Note: I realize that this article may in some ways be preaching to the choir, however, I want to point out that my intention is not so much to convince people to become feminists as it is to get the conversation started. I’m hoping that this post and any discussions will be discussed outside of feminist circles.
Until recently, and hate to admit, that I have been reluctant to identify myself as a feminist. As much as my values are, and have been, in line with feminist values there was always something that bothered me about the word. I felt that it was limiting to use a title that represents women’s issues, seeming to leave out all of the other gender-related issues that are important to me. And I also believe that, subconsciously, I wanted a new word without all the stigma attached to it. One of the main reasons I was able to sort this out, and realize the importance of fully identifying as a feminist, was because I read Jessica Valenti’s “Full Frontal Feminism.”
The critics are spot on: if there’s one book every young woman should read, it’s this one. She lays out many of the core and current issues that the feminist movement is facing in an extremely readable and conversational style. What really stood out was her point about how many young women are hesitant to call themselves feminists. I agree with her observation that the older generation is somewhat disconnected with younger women and that this is an essential gap to close. Valenti addresses this head on with the first chapter being “Your a hardcore feminist, I swear,” and does a much better job than I can about explaining why!
Once specific passage that made me rethink a feminist identity was this:
“For some reason, feminism is seen as super anti: anti-men, anti-sex, anti-sexism, anti-everything. And while some of those antis aren’t bad things, it’s not exactly exciting to get involved in something that’s seen as so consistently negative.The good news is, feminism isn’t all about antis. It’s progressive and—as cheesy as this sounds—it’s about making your life better. As different as we all are, there’s one thing most young women have in common: We’re all brought up to feel like there’s something wrong with us. We’re too fat. We’re dumb. We’re too smart. We’re not ladylike enough—stop cursing, chewing with your mouth open, speaking your mind. We’re too slutty. We’re not slutty enough.
You’re not too fat. You’re not too loud. You’re not too smart. You’re not unladylike. There is nothing wrong with you.” (pg.6)
On the surface, is does sometimes seem like feminism is focused on the negatives, and that is one thing that did initially turn me away from it. Reading this passage made me realize that many of the topics that appear negative – like pointing out how we are brought up to see only our flaws – made me realize that a lot of my self-criticism was really based around societies criticism of women. The more I think about this, the more I am aware of how much more comfortable I feel with myself, the amazing conversations I’ve have, how much more involved I’ve become and especially how I can happily live outside of strict guidelines set for women to live by – because of feminism.
One realization I had after reading the book is that identifying as a feminist does not determine your full identity, it only adds to the one you already have. For example, I don’t feel the need for an all-encompassing label, like humanist, anymore; being a feminist does not exclude other gender-sex-race related issues. I can at the same time be an anti-heteronormativist, youth worker, advocate for healthy masculinity (aka men have detrimental stereotypes too), pro-bikelife party-nerd 😉
Most importantly though, I identify as a feminist because I see how important it is to stand behind what I believe in. Even though the stereotypes bother me, the more I advocate it as a part of my identity, the more people will have a broader view of what a feminist is like. Obviously taking action is important, but so is a willingness to take on the identity. The feminist movement is not something we need to conform to, but instead we need to customize it and push it forward. Besides all that, feminism is in style, and it will change your life for the better.
My point is that we should break down stereotypes that prevent people from identifying with something that they value. Because we are not typically taught about the modern feminist movement, there is a general lack of awareness about what it means today. All the more reason to start conversation about it means to you, like I said before, outside of feminist circles.
If anyone wants to borrow a copy, just message me firstname.lastname@example.org!
How do you identify yourself in relation to the women’s right movement? Have you ever felt uncomfortable identifying as a feminist? Are there people close to you that hold negative stereotypes about feminism? Do you know men who openly identify as feminists? Why do you think it’s important to talk about feminist identity?