How can female travelers participate in the current global shift of feminism.
As we embark on a new phase of feminism in international politics, how can women travelers participate in this current global shift?
Back in the 90’s, Spice Girls might have commercialized “Girl Power.” But in ancient times, Nigerian women of the Aka culture were already hunting on their own, fully in charge of distributing resources. Women’s rights movements have come a long way, building up to the incredible shift of female power we’re currently witnessing in the international political arena. As citizens of the world, how can we not reflect upon such a palpable transition?
I grew up in a home where gazing at photos of my mother traveling around the world in sophisticated outfits was a cherished pastime. My favorite stories included her sitting in a hotel room in New York City’s 34th and Broadway, looking for bicycle lock clients by flipping through the Yellow Pages. Images of her posing in front of windmills in the Netherlands, eating lobster with clients in Boston and resting on a park bench in Paris became aspirations of the kind of woman I wanted to be. Someone international.
So the idea of a traditional Asian woman: a stay-at-home Mom, cooking and cleaning her days away never crossed my mind. Although that was the norm in most Taiwanese households (and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this path,) the woman I aspired to be since young age was considered “modern” in the 80’s. Today, this modern woman is, in fact, furthermore prevalent.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. President Park Geun-hye of South Korea. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina. The list of existing female leaders in the world can go on. But there’s something about 2016. Earlier this year, Taiwan elected Tsai Ying-Wen who became the nation’s first female president. Last month, Theresa May became the second female Prime Minister in the United Kingdom. Last week, Hillary Clinton became the United States’ first female presidential nominee. This week, Yuriko Koike became Tokyo’s first female governor. If 2016 isn’t about changing the political face of globalizing girl power, then I guess we’re all blindly walking through life.
Although this all seems optimistic, especially for women’s rights advocates who have been vigorously fighting for our basic rights to vote, to abortion, to serve in the military…etc.; but around the world, there is still a long way to go. Especially in moments when I traverse through China and realize there is a generation of an imbalanced sex ratio due to one-child policy, or when I visited a Cambodian orphanage and recognized the children left unadopted were mostly girls. Even when I travel alone at times and can sense that I’m being followed by strange men, I often wonder if the same would happen if I were a man.
As travelers, how can we partake in this current shift of gender power? When I was in Iran two years ago, I was left utterly confused when groups of young girls screamed in excitement at the sight of an Asian woman. At each landmark, I must have spent at least 15 minutes taking pictures with local Iranian girls anxiously snapping away with their phones. The tour guide explained that it was rare for them to see Asians in their country, as I tried to converse with them in English. It was then, I truly understood how I could pass on the global aspirations my mother has always ingrained in me.
It’s simple. It’s about sharing, communicating, and opening not only our minds but staying open to be ourselves. If you’re on this website, then you’re already someone who is curious for discovery, yearning to be fulfilled and seeking to connect with those who look and speak differently than you. Globalizing is not just about raking up the miles, but contributing in international influence. Then to add a good ol’ “girl power” on top of that, the bridge between races, cultures and religions can stretch beyond petty cattiness, damaging insecurities or self-destruction.
Being a female traveler today is about showing who you really are, even admitting to the fact that we don’t know it all. At times, we don’t know anything at all. And those are the humbling moments when we let others in to educate our minds and voice to our souls. Don’t be shy with your skills, use them to help others. I can’t do math, but if I ever see a lost American tourist or a Chinese traveler struggling to order a meal in Paris, I’m always that overzealous local who steps in to translate. Even at the risk of overstepping boundaries, I know for a mere second, I’m changing the way they see an Asian woman in France.
And it’s that same motivating factor behind Jetset Times when the site was born. When we began accepting early applications to our Brand Ambassador Program a few weeks ago, my team immediately received an overwhelming number of applicants within a few days, many of them are young women explaining how traveling has changed their world views. It has been incredibly moving to read their thoughtful responses, and to sense that women around the world are making an impact and they’re eager for more. Best part: our journey has only just begun!
Let’s not forget, not every girl or woman can travel vicariously as we can. How lucky are we to grasp onto the opportunities of seeing the world in whatever shape or form we choose to. So when you get the chance to hop on the plane, getting ready to globalize yourself, think about the kind of message you want to convey and the woman you want to be, today.
CEO/Founder, Jetset Times