Speaking Worlds

Mariana's blog about
interpretation and translation

Are you a feminist?

I was deeply touched by Emma Watson's recent speech on feminism to the UN as Goodwill Ambassador. This was not only because I am a woman, nor was it only due to the fact that I have lived most of my adult life in a developing country where gender inequality is overwhelmingly present in our daily lives. Mainly, it moved me because it reminded me of the day I realized I was a feminist.

I was one of the interpreters working in a Gender and Diversity workshop in Bangkok, and the facilitators of the workshop asked us to integrate the workshop and participate as well as interpret. One of the main facilitators was the amazing Kamla Bhasin, and she was going to change the way I looked at things and at myself, as a woman.


Kamla BhasinI remember her asking us the question "Are you a feminist?" and placing us in 3 different spots, according to our answers: the first for non-feminists, the second for feminist and a spot in the middle for those who were unsure. I was standing there, in limbo, unsure of whether I was a feminist or not. The feminists I knew then were mainly man-hating-angry-women, with whom I could not really find anything to relate to, but since I was an independent woman and a single mother, I could hardly describe myself as non-feminist.


Kamla asked those confident about their feminist status to explain why they had said yes with such certainty. I was surprised by the first participant, a man for crying out loud! And he was speaking about his wife and his daughter and how their happiness and success shine on him. He told us about how he has worked in development long enough to understand that not all women would ever have the opportunities his wife and daughter have, and how he wishes all women to be free and safe and successful.

The second participant to respond was a lady, maybe 10 years older than me; she explained how her husband had decided to stay at home and take care of the family while she worked, because her career meant so much to her. A young Palestinian woman spoke of her work in Gaza where she organized an interactive theater to help the local communities deal with incest and honor killings. Thus, little by little, they each explained to us what feminism meant to them.

So what is feminism?

Of course we all know feminism is about democracy, rights and equality, but these terms are ambiguous and political. So how do we describe feminism in human terms? What I learned that day is that feminism is not about hating men, it is not about belittling them, or about disregarding the gentleman who opens the door for us. Feminism is about peace, saying no to pornography, rape, genital mutilation, honor killings. Feminism is also about education, empowering women, building their capacities. Finally feminism is about humanism, because it's not exclusively for women, it is also about men and masculinity, discovering what it is and healing it and ultimately building a new world order for men and for women, where each has the space to be human, and each has valuable contributions to make to society.



Mariana Hernandez, English, French and Spanish interpreter and translator My name is Mariana Hernandez; I am a freelance conference interpreter and translator working in English, French and Spanish. I was born and I grew up in Paris, France. Later in life I moved with my family to Latin America, where I eventually started my career, working with international NGOs, United Nations agencies, and private and public sector stakeholders in developing countries. This blog speaks of my work, and the many humanist topics which are close to my heart.



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