How Feminism Fuels My Passion for Social Work
By Tiffany D'Souza
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]M[/dropcap]y name is Tiffany and I am a social worker from Toronto, Canada. I just recently moved to a new city to start a new job and life already seems pretty chaotic. As you may have already guessed, I also identify myself as a feminist.
Feminism has been and continues to be an important part of my life. Personally, it’s not just an ideology, but a way of life. I live through a feminist lens (most of the time, at least) and I couldn’t possibly imagine working outside of a feminist framework. You see, the social work realm calls for the need of compassion, empathy and respect for all persons regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, class, age, gender, sex, social status, and diverse backgrounds combined. It is a profession concerned with helping individuals, families, groups, and communities to enhance individual and collective well-being. As a result, feminist social work has taught me that feminist social action is carried out by women with women in their communities.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]A[/dropcap]s a female social worker, and a visible minority, I am cognizant of how my position in society is continually defined and re-defined. In turn, working with women has encouraged me to inform my social work practice by focusing on the links between a woman’s position in society, her individual predicament, her specific needs, and addressing structural inequalities that are at play. Most importantly, it has helped me recognize there is no “one size fits all” model that can be applied universally. Instead it calls for dealing with the complexities of life, including the diverse forms of oppression that women are impacted by.
[pullquote align="right" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]I knew from an early age that I developed a passion in wanting to help those who were voiceless, marginalized, and powerless, and this time I actually felt like I was taking a step in the right direction to make those changes.[/pullquote]
To be honest, my journey with feminism didn’t begin “naturally,” as one would put it. In saying that, I mean I was not raised in a strong feminist household, nor was I taught what it meant to be a feminist. In fact, up until I attended university, I had no idea that word even existed nor was I knowledgeable about the history of its origin. Yes, you read that right. That’s my little confession for the day.
But feminism was, unknowingly, always a part of me. As a child, I used to always raise questions to my mother as to why my brother was allowed to do something that I wasn’t. I used to question injustice in society which was brought on by power and years of entrenched patriarchy, just without using those terms. I was always curious about the roles women played versus the roles men played. I grew up harbouring many questions about the way things were. I knew in my heart that inequality was wrong and I hated how disempowered I used to feel at times but especially how small it made other women feel as well. [divider type="short" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]B[/dropcap]orn and raised in India, growing up there as a young girl was never easy for me. From a very early age, I learned that life in India for girls and women is very challenging not to mention rigorous, given that it is a male-dominated society and very much continues to function that way. I can still recall countless moments when either my sex or my gender limited my childhood, my roles as a daughter and a sister, or even within the activities which I wanted to engage.
All around me there was this invisible divide between men and women. It seemed that men had the upper hand; while for women, conditions would only worsen given their social milieu and status. I was furious and disgusted. I wanted things to change but at the time, being as little as I was, I didn’t know how. It was only years later and after two undergrad degrees under my belt, when I realized that social work was where my heart lay and feminism just happened to fuel that passion.
I knew from an early age that I developed a passion in wanting to help those who were voiceless, marginalized, and powerless, and this time I actually felt like I was taking a step in the right direction to make those changes.
Today I can proudly say I stand as a feminist and a social worker. I realize that I have a significant responsibility to society and myself but above all, to the women of this world who are my sisters, my mothers, my grandmothers, my friends, and mostly, my tribe. In all that I pursue, in all that I do, my feminism informs my passion. One could say I breathe, eat, work, play and live life as a feminist.