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.”
Meet Hartini Binti Zainudin, 55, “a mad, single, full time working mum.” Tini, as she is affectionately known to friends, wishes she could stay home and be a bit more hands-on with her four legally adopted children. Her children are now 22, 12 (two boys) and 10 years of age.
Tini is a well-known child activist who works with children at risk who are marginalised and discriminated against. Her work focuses largely on children who are stateless or abandoned (foundlings) and refugee kids needing medical help. Tini admits, “I tend to gravitate more towards the mothers in the work that I do. I have an affinity towards single mums because I’m one of them. I know what it’s like. We’re not all that different except God’s been kinder to me.”
I realised that you can’t protect children if you don’t support the mothers too.
She was inspired to support mothers in need when she first started working with children, “I realised that you can’t protect children if you don’t support the mothers too. You just see what children need – they need their parents.”
Tini talks modestly about her very meaningful work, “I laugh when people call me the baby collector. I’d like to think I’m a protector of children but I do go around with a bassinet or my makeshift baby car carriage to carry babies home to their new families. I also take young pregnant mums for their maternal checkups or sometimes hold their hands during labour. After birth, I bring their personal needs, new baby clothes, milk powder and rice to their homes.”
Tini wishes for a community center catering to families in need, so that “we can all take care of one another.” She also hopes and works for better maternal care for poor mothers and their children, as well as better food, educational and medical services for this marginalised group.
“I help one child, one mum at a time. Why not help?”
What keeps her going during difficult times when her energy and personal resources are stretched is her passion for protecting the rights of children and their mothers. Her simple yet significant philosophy is: “I help one child, one mum at a time. Why not help?”
Her message to makchic readers who would like to support her work and start their own meaningful projects: “Go to our Yayasan Chow Kit website (link to www.yck.org.my) to look at the work we do and how to volunteer. I think people should see what they’re passionate about and volunteer first. Get a sense of what you want to do. Meet other like-minded people and learn.”
Back in the 1980s, a four year-old child watched her parents recycle paper and glass in the French city of Lille. Today, that child is 41 year-old Claire Sancelot, Director of The Hive Bulk Foods and full-time working mum to three little girls – a seven year old and a pair of six year-old twins. The French National married to a Malaysian is also founder of Zero Waste Kuala Lumpur .
“Honey, We Don’t Waste”
Zero Waste is a lifestyle philosophy that encourages the redesign of resources and their life cycles so that all products are reused. Claire promotes this philosophy through The Hive , her Bangsar-based bulk foods store with the cute tagline “Honey, We Don’t Waste”. The store also serves as a platform for her other work that supports women and larger communities.
Claire shares that she started The Hive to “provide our customers with the best quality produce at the best prices; bring people a huge range of bulk food products; support Malaysian suppliers and producers where possible; to greatly reduce packaging and waste; provide customers with the best possible service; have a great selection of organic, gluten-free, Paleo and vegan products; and to support local communities and charities.”
Claire states proudly, “We are all about empowering women.” The Hive prioritises partnerships with businesses in Kuala Lumpur that are founded by women and single mums that include makers of soap, shampoo, laundry powder, detergent, jam, and condiments, amongst many other products. Their jam maker is a single mum of two.
“As women, we are often treated as second class citizens. Even animals receive better protection than us.
The Hive works with Tanma Federation, a group that empowers Burmese women refugees through handicraft. Tanma women make many products used and sold by The Hive, like its bulk bags and makeup removers. The Hive has sold hundreds of bags made by the Penan ladies at Helping Hands Penan. They also work with OA Organics, a community enterprise owned by the Orang Asli that is mainly run by women.
Claire explains why she has chosen to principally work with women owned businesses, “As women, we are often treated as second class citizens. Even animals receive better protection than us. If a woman beaten by her partner has nowhere to go, the police will still send her home. If it were an animal, the police would take the animal away from the perpetrator to keep the animal safe.”
“Women still do not have equality so our goal is to empower women as much as possible, give them work. Even though women make up half of the population, we still do not have real equality. We still do not have equal pay and our lives are more in danger. At home, there is a lot of spousal abuse. At work we face sexual harassment,” she adds.
“Your work should be your passion, I fully live my passion.”
On what drives her life’s work, Claire emphasises, “Your work should be your passion, I fully live my passion.” She encourages makchic readers to “buy products made by women, best if made by local women. If you buy your foods from supermarkets you will not empower anyone except large corporates. If you buy your food from places like The Hive you are empowering KL women. The way you spend your money has a massive effect on the community.”