Feminism: Changing Concepts by Martine Oh at TEDxYouth@Maastricht (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Martine Oh’s TEDx Talk on Feminism: Changing Concepts at TEDxYouth@Maastricht conference.


Ladies and gentlemen, first and foremost, I am sorry feminism had to exist in the first place. I am sorry about a past where women that are as strong and as wonderful and capable as my own mother were treated as inferior, objectified, robbed of choices, used, and abused.

I applaud the achievements of all those who fought to bring about change. I know there’re still issues regarding gender and inequality that need to be solved. I think we can all here recognize that feminism was desperately needed. But, and yes there is a but, this has gone far enough. Women have faced and are still facing prejudice and inequality.

However, there are many nowadays who speak out against feminism and the word has achieved so many negative connotations associated with angry women, with armpit hair, that once, after years of being the suppressed sex, it helped women become the dominant gender.

By definition, this is not what feminism is. Feminism by definition is fighting for women’s rights on the basis that all genders are equal. But restating what a dictionary says doesn’t make it so, and in my opinion, feminism has nowadays become equality on women’s premises. This is a part of what feminism has become.

And now we need to step away from that because it’s not just about feminism and women anymore. Guess what? Men face discrimination too. Both men and women suffer from gender stereotypes and gender roles, and this is very easy to forget. I started to question gender-based assumptions at an early age when I was told in physical education that I run like a girl, or that I would throw like a girl or fight like a girl.

All our feminine attributes, the things that define us are also seen as the things that limit us if you want to get ahead, then the masculine qualities are the ones that we need to focus on. Girls who show strength have manned up or grown a pair. Perish the thought that the girls have done is simply by being themselves. When did doing something like a girl become an insult? Yes, I kick like a girl, and I swim like a girl, and I walk like a girl, and I wake up in the morning like a girl because I am a girl. And that’s not something to be ashamed of.

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Likewise, gender-based stereotypes affect men too. Many of my male friends express that they have to be masculine and not show emotion in order to be accepted as real men in society. I am from Norway, and here, I have seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite me needing him his presence as a child and now just as much as my mother’s. And we don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are.

And when they are free, things will change for women as a consequence. If men don’t feel compelled to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women are less compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to have control, women don’t have to be controlled. I want women to be free from prejudice, and I want men to have permission to be vulnerable. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive, both men and women should feel free to be strong.

Feminism has sculpted its own idea of gender equalities, a definition that I don’t agree with. Feminism cast out the old gender roles for both men and women labeling them as outdated and primitive and promotes the confident, strong working woman as progressive and the stay-at-home mother and wife as a product of an inferior life style.

A recent study by NetMoms found that the majority of women felt feminism is too aggressive and devalues the stay-at-home mom and applies too much pressure on women to do and be everything 70 % of them even stated it as oppressive as men. However, we need to stop looking at gender as spectrum and their roles with such a too rigid column mindset.

We talked about men, we talked about women, but we need to look at gender as a spectrum. If we stop defining each other by what we’re not and start defining ourselves by what we are, we can be freer to choose. Furthermore, now in our modern society, there are people who might fall into any of these constructed two-gender columns or happen to end somewhere in between. For example, transgender people. We hear about women’s rights quite often, men’s rights occasionally, but somehow, transgender people are not that discussed.

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