The first semester of my freshman year here at Clark, my Spanish professor asked the class how many feminists were in the room. Out of a class of 17, maybe 3 people raised their hands. Everyone looked shy and uncomfortable. A few people (myself included) raised their hand about halfway, making the wishy-washy-kinda-sorta hand movement.
She then asked, “What if I told you that the word feminism means that women should be considered equal to men? It’s just about equality.”
When she then posed the question again, everyone in the room raised their hand.
Why are we so hesitant to use the word “feminist” these days? Why are there so many negative connotations to the word?
Feminism seems to be tied to sexuality, specifically homosexuality, which then brings out another set of prejudices. Having been called a “dyke” several times, simply for stating that I had a minor in women’s studies, as if my studies were linked to my sexuality, it’s no wonder that I’d shy away from the word.
If you choose to use the label “feminist,” you have to prepare yourself for a fight. You have to defend the title, and your position on any number of topics: sexuality, abortion, gay-marriage, economics, etc. To be a feminist means to constantly fight. And I love a fight as much as the next person! But some days, it would be nice to be able to get by without having to fight for a term that, if most people knew the correct definition for it, wouldn’t contest or fight over it either!
But at the same time, I think feminism takes on a pretty personal definition. So what is feminism to me?
To my friend Bridget, feminism is the jell insole she puts in the bottom of her high heeled shoes to help her get around campus on her busy days without her feet killing at the end of the day.
To me, feminism is realizing that if a woman wants to wear those high heeled shoes, she damn well may without being scrutinized for it. And if she chooses to wear a pair of black low rise converses at her high school graduation because she can’t walk in heels without looking like a baby giraffe…well that’s alright too!
Statistically, women are less likely to participate in conversations where men are present. They are also likely to preface their statements in class with, “This may sound like a stupid question, but…” or “I’m sorry, but…”
To me, feminism is making a community where women’s voices are heard equally. To me, feminism is about not apologizing for having a question or for making my voice heard.
In the CNN news coverage on the Steubenville Rape trial, they declared that the tragedy in the courtroom was the ruination of the two very promising futures of the star football players.
To me, feminism is about seeing the tragedy in a 16 year old girl being gang raped, filmed and photographed, then having it circulated over the internet, and being called a slut for it.
A lot of people think feminism is an exclusive ideology, only one for women to participate in, where women are promoted over men.
To me, feminism includes many different viewpoints, in many different contexts, with an underlying principle of equality. It’s about realizing that I don’t agree with all women all the time. And I don’t hate men, nor believe in superiority of one sex over another.
I don't feel like the stereotypical demonized version of a feminist: Idon’t want to burn my bra on the front law; I don’t feel like cutting my hair short and getting neck tattoos; I don’t feel like a slut “who’s asking for it.” I know how to cook; I’m pretty good at crocheting and sewing. I get offended when I'm told I'm being emotional, as if emotion were the opposite of reason and exclusive to women. I like dressing up nice and going out with my friends.
And if I wanted to cut my hair short, burn my bra, and get a neck tattoo, then that's okay too: It doesn't make me any more or less of a feminist.
To me, feminism is my mother: a woman who is a secretary, used to own a motorcycle, yells at the TV during a Bruins game, is the best cook/cross-stitcher I know. My mother, who let her daughter wear her black converses at her high school graduation instead of forcing her to wear high heels like all the other mothers.