Feminism is not about hating men at all, as Emma Watson so powerfully said in her speech at the UN in support of the ‘HeForShe’ campaign. It is about a basic human right: the equality of men and women. As we all know, the reality is painfully different. This is why we need feminism.
Only about 135,000 men from all over the world have signed the pledge to help make changes happen so that women and girls no longer face discrimination. Yes, I have signed. Have you? Here is the link to the pledge. We have a long way to go!
“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive, both men and women should feel free to be strong.” -Emma Watson
What’s wrong with our society? We are gender obsessed. From the moment we are born, we are expected (and indeed forced) into a stereotypical role in line with our sex. Blue for a boy, pink for a girl. It starts early, and even earlier for those who insist on knowing what the gender of their little baby will be.
Miss America gets the prize!
Let me give you a few other examples of our sexist and anti-feminist society. Look at the Miss America beauty contest and the thousands of others around the world, based on the same old formula, since 1921. That is nearly a century! The Miss America slogan is “style, service, scholarship and success.”
As we all know, the reality is totally different. Why would you test a person’s knowledge, sensitivity, social commitment and intelligence by asking her to walk around on a stage half-naked? Why would you ask her the most tortuous question and expect an answer in 20 seconds? Why limit the entrants to those who have never been pregnant or never have had children? The view of a woman’s role in society is still distorted and wrong.
Can you imagine testing a man’s knowledge and management skills by asking him to strut around in his underwear?
Blatant sexism permeates economic, social and economic life
Women want to be called strong, not bitchy
Women should never need to apologize for their success
Urgent need to accept people of all genders and identities
Women do not need to be told how to live their life
We need to get rid of hypocrisy and double standards when talking about women
We need to erase the gender binary
Men who are called feminists should not be mocked
One day, the word feminism will become obsolete.
Women and men in running the home
We still have a long way to go to get rid of the idea that running a small family unit and rearing kids is for women only. If a woman chooses to work outside the home, she still is often assumed to have to do all the housework, or most of it! There are still very few stay-at-home dads.
The solution? We could have more paternity leave and government-funded childcare. Equal pay would be excellent. It seems that these are pretty normal in Sweden, but still a long way off in the USA and Europe. Now Sweden is not on another planet, or is it?
The media is rife with sexist language and propaganda
“No one can make you inferior without your permission.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
The media should be leading the way towards a more tolerant society in which the sexes become equal. But, again, it seems like a mirage in the desert. Just look at the sexist language and stereotypes we are subjected to every day:
Women can only be skinny
The average UK woman worries about her body image every 15 minutes (because they have been bombarded with sexist and fat-shaming propaganda in advertising)
Darker skinned women must get a paler complexion
Female nudity is used to sell tabloid newspapers in the UK. No paper prints photos of male attributes (yet!)
Men are often portrayed as being dumb and incompetent on many sitcom shows, showing the sexism is not all one way.
Some men are portrayed as fat in family sitcoms, while the wife is always skinny and sexy.
Smart people are usually male, while females are dumb but always attractive.
No prizes for guessing what the majority sex is when words like paranoid, humourless, selfish, man-hating, butch, and aggressive are used in the media.
If you want change to happen, make sure you sign up to Endangered Bodies, a global initiative to stop advertisers sending women messages which make them hate their bodies. Just another reason why we still need feminism.
Violence against women
The overwhelming majority of female homicides are carried out by male partners. In the UK, 54% of female murder victims were killed by their partner, ex-partner or lover. Figures from around the globe are equally harrowing. Resorting to firearms is not the answer, as this report shows.
Why we still need feminism
As you can see from all the examples above, we still need feminism to ensure that the war for equal rights among the sexes is won. The battle is being fought on these fronts:
Eliminate the pay gap of 23% between men and women
End FGM (female genital mutilation), which prevents women from fully enjoying sex. It is still practised in 29 countries
No longer assume a women has to take the man’s surname in marriage or civil partnerships
Stop justifying rape on how a woman is dressed
Once there is full equality in political, economic and social life, there will be no need for the word ‘feminism’. It will simply become obsolete. As we are nowhere near this Utopia, this is why we sill need feminism.
You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.
Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:
1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically
According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.
“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor
Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:
If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.
If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.
Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:
Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.
Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.
To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.
Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.
Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.
Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.
Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.
Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:
2. Focus on your goal
One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.
Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’
Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.
Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.
If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.
3. Convert negativity to positivity
There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?
‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’
It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.
Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”
Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.
Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:
4. Understand your content
Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.
However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.
“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor
Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.
Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.
One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.
5. Practice makes perfect
Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.
In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.
Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!
6. Be authentic
There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.
Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.
Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.
To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.
With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.
Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:
7. Post speech evaluation
Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.
Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation
We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.
You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.
Improve your next speech
As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:
How did I do?
Are there any areas for improvement?
Did I sound or look stressed?
Did I stumble on my words? Why?
Was I saying “um” too often?
How was the flow of the speech?
Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.
If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too: