not Just Humanist?”
The myth that feminists are anti-family man haters is not only ridiculously inaccurate. It perpetuates a negative stereotype and stigma that hurts the larger cause. At the heart of feminism is just the radical notion that women are people deserving of equality. So it’s probably not the principles of feminism most of us have an issue with, but just the label.
Some may ask, “Why not just call yourself a humanist instead of a feminist?” “Wouldn’t it still be better to have a general movement toward all human beings instead of more specific ones like feminism? Doesn’t feminism create a divide based on gender that we should be working to diminish?”
“Being specific does not mean being exclusive”
Good answers are given to these questions by an article in Everyday Feminism , an insightful online magazine driving an alternative approach to the movement. The piece explains, “Being specific does not mean being exclusive.” Saying that we can’t have feminism because we should only focus on general human rights is like saying we can’t have oncologists because some doctors are general practitioners. Oncologists are specialist doctors who are more equipped and informed to fight cancer, and share their expertise with the entire medical field.
“Be the change you want to see in the world”
True feminism is inclusive, compassionate, supportive and powerful. In that respect, becoming a mum in many ways can make you more of a feminist, without your even realising it.
We talk to some special mums who practice a brand of “Everyday Feminism”. Women who not only want to live in a world where everyone is treated with respect and able to fulfill their true potential, but have also taken that extra step to act on their convictions to, paraphrasing Gandhi’s famous quote, “be the change they want to see in the world.”
Shenola Gonzales, 41, is a full-time working mum to two children aged six and two. She is co-founder of The Good Shop, a social enterprise enabler programme run by MyInitium Sdn. Bhd. that will be three years old in May 2018. The retail pop-up shop is a retail aggregator of products created by social enterprises and NGOs. Their tagline? “Giving Opportunities Daily”. Shenola likens it to “a departmental store that does good by retailing products that make an impact on social, environmental and cultural causes.” For example, it carries products made by single mothers and women with disabilities (although the shop is all-inclusive).
“Businesses built on empowering other women and mums”
This helps these groups make a living and empower them with a sense of purpose and knowledge that their products are market worthy. Shenola believes that it is important to support such businesses as they in turn impact causes that include disenfranchised communities. The Good Shop also promotes its causes through the Direct Education Programme Activities (DEPA) that it runs.
The idea was first conceptualised when Shenola’s business partner went to East Malaysia and came across a lovely handbag made by a social enterprise. This product had too many commercial barriers to overcome to reach Peninsular Malaysia. Yet she realised that if it could be placed in mainstream malls, it would be more easily sold. Shenola and her partner decided very quickly that they wanted to create an all-inclusive platform to help social enterprises that faced similar issues. The Good Shop’s client list has grown from five to over 40 in a short space of time, and this includes many businesses built on empowering other women and mums.
With The Good Shop, Shenola shows us that even something like shopping can be approached in a mindful and meaningful way. That there are products made by social enterprises that are as good as mainstream products. Every time someone shops at The Good Shop, their money goes further as not only are they buying a product, they are also helping to sustain a business that has doing good integrated into its processes.
“Social Enterprises are not Charities”
However, Shenola emphasises that makchic readers and anyone who would like to start meaningful projects need to assess if these are sustainable. “There is a common misconception that Social Enterprises and by extension, The Good Shop, are charities. They are not as they do business for good but also to turn a profit. It is important to ensure that projects create quality products that are profitable. Otherwise, it is not viable in the long term as good intentions are short-lived and do not deliver meaningful change.” Shenola invites anyone, both individuals and corporations, who would like to support or collaborate with The Good Shop to reach out to them at https://www.thegoodshop.com.my.
Feminist mums do what they do best and in the process, making life better for other women and their families. Do you know any feminist mums in your community? Tell us about them, we’d love to hear their stories.
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