The Battle of Feminism and Why I Never Called Myself a Feminist

Feminism

Strong. Powerful. Overrated. Necessary. Equality. Confusing. Future. Truth. Unpleasant. Empowerment. Brilliant. Reasonable. Change. Rights. Judging. Cool.

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Misunderstood.

Feminism – One term, many emotions, many associations, too much confusion. I won’t try to give you a definition of this term, because frankly, I don’t have one, I’m not even sure if there is one right definition.

But here is my story: an attempt to raise awareness, to spark discussions, to get people thinking.

It was a windy Tuesday afternoon in Melbourne. With a cup of coffee in front of me, I found myself amongst hundreds of students, waiting for a speech on equality. A young woman stepped behind the microphone and the room went silent. She introduced herself and started to give a talk that would open my eyes in ways I never thought possible.

Before I continue, you have to know this: For a very long time, I would not talk about feminism. I didn’t know enough about it to raise my voice, I thought. It would only be a pointless discussion, I thought. I was not a feminist anyway, I thought.

But that day, something inside me changed.

On that Tuesday, a young women shared her experience as a leader in a ‘male-dominated’ industry and the inequalities that are still part of our everyday lives. I came to the realization that it was time to learn and to speak up.

I want to talk about this misleading term “feminism”, about equality, about the truth, for men and women.

And above all, about freedom.

Where The Term ‘Feminism’ Came From

Before going into the discussion of what the term means today, I’d like to take you back in history. It’s a brief journey through three waves of feminism, each reflecting different ‘feminist goals’, struggles and directions of the movement.

First Wave – The Right to Vote

In the 19thcentury women in the UK and the United States started to raise their voices: They wanted equal contract and property rights. By the end of the 19thcentury, however, their activism focus turned towards political power and they started fighting for equal rights to vote. Although women in the United States were granted the right to vote in 1919, women in Saudi Arabia have only had the right since 2015.

Second Wave – Women’s Liberation

Feminism
Photo by Sam Burriss on Unsplash

In the 1960s and 1970s, people started to question traditional power structures of society. Equal rights on paper existed in some countries but oppression was still present in reality: Women earned less and faced immense difficulties entering a career. While learning more about the second wave feminism, the writings of Simone de Beauvoir caught my attention. One quote in particular:

“The point is not for women simply to take power out of men’s hands, since that wouldn’t change anything about the world. It’s a question precisely of destroying that notion of power.”

People strove for a movement towards true equality. It wasn’t about putting anyone on the throne, it was about getting rid of the throne that had caused discrimination and oppression in the past decades.

A new argument that was raised during this wave, was the lack of minority voices in the women’s movement. Gloria Jean Watkins pointed out that feminism has simply ignored influences such as race and class, failing to address diversity amongst women.

Third Wave – Freedom of Choice

Feminism

The wave from the 1990s to the present is also considered a response to perceived failures of the second wave. The discussion of wage gap, as well as the inclusion of minorities is still present.

But in general, women are now encouraged to define feminism for themselves – they should do whatever they think is right, instead of feeling pressured by the old feminist movement. Want to stay home with the children? Go for it. Want to become a leading CEO? Go for it. Want to bake cupcakes for a living and live with 8 cats? Go for it.

It’s about freedom of choice. It’s about the equal right for everyone to live the life that makes them happy. If it were only that easy…

Everyone seems to know better than the other what feminism is about today. There is not a single definition, not an agreement about the ‘goals’ and sadly, plenty stereotypes about the ‘perfect feminist’.

Feminism – Beyond Gender

Feminism

In some countries, women only have partial access to financial services and are not allowed to drive. As mentioned before, Saudi Arabian women have only had the right to vote since 2015!

It is important to realize that equality is still far away for many individuals.

Another important fact is that gender is not the only factor which causes different treatment of people. Our skin color, our religion, the language we speak, where we are from, who our parents are and even the way we look will influence the way we are treated, depending on where in the world we are.

In the book ‘The Second Sex’ Simone de Beauvoir shares a dream she has:

“I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.”

Personally, I can’t begin to imagine the restrictions millions of women and men still face in the world and the inequalities they are confronted with every single day. I now know, that I will learn more about them though in order to support a movement towards a ‘free’ future. You can call it a feminist future, an equal future, an empowered future; the term we use doesn’t matter as long as we know what we believe in and what we stand up for

Today’s Misperception/ Why I never called myself a Feminist

Feminism

Feminism, to me, meant a lot of things, but not necessarily equality. I never called myself a feminist due to numerous misperceptions the media had created.

I thought I couldn’t be a feminist – I don’t go protesting, I don’t hate men, I don’t agree that the future should be female, I love to wear make-up and high heels, I just don’t fit into the box of today’s feminists.

But hold on, this box for the perfect feminist is absolutely ridiculous.

The media has done a pretty good job of creating it: throwing images at us of women protesting, burning their bras, wearing T-Shirts with quite offending slogans.

I wanted to learn more about this ‘movement’. So I did my homework and here is what I learned:

Emma Watson’s talk in front of the UN opened my eyes. Feminism is not about putting labels on people, it’s not about hating men and it’s most definitely not about treating women better than men. It is about the progress towards an equal world. It is about empowering each individual to live freely, despite gender, race or sexual orientation.

I don’t care what you call it. But fact is, we need a movement that works towards equality. Call it what you want.

3 Myths That Need to be Talked About

Men are not affected.

Feminism

Again, I would like to refer to Emma Watson’s talk at the UN. She made an important point: Men suffer from gender stereotypes too. In fact, in the UK, suicide is the number one killer of young men! The reasons can be argued about but how often are men looked down on when they seek help? How often do men not even dare to seek help because of the fear of society’s judgement? How often do men feel like they have to live up to certain standards?

Men are stuck in gender boxes, differently than women for sure, but they are affected.

So this goes out to the male readers in particular: Ask yourself, what is your role in this movement towards a more equal world? How will you work towards a future of freedom?

Wage gaps are not real.

Feminism

Getting less money than a person who is doing the exact same job is not fair. That is a simple fact. While factors such as age, experience and education are used by some people to explain or even justify this gap, I would like to give you some tough facts at this point. (I just want to note that these statistics focus on women of specific countries and do not even take into account minorities specifically or women in less developed countries!)

In 2017, women working full-time, year-round in Louisiana only earned 70% of what men were paid! In Australia, the full-time gender pay gap is still as high as 15.3%, equaling $253,70 less per week.

There has been progress, but if it continues to move at this speed, women will have to wait until 2119 for equal pay in the United States.

However, there is hope. Countries such as Iceland and Finland have scored above 0.84 on the Global Gender Gap Index in 2016 (where the highest possible score is 1 – equality).

Wage gaps are real though. All over the world.

We’ve made enough progress towards an equal world.

feminism

 

Yes, there has been a lot of progress and a strong movement towards an equal world.

Have we arrived at an end? After reading this article, I hope your answer is no.

There is a great need for education about this topic. Myths have to be clarified and above all, every single individual, women and men from every country, should find their role in this movement. We should learn about the problems others are facing, raise awareness, start discussions, be brave and thought provoking if we have the freedom to do so!

What now?

feminism

I won’t tell you what to believe in or what to call yourself. What I do ask everyone out there is to open your eyes to the issues people around the world are facing – men and women. Different cultures have different problems, different genders have different problems, every single individual faces different problems.

A problem none of us should be facing, is equality. And it is up to us, each and every one of us, to shape a future of freedom.

 

 

Big thank you to Jennifer Hinrichs for editing!

 

Why FOMO is Real – 3 Impacts It Has On Your Life

FOMO

For a long time, I thought FOMO was nothing but a hyped word among teens. I thought it was just a rather silly, over-used acronym – Fear Of Missing Out? Not me… One Saturday night, I realized that I was just as affected by it as a majority of us, especially millennials.

I had decided to stay in that night, it was raining and the thought of leaving the apartment did not make me happy. I was actually looking forward to finally having an evening off in my busy schedule. A break from my days that were made up of coffee with friends, uni assignments, work, gym, and the list goes on. I got myself a nice cup of tea, snuggled into bed and was ready for Netflix. I quickly picked a movie that seemed good enough and was ready to do absolutely nothing.

Ten minutes into the movie (which wasn’t as good as I had hoped), I got out my phone and found myself scrolling through Instagram. When that got boring, it was time to check out people’s stories. The movie was forgotten and I was lost in social media, thinking that everyone else in the world was having the time of their lives.

I know it’s ridiculous, but I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there: we feel frustrated. Why are we not doing those fun things? How come are we not part of that event? Why are we missing out?

FOMO is real. Social media triggers it and many people are not aware of the anxieties that come with it.

In order to make a change, we have to understand where the fear of missing out comes from and what we can do about it.

FOMO is an Ancient Fear Retriggered

FOMO

FOMO is short for ‘The Fear of Missing out’. It is a feeling that people of all ages and cultures experience in various situations. While the term FOMO was only coined roughly 15 years ago by a Harvard Business School MBA student, the actual fear has been around for longer.

Back in the days, when people roamed around to hunt, they had to know what was going on around them, around their families and the villages they lived in. It wasn’t about gossip or the latest deals, it was a matter of survival.

Not knowing the nearest source of water or the newest food source could lead to death. The fear of missing out, meant the fear of losing one’s life. The process of gathering information was of great importance.

This ancient fear or FOMO has been retriggered by a rather new addition to human life: Social media. Channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have developed into our main form of connection to our social network – we rely on it. Missing out on a whole day of Facebook will leave many of us stressed, anxious and with a feeling of not being in the know.

The Psychological View on Today’s FOMO

FOMO

Generally speaking, fear is nothing but our response to a threat or danger. In regards to FOMO, it is the response to the threat of missing out on something.

There is a part of our brain that triggers the feeling of being left out: the amygdala, a part of our limbic system. It decides whether a situation could pose a threat and makes us feel stressed whenever we feel like we’re not part of something.

Social media plays right into these feelings: we scroll, we compare, we are left frustrated. Competitive thoughts emerge and often leave us unwillingly stressed and restless. It thus has a great impact on our general well-being and our happiness.

Constantly comparing ourselves, our actions and decisions have become toxic hobbies for many of us. FOMO is part of our everyday thinking and our everyday lives. Our obsessive preoccupation with checking social media only increases these negative emotions.

This leads to an important issue: We spend more and more time focusing on online content of others, instead of our own present. We lose touch with the relationships that are right in front of us. Most importantly, we no longer take time to reflect on ourselves – our thoughts, behaviors and actions.

3 Ways FOMO Impacts Our Lives

We should have all come to a realization by now: FOMO is real. It is more than just a hyped acronym and we have to understand the impact it has on every one of us. The fear of missing out affects more than 50% of social media users and the effects are severe.

1. Anxious Mindset

FOMO

FOMO has a great impact on the way we think. It fuels the feeling of not being good enough, making wrong choices and leaves many people stressed or even depressed. Numerous studies on social media usage have argued that especially among teens, the fear of judgement is increasing while their self-confidence is shockingly low.

2. Life Dissatisfaction

FOMO

We start questioning our own decisions when we are constantly confronted with other people’s lives. It doesn’t just leave us with an anxious mindset, it decreases our overall satisfaction with life. We end up disappointed with our life, regret our decisions and get caught up in pure unhappiness. We are no longer grateful for the people we know, our job we thought we loved or the places we’ve been.

3. Commitment Problems

FOMO

We always feel like a better option might come around the corner. A house party on Friday? Great but there’s also a festival going on. Oh and this other friend is having a goodbye dinner that very same day. It takes forever to decide which ‘party’ to commit to and no matter which one we go for, we will question whether that was the best choice.

So what can we do?

FOMO

Especially through my travels, I have learned about the joy of missing out. The outback, where there is no phone reception, forced me to miss out. And guess what – I survived. I even enjoyed it.

I know it’s unrealistic to advise you to get off of all social media channels. That’s not going to happen. That’s not what has to happen in order to combat FOMO.

Instead, I encourage you to be aware of your feelings – the frustrations, the stress, the unhappiness when scrolling through your feed.

Do you notice a pattern? Great! Write it down and turn it into personal goals and motivations instead of letting it drag you down. Frustrated with all the travel bloggers? Maybe it’s time to save up for a dream adventure. Envious of the cool restaurants your friends went to? Get a group together and find a fun, new place.

The Joy of Missing Out

FOMO

We won’t stop sharing our personal lives on social media and our access to every second of what others are doing will most probably only increase over time. People want the world to know what they eat, where they go, who they are with. The degree of transparency on social media is scary and yet, something we cannot ignore,  change, or often resist.

In order to find joy in missing out, we should reduce our negative feelings and if possible, reduce the time we spend on social media. Put our phones to the side once in a while and invest some time into ourselves: drawing something, reading, going for a run. The goal is to stop for a moment. Step back and take a break from the toxic FOMO environment.

We’ve been looking around us for happiness for too long, it’s time to turn inwards and realize that it all comes from within.

FOMO is real, but it doesn’t have to be part of your reality.

 

 

 

 

5 Bizarre Cults from Asia

Besides the fantastic food and a huge variety of culture, Asia also offers some of the most bizarre and sinister cults in the world. A cult is defined as an unorthodox, religious group which is devoted to a person or a thing based on a set of ideas. People who usually join cults are often unsure about their place in this world and thus seeking answers that just-so-happen to be given by these groups. It can often be very difficult to leave a cult; kind of like getting up from bed on a Monday morning, except sometimes with life threatening factors.

Here are 5 bizarre cults from Asia:

1.  Aum Shinrikyo:
Starting off as a small Yoga class in 1984, this Japanese cult was founded by a self proclaimed Buddha fusioned Messiah, known as Shoko Asahara. He gained alot of popularity in the late 90’s and was even appearing on national talk shows. Weirdly enough, the group even released a set of anime series depicting him as an anime looking Jesus with divine supernatural powers that one would expect from any other anime show.

Moshi-Moshi, Jesus desu~~
The cult would often stress out about the impending doomsday that was believed to be coming “real soon”. In 1995, the cult carried out the deadly Tokyo subway attack. The cult convinced some of its members that the apocolypse was starting and so they were ordered to use sharp umbrellas to puncture bags filled with sarin gas once it rush hour hits the subway. 13 people were killed and thousands were left injured. The cult has then been forced underground and Shoko Asahara is until now waiting on death row. The Aum Shinrikyo cult has never confessed about their involvement and Asahara himself is still insisting that his innocence.

2. Eastern Lightning

Founded in China in 1990 by Zhao Wei Xiao, this cult was believes that Jesus had been reborn as a Chinese woman named Yang Xianbin and that she was sent to purify all of humanity. The group has been named as a terrorist orgnization as they were known to cause riots and commit numerous murders. The cult believes that the world is bound to end, however, no exact date has been actually stated. The Chinese government had also arrested around 400-1000 members and label the group as an “evil cult”.

One famous incident which sparked international recognition was an incident that happened in 2014. 6 members of the group had brutally stompped a woman to death at a McDonalds in Zhaoyuan, Shandong, China. Not to mention the riots that the group had also incited that lasted for a reported 12 days in a county. In 2010 members of the group had also killed an elementary school student and left lightning-like marks on of one of the victim’s feet. It was found that the boy was killed because one of his relatives, a member of the church, had expressed his desire to quit the group.  Founder of the group, Zhao Wei Shan, also known by the members of the group as “Almighty God” is now living in the United States under political asylum. Despite the incidents and also constant pressure from the Chinese government to stop its expansion, Eastern Lightning has been reported to be growing its influence in Malaysia, Indonesia, and various other countries in Asia.

3. The Sung Chi-li Miracle Association

The Sung Chi-Li Miracle Association was a cult made in Taiwan. The cult was led by businessman Sung Chi-Li who claims to be a geomancer. He was jailed for several years the 80’s after he had been caught writing faulty checks. During his stay in prison, he claimed that he was visited with an ancient spirit and that his name was spelt out in the clouds. After his stay in prison, he made money based on people who believed that he had supernatural powers.

He claims to have supernatural powers such as the ability to appear anywhere at any given moment and time. In 1997 he was sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment for fraud as he was found to swindle 7 million US dollars from his followers. His verdict was later overtuned in 2003 as the high court cited that freedom of religion was protected under Taiwan’s constitution.   It was also reported that he had tried to hypnotize an officer – it was also reported that it never worked. 

4.  Evangelical Baptist Church of Korea

This South Korean religious movement was founded in the early 60’s by Yoo Byung-Eun and his father in law, Pastor Kwon Shin-chan. Media reports that the group has about 10-200 thousand members worldwide. The church teaches these followers that those who were saved by God are completely cleansed of any sins and they will ever commit in the future. However, unlike most Christian affiliated organizations, this one known to focus little on repentance. In 1992, the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches considered them to be a cult.

In 1987, the South Korean police investigated 48 year old woman, Park Soon-ja who was known to had swindles about 8.7 million USD from about 220 people in the country. Her company, Odaeyang Trading Co. was a firm that was associated with a religious sect. It turned out to be a splinter group from Yoo Byung-eun’s Evangelical Baptist Church. On the 29th of August, 32 members of this sect who had believed that doomsday was imminent, were found dead. The famous case became known as the Odaeyang mass suicide. South Korean police assumed that it was a murder-suicide pact, and that Yoo Byung-eun was linked to the case.

On the 16th of April 2014, South Korea witnessed the second worst ferry disaster to ever happen in the country. The ferry Sewol capsized and sank, a ferry operated by the company Chongheijin Marine where Yoo Byung-eun was a former chairman. It was also found that Yoo had used hundreds of other Church affiliated companies embezzle millions of dollars which prompted nationwide outrage. Yoo then went into hiding and prosecutors warned people that whoever was found helping him hide faced a minimum 3 years of prison. Yoo Byung-eun’s decomposing body was eventually found in a rice field, and till this day nobody actually knows how he had died.

5. Chen Tao

Topping the bizarre level of cults is this cult that originated in Taiwan. Founded by Hon-Ming Chen, the Chen Tao group was a “New Aged” UFO cult. Chen was a former professor who had claimed to be an athiest until he had joined several religious groups. He broke off one of the groups and then created his own. It wasnt until the early 90’s where he had decided to move to the US where he added elements such as cosmology, flying saucers, Christian motifs, prophecies and of course the “ever imminent approaching doomsday” and thus, creating something entirely bizarre. In Taiwan, the group officially registered as “The Chinese Soul Light Research Association” and then changed its name in the US as “God’s Salvation Church”.

Chen and his followers believed that the earth went through 5 tribulations where it went back to the age of dinosaurs. Each tribulations were survived by beings who had lived in North America who was also rescued by God in a flying saucer. They also believed that the solar system was created by a nuclear war. In 1997, Chen predicted that on the 31st of March, 1998 God would be seen on a single television channel all across North America. Mind you, here comes the best part, the group was said to had moved to Garland, Texas because the name sounded like “God Land.” Just to see this appearence on TV.

Surprisingly, the long awaited appearance never happened. Chen then announced that he had misunderstood God’s plans. No worries Chen! clearly a mistake many of us make time to time. It was reported that Chen had offered to be stoned or crucified for the event, but no one really took him up on that offer.  The existence of the group is still uncertain as the group lost many members after the failed prophecies.