Meet the women who are the best at using the F-word
It was a difficult decision to make, but SheKnows Media and Ms. Foundation are thrilled to announce the winners of #TheFWord video contest, which invited everyone to shoot a three-minute video showing the world what feminism means to them.
Alex Regalado, 24, and Caitlyn Young, 25, who, along with Jenna Perelman, are the founders of TWIGG How-To, have gifted us with This Part of Me, a candid and thoughtful examination of how every single body part on a woman — from her hair to her thighs to her feet — is so harshly judged we often fail to see the whole woman. As a result of the labels society attributes to women based on their bodies, we become less than human — we become nothing more than breasts and arms and "overemotional" tear-filled eyes:
"We could not have made this film without the other women of TWIGG How-To," Regalado tells SheKnows. "After we learned about the contest, we sat around a table and started sharing stories of both positive and negative experiences we’ve had as women. And there seemed to be a common theme — a seemingly innocent part of our body would have a big impact on people’s views of us or deciding what we can and cannot do."
Regalado, a Los Angeles-based freelance video editor who says she enjoys documentary as a form of storytelling, teamed up with Young, who works at a philanthropic consulting firm during the day and commits herself to The Winging It Girls' Guide (aka TWIGG How-To), which she calls their "passion project," at night.
"We really wanted to find a way to tell people’s shared experiences in a powerful yet accessible way," Young says. "The idea was to take complex and prevalent issues people face almost every day, like racism and rape culture, and break them down to their most base explanations. Exposed knees shouldn’t be an invitation for rape, and a bare shoulder shouldn’t mean exclusion from learning. As women, we are often objectified and almost compartmentalized by our bodies, and we feel like enough is enough! Let’s take that away and focus on what we accomplish with those body parts instead of the body itself. We are all more than these disjointed parts of our body."
Regalado and Young now strongly identify as feminists and have connected over many of the same social issues, but interestingly, each came about discovering feminism in very different ways. A certain Spice Girl may have even indirectly inspired this great video.
“Ginger Spice was always my favorite Spice Girl, and she was the biggest proponent of ‘girl power,’” Regalado says. “I remember her talking about feminism and equality between the sexes in their 1997 movie, so I think I’ve had the feminist spirit since I was in kindergarten. And then later, I took an Intro to Chicana Studies class at UCLA, and I remember the professor asking, ‘Do you believe women are equal to men and should have the same opportunities and resources?’ Nearly every student raised their hand, and she responded back, ‘Then you are a feminist.’ That’s when I realized how approachable feminism really is.”
Young says her first exposure to the word "feminism" was in college and that even though she always believed men and women should be equal, she didn’t quite understand how equality was still such a widespread issue in her lifetime.
"Up until that point, I had thought the fact that I had the right to vote, had equal access to education, etc., meant that feminism was an old movement and no longer relevant in the 21st century," Young says. "I remember freshman year getting lost on campus and walking into the Women’s Resource Center for directions. There I picked up a calendar of events and decided to pop into a documentary screening about feminism. That moment was such an eye-opening experience for me. The film exposed me to issues faced by women worldwide, like female genital mutilation, that were much different than my own issues, like gender stereotyping, I had never realized affected me personally. From that moment on, it just clicked — I was a feminist, and I wanted to spend my life working on these issues and educating others about the importance of feminism."
Young has a simple but powerful way of defining feminism: "To me, feminism means believing that all humans, no matter their gender, deserve to have equal rights and opportunities," she says. "In reaching that goal, feminism recognizes that throughout history, women have been systematically disadvantaged, and it’s important to change these deeply embedded norms in order to achieve true equality."
While watching This Part of Me, it's impossible to not notice that, amongst the ever-changing montage of women's faces and body parts, a man, in all his bearded glory, makes a brief appearance to pack a powerful statement about how feminism affects men as well.
"We included the issue of men showing their emotion, because to me, that ties back into feminism," Regalado says. "If we really dive into it, sensitivity is labeled as a feminine trait and seen as weak or less desired. So the idea of guys needing to 'man up' or stop being a 'sissy' is basically telling boys that being a girl is the worst thing you can be. This is problematic for a lot of reasons, but clearly if you think women are equal to men, then being a girl is just as good as being a boy."
Young says that including a man's perspective in their video was crucial to them. "As founders of a feminist website, we are often asked if we encourage men to read our articles or participate in our events," Young says. "The answer is always yes! Feminism fights for equality between the sexes, and the aim is to uplift and empower both men and women. Including a man in our dialogue was a total no-brainer for us, as they have important perspectives that need to be shared in the wider conversation about equality."
One of the toughest questions posed to feminists and those who don't identify as feminists is whether anyone — a female CEO, stripper or stay-at-home mom — has the right to call herself a feminist. Must we abide by a set of feminist rules to be worthy of the feminist title? Both Regalado and Young say they are staunch believers that feminism is about real women building each other up and not tearing each other down.
"No one should be judged by their lifestyle or forms of empowerment," Regalado says. "People misinterpret the fight of the '60s feminist trying to break out of the stay-at-home-mom mold. They weren’t fighting against that identity (some were); they were fighting for a choice. I think a lot of women’s rights boils down to that same takeaway — we just want the opportunity to choose our path and not feel judged for whatever that path may be."
Young agrees. "Like Alex mentioned, feminism at its core is all about allowing people to follow their own life paths and make their own decisions," she says. "Gender should never bar anyone from choosing that path. As long as someone holds these same beliefs, they’re a feminist — no matter their occupation, economic class, hair color or muffin preference."
An enormous thank-you to all the amazing contest participants who took the time to share what feminism means to them — great changes will happen because of your efforts, compassion and voice.
For more on #TheFWord, check out the other finalists.