Q&A: Manivannan explains need for inclusiveness within feminism, personal approach to Women’s History Month
March 31, 2017
Filed under Student Life
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Women’s History Month, celebrated in March, highlights the contributions of women in society. Women honored are of different races, religions and sexualities. Coppell High School senior Abhi Manivannan discusses the importance and need for inclusiveness of different identities in the feminism women practice today.
How would you describe feminism practiced today?
One dimensional. There are a lot of one dimensional views of what being a woman feels like. I think it’s time we expand that narrative. We should make sure that when speaking about women, we address and include all different kinds of women. Whether it’s people of color, queer people, or disabled, etc. Mainstream feminism is often non-inclusive. We should make sure feminism is intersectional.
You mentioned practicing feminism that is intersectional. How does that differ from mainstream feminism and why is it necessary?
In my early high school years, when I was first introduced to feminism, I just knew it meant equality among women. But that definition is really vague. Most feminism is centered around white women. When we so constantly celebrate white feminism, we are ignoring the struggles of different kinds of women.
That’s why intersectionality is so important. Through it, we acknowledge the struggles different marginalized groups of women face – and help empower them. Women throw other women under the bus, and it’s wrong. You need to understand that if you’re anti-LGBT, or discriminate by race, class or religion, you aren’t a true feminist – because your feminism doesn’t include everyone. That’s why making sure your feminism is intersectional is essential. You are supporting woman along with their identities.
Have you had a personal experience where you felt one aspect of your womanhood was demeaned?
In the South Asian community, a large problem is shadeism. In mainstream feminism advertised by media and popular figures, the idea that all women are treated the same by every community is perpetuated. When in reality, this isn’t the case. I am darker skinned. In my community, starting a young age, I have been discriminated against for my complexion. While in this same Desi community, light skinned women are upheld.
Anyone who fits ethno centric beauty standards is upheld. When people discuss feminism, for example, in the South Asian community, we only ever represented by light skinned actresses or figures. And although they are beautiful, they’re not an accurate representation of what the average South Asian woman looks like.
Who is one female icon you’d like to recognize this month?
Beyonce. I truly admire all that she’s accomplished as a performer, activist, feminist, wife and mother. Doing all of this is difficult for anyone, but reaching that success while also being a black woman in a society, a member of one of the most oppressed groups of women in society, is amazing.
If you could go back five years, and have a conversation with yourself, what would you say?
I would tell myself to stop putting so much pressure on fitting into the ideal image of what a woman is supposed to look like. This image, we try so hard to achieve, is shaped by a society who celebrates some and not others. When I was younger, I used to beat myself up over not being skinny enough, light skinned enough, or for having thick eyebrows and upper lip hair. But I wish I could tell myself, that I’m not expected to fit that standard.
Do you have any advice for the upcoming generation of women here at Coppell High School?
I would say, don’t be afraid to open up dialogue. Feminism is essential and worthy of conversation. Also, when you educate yourself on feminism, make sure it’s not just preformative stuff. It’s not just a label. Make sure you are practicing and applying it in real life.
Understand that you can’t only be there for white women or just one type of woman, you have to be there for all women.