Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Feminist Click Moment: Wait... Really?

Originally posted on Foxjuice

As long as I can remember, I have been a proud feminist. But throughout high school, I probably should have seen the signs.

“Feminism is a little extreme,” my honor-list friends would say. The stereotypes are extreme, I told myself. They actually do believe in it, though.

“I definitely wouldn’t call myself that,” my independent lady friends backtracked. They’re just being shy, I thought.

No, I still didn’t get it. Not until college. So when I landed in my first Women’s Studies Class first semester freshman year, I was floored that I was the only person in the room, besides the professor, who identified as a feminist.

Wait a second, I thought. What the FUCK?

Yep, even though I’d been around people my entire life who used the “I’m not a feminist… but,” line, I’d always come up for excuses for them. Of course they’re feminists. The only people who aren’t feminists are psycho misogynists and religious wackos.

But then it hit me. There are HONESTLY people who can say that they believe in gender equality, that rape is bad, that women are sexually exploited, that the 2nd wave didn’t fix everything, and then are still afraid of the word “feminist.”

To me, this is like saying that you acknowledge that objects are pulled toward the ground in proportion to the mass of the Earth, and that all falling objects accelerate at a constant rate, but still be like, “Um, well, saying I actually support the theory of gravity is a little extreme.”

A lot of the girls in the class changed their opinions by the end of the semester, and I went on to TA in the class and watched the pattern repeat itself, but it baffles me to this day how afraid women are of calling themselves feminists.

In my opinion, there are two basic reasons for not identifying as a feminist.
  1. You identify as a womanist. Feminist movements have historically whitewashed issues and put white, middle and upper class women at the front. Womanism is a Black response to feminism, which prioritizes the issues of Black women, but also of the community as a whole. In recent years other WOC have adopted this stance. Some WOC acknowledge the baggage of the history of feminism, and still identify as feminists, or as both.  But if you don’t use the f-word because you’re a womanist, I’m down with that.
  2. You are, in-fact, an anti-feminist. These are people who not only don’t support women’s rights, but actually support regressive stances on women’s issues. Take a gander at the Republican Party—including their women. I’m certainly not down with these people, but it explains to me why they’re not feminists.
I know feminism takes time. It takes that moment. It takes knowing a feminist. It takes critical thinking. But even in this hostile climate for feminists and women in general, I will continue to believe that, deep down, most people are feminists. They just don’t know it yet. 

PS: Every single one of my f-word-shy friends from high school and early in college now identify as feminists. 

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