Let’s begin with a quote from the tv show Commander in Chief:
Young woman to her grandmother: “I mean, I’m no feminist.”
Grandmother: “So you don’t believe women should have rights equal to those of men?”
Young woman: “Well of course I do, it’s just-“
Grandmother:”Well then might I suggest my dear, that you look up the definition of feminist?”
Now, from Dictionary.com:
Feminism: the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
I probably started calling myself a feminist, and actively telling others about feminism when I was a freshman in college. I wouldn’t say that I was an anti-feminist before this, but I just didn’t really think about it. If someone had asked me if I was a feminist, I might have even said no. Like many people I might have said, “No, I support equal rights for women, but I’m not a feminist.” This phrase is an oxymoron, but before I was 19 years old I wouldn’t have thought twice about saying it. Just like many of you wouldn’t think twice about saying something like that now. And that doesn’t make you sexist, it just makes you typical. The word feminism has negative associations attached to it, that it absolutely does not deserve, and I want to remove them. The purpose of this blog is to try to bring the word feminism back into the lexicon in a positive, non-stereotyped way. So that regardless of your religion, political party, or gender, you will not be ashamed to call yourself a feminist.
When I was a freshmen in college, I got really into listening to podcasts during the time between my classes. I particularly enjoyed NPR and I would listen to podcasts about books, religion, news, and anything else that seemed relevant or interesting. One day I was listening to an installment of Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She was interviewing a female author who had just come out with a new biography. I feel bad now, I don’t remember the book, or the woman’s name, but she was very insightful. She talked about her relationships with her mother and her ex-husband, and was just all around a very interesting woman. What she said about feminism really struck me though, and I’ve remembered it ever since. My quote isn’t exact of course, but it went something like this:
“You know my daughter was in a woman’s studies class recently, and her professor asked all of the students who identified themselves as feminists to raise their hands. My daughter told me that only she and one other person raised their hand. It bothers me that so few young people call themselves feminists, because I’m sure that all of them would say that they support equal rights for men and women.”
Listening to that podcast really made me question myself, “Would I have raised my hand if I were in that class? And if I didn’t, why not?” I had never been confronted with this concept of how the word feminism has become so negative in our culture. No teacher had ever talked about it, and I had never been asked a question like that one. Well, the universe works in mysterious ways, because only a couple of months after I heard this podcast the topic of feminism came up in my freshman level history class. My professor asked us, “How many of you consider yourself feminists? Raise your hands.” In a class of about 100 people, only I and about 10 others raised our hands. The professor waited a beat and then said, “Ok, now how many of you believe in equal rights for women? Raise your hands.” Before he had even finished the question, everyone that I could see had a hand in the air. He ended the discussion with, “Congratulations, you are all feminists.”
These experiences effectively ended my questions about whether or not I was a feminist. It seemed so simple to me. “Well yes, obviously I’m a feminist. We all are, we just have to remind people of the definition and everyone will be back on board.” In the beginning I don’t think I even expected arguments. It’s so simple, Feminism=equal rights for women, why would anyone who knows that still say they aren’t a feminist unless they are openly against the equal rights of women? I expected everyone to have the same revelation that I did.
But it doesn’t happen like that. “Yeah, but…” When I tell my story to people who don’t consider themselves feminists I always receive responses that begin this way: “Yeah, but that’s not really ALL that feminism is about.” “Yeah, I mean, I know that YOU don’t hate men Tara, but SOME feminists do.” “Yeah, I support equal rights, but feminism isn’t really necessary anymore.” Feminism has such a negative stigma attached to it. Since this is my first post in the blog, I mainly just wanted to explain to you why I am a feminist, and how I became one. So in this first post I won’t get into the ridiculous, sexist, and unfair associations that have been tied to feminism. (Don’t even get me started on the phrase, “feminazi”) That’s not what this first post is about.
The idea behind this blog is that I want to tackle negative stereotypes about feminism, and prove that it really is a movement that desires equality. Not one that hates men, children, the traditional family, or femininity. These negative stereotypes are not what feminism is, they are stereotypes developed by anti-feminists to try to discourage people from joining the feminist movement, and they are working. This is why so many people say things like, “I support equal rights for women, but I’m not a feminist.”
Yes, you are. And you don’t have to be afraid to say it.