I’ve been sitting on this post for a month, because it’s never going to meet my expectations and express exactly what I want in the perfect way that I want. I’ve rewritten, scratched, edited, revised, mixed things around, but I think it’s finally time to push the birdie out of the nest, even if I’m really passionate about that birdie.
In case you’ve been asleep for the last twenty-some years, I am a feminist.
There. I said it.
Just kidding. I know I never shut up about it.
When I reveal this bit of information, or even just mention it in a relevant conversation, it is met with a variety of reactions. Nods of apathy. Whiplash of distaste. Enthusiasm for a shared passion. I’d like to think that the variety in reactions is because we’re not all on the same page about feminism. Or maybe people just have a visceral reaction to my appearance and/or smell. I’m going to believe the former.
To be clear, feminism is the belief that we are equal, despite differences in gender.
Again for the kids in the back?
Feminism is the belief that we are equal despite our genders.
Yes, there have been many different “waves,” or types, of feminism. As time has passed, the freedoms we’ve had to advocate for have evolved. What used to be a feverous fight for suffrage has changed into a fight for the protection of our bodies in a patriarchal society— this means different things to different women. However, regardless of where you stand on legislative issues, we must recognize that as society grows and changes, so do our priorities and values. The feminism movement is not what always used to be, but it also has room to continue to grow and develop.
Even within feminism, there are sects. Recently, a friend explained that people generally fall into two different camps in regards to how they view the partnership of marriage: egalitarians and complementarians.
Egalitarian means believing men and women have equal roles in marriage. Complementarian means husband and wife have different roles, but they complement each other.
Are both feminists?
Yes. They can be.
Because even complementarians generally believe in EQUALITY between a husband and a wife. Different, but equal roles. But I’m a feminist and an egalitarian, and I’m not going to tell any complementarian woman that they can’t be a feminist. That’s not my place.
Regardless of where you find yourself standing within the feminist movement, we need to work to be more inclusive. To be more understanding of other feminists and where they are coming from. We may have different beliefs and values, but aren’t we all trying to fight the good fight? And for those of you screaming, “YEAH. BE INCLUSIVE OF ME,” I’m going to challenge you and ask you to examine yourself. Are you willing to be inclusive of the people you’re screaming at?
Josh and I recently went to dinner for sushi, and we were seated next to a table of six college women who were loudly talking about their drunken escapades from the night before. One in particular was complaining about being ghosted by her boyfriend who might not actually be her boyfriend anymore, but he’s ghosting her so she doesn’t really know but he wants her to go to his grandmother’s surprise party and OH MY GOSH I WAS SO ANNOYED.
As I’m fuming and picking at my calamari, Josh asks, “So what’s the next post you’re making on your blog about?”
Convicted. Immediately. The judgment was running rampant in my mind as I listened to these women talk about their choices. Let me be clear; I do not have to be accepting or condone their actions, but I was writing them off as people— as human beings who deserve the same rights as me. And that’s not very feminist of me.
I’ve had a lot of discussions with a lot of different women coming from different places with difference concerns, and I just want to reiterate— if you love women, and want what’s best for them/us, you should be able to consider yourself a feminist.
My friend Sarah stays at home with her kids, and she emulates feminism by doing that. She chooses to do that, not because society forces her to. I haven’t had kids, because I feel like I’m supposed to be focusing on my career, and I emulate feminism by doing that. I’m not going to let society force me into motherhood before I want it. In the same way, Sarah is not going to let society guilt her into putting her children in daycare. She has made the choice that’s best for her family, and she’s happy doing so. She is still able to work from home, and this is what works best for her family in this season of life. Our journeys are not the same, but that doesn’t mean we can’t both be considered feminists.
Here’s what I want. We need to reclaim the label. There is a lot of griping about the feminist movement and how it doesn’t fit the bill for each of us as individuals, but let me try to put it into perspective through an analogy. I have a lot of problems with the way some Christians conduct themselves, but I still call myself a Christian. Just because you identify with a group or a movement does not mean you believe everything every single person who is a part of it believes. We are multi-faceted people with complex personalities and belief systems.
Feminists come in different shapes and sizes. We don’t all look the same. We don’t all believe the same. But here’s the one thing we do have in common:
We love women. And we want them to have better lives.
I chose to say lives because that’s all encompassing— health care, career opportunities and salary advancement, safety, etc. We might not agree on what that looks like when it comes down to details in legislation and/or day-to-day life, but can we at least agree we have this one thing in common, so we can meet at the table and discuss how to get to a place of equality?
“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” -Madeleine Albright
So. Can we reclaim the feminist label, making it the inclusive, welcoming term we’ve always wanted it to be? In order to do this, we need individuals who are willing, en masse, to speak their mind about what it means to be a feminist and carry the burden of the label— good, bad, and ugly. The first step is to allow yourself to identify with that label. It doesn’t define you. It doesn’t have to put you in a box; you can still express yourself and show people what your values are. But if a wide variety of individuals start to identify with that term, perhaps people will begin to recognize just that— the wide variety of individuals. But be vocal. Do not lose your individuality or your personal beliefs to a label. Show the world how multifaceted a group of individuals can and should be.
“A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult.” -Melinda Gates