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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why I Need Feminism: Because the struggle is very real

I am a feminist. I don't burn my bras. I don't hate men. I don't believe in an Amazonian society. It took me a couple of years to be comfortable with the label "feminist." We can all remember the video of women burning bras outside a Miss America pageant, and the mainstream media has nothing nice to say about us. I can't remember watching a movie or show were the feminist wasn't a crazed women with a hidden agenda.  Feminists are constantly ridiculed for challenging the society we live in. But I am more than willing to claim the label and adopt the mindset because the struggle is very real. 

To be completely frank, I don't know much about the different waves of feminism. I've only read parts of important feminist literature. I know of Susan B. Anthony and Gloria Steinem, but I can't name hundreds of relevant feminist leaders today. But I do know the sting of sexism. I understand that access to proper reproductive care is difficult not only in my state but around the world. I see manifestations of our rape culture in normal dialogue. Feminism to me is simply the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. Feminism encourages conversation and demands solutions. 

In the spirit of transparency, here are my thoughts about various topics that come up when I tell people that I am a feminist. 

Feminism vs Women's Rights
I strongly dislike this argument. because the defense of Feminism is the defense of Women's Rights. I think this argument comes from 1. misunderstanding feminist principles and 2. misrepresentation of feminists in the media. As I discussed in a previous post, feminists hate misogyny - not men. And while feminism has taken many different forms, I don't believe that all feminists are "as extreme" as the media would like you to think. And despite what the latest movie might tell you, feminists are people. Feminists can wear makeup and dresses and walk around in cute heels. Feminists marry people of their choice. Feminists have families. Feminists aren't some alien group of people dedicated to destroying men. Feminists support equal pay, equal access, equal opportunities, notice a trend? Feminism and women's rights are one in the same. 

Feminism and Victim Blaming 
There are a few people who tell me that I'm playing the victim card But when you realize that you are on the receiving of oppression, you may view the situation differently. Finally Feminism says it best when asked if feminism is just victim politics:
No. Women as a class are subjected to real hardship and oppression just because they are women. This is unjust. Pointing out that women are disproportionately victimized is an accurate analysis, not "playing victim." 
What are these hardships? Across the world women are struggling for proper healthcare, sold into sex slavery, jailed for driving, and killed for receiving an education. In the United States, women face sexism and unequal pay. On college campuses, one out of every four women are victims of rape. Women face a constant and persistent battle upwards towards equality. 

Within the feminist community, there is a vibrant discussion of intersectionality or the idea that we can't leave marginalized groups out of the dialogue. Recall how the civil rights movement and the women's suffrage movement split off from one another. This is an area of feminism that I am incredibly interested in. There needs to be inclusion and understanding about the problems that all sorts of people face because of gender, class, race, etc. 

Famed Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie tells us that "[g]ender colors the way we experience the world," and I agree with her sentiment - things must change for the better.

I encourage you all to take thirty minutes and watch Adichie's TED talk. While she focuses on Nigeria, I think a lot of her words cross apply to the states. 

The journey to claiming the title "feminist" wasn't easy, and don't worry - I have no intention of trying to convert you. I'm still figuring out what it means to be a feminist in the 21st century. 


1 comment:

  1. I agree, sometimes feminists can be misconceived and misrepresented in the media. People need to understand that there is a different between feminism and the extreme forms of “feminism” (for the lack of another word) that are being practiced in society. It is sad that sometimes women hesitate to identify themselves as feminists because of the taboo surrounding feminism in the media. Women should proudly be able to declare themselves as feminists without people immediately associating them with the extreme bra burning, men-hating “feminists”.

    Christle, I feel like you really underscored my feelings about feminism with this article and hopefully you will inspire many other women and men (remember, men can be feminists too) with your words. Good job and keep up the good work!



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