jessie

I am a Feminist Because ...

I am a Feminist because I believe in gender equity. While acknowledging that there are real and perceived differences between men and women, I don't believe these differences justify disparities in their treatment.

I think it's important to explain why I am a Feminist because a lot of people associate Feminism with other values - with extremism, with elitism, with activism, with exclusivity, with anger. There are famous Feminists who have visibly advanced those values: abolitionists, prohibitionists, suffragists, etc. Many were brave and pioneering. Many were controversial. Many made mistakes. I know that I invoke their memory when I adopt their label. But "Feminist" is defined not just by its past usage but by those who presently identify themselves as such. I'm proud to share responsibility for the continued evolution of the term.

For me Feminism is not a cause, it's a perspective. I do not think there is a single issue of public or private concern that does not impact women. But not everyone who considers these issues thinks about their gender-specific effects. My Feminism helps inform how I view war, poverty, sickness, politics, education, business - you name it. It is not the only perspective I carry with me - I'm also young, Western-educated, a former artist, an attorney, etc. - all my experiences color my viewpoint.

I know that others don't share my perspective despite sharing my label. I know that others don't share my label despite sharing my commitment to gender equity. I'd be interested to hear from the full spectrum. How do you define Feminism? How do you identify yourself?

Here's another perspective to help get you started.

2 Comments

Sarah Baker

Have you ever been the victim of sex discrimination?  Have you ever been the victim of a sexual crime?  Have you ever been the victim of sexual harassment? 
If you can answer yes to one of those questions, you will understand the need for feminism.  Feminism has become, in recent years, a "bad" word.  It is the response from those who believe that women have overstepped their bounds and are treading upon sacred territory.  Somehow the concept of being a feminist has become fraught with landmines.  Be careful or you will be labeled as one of "those" girls!  You know, the trouble makers, the ones who don't like boys, the ones who don't shave under their arms. 
The major problem with all this drivel is that nothing could be further from the truth.  While reading Jessie's blog I am struck with the overwhelming amount of apologetic language that I am reading.  Do not apologize for your feelings. 
I am a member of the "baby boomer" generation.  I can answer yes to all three questions that I posed at the beginning of my post.  I was in the working world before anyone knew what sexual harassment was, when it was just considered "what the boys do".  I have been the victim of a sexual crime and was led to believe that it was my fault. I have also been the victim of sexual discrimination because it was believed that a woman couldn't have a brain. 
I have spent a long time being a feminist.  I have stood up and demanded equal treatment and I have demanded that "boys will be boys" is an excuse.  Oh, and by the way, women have brains, just ask Sandra Day O'Connor.  She couldn't get any other job in a law office other than secretary, even though she graduated top of her class at Stanford!
Being a feminist can mean being angry, but there are many of us who have a good reason.  It can also mean that you believe that women are people and should be treated with the same respect and dignity that all people (read men) wish to be treated. 
For many young women, you have never experienced the degrading world of harassment or discrimination because your older sisters have made the road a whole lot less bumpy.  Remember the 20th Amendment isn't 100 year old yet.  We are still fighting for our rights and will need to continue to do so until the last person, men and women, realize that each is not better than the other.       

lawblogger

I don't normally call myself a feminist because I know that others will misinterpret the word, and then I'll have to spend more time backtracking then if I just originally said "I believe men and women should be treated equally", which to me is what feminism means.  I think feminism has been co-opted by so many different people and perspectives that it doesn't mean anything anymore—it could mean a thousand nuances depending on the speaker.  For that reason, I actually question whether it is a useful term.  We value language because it helps us communicate clear ideas to other people.  If I say "orange", we all (except for the few colorblind folks, sorry!) think of the same thing.  If I say "racism", we likewise think of the same thing such that we could look at the same list of statements and identify which are racist (there might be some minor disagreement, but for the most part, racism means similar things to most people).  Feminism, on the other hand, doesn't carry that same clarity of meaning.  I wish it meant "men and women should be treated equally", but I don't think it does.  If you go to wikipedia, feminism is defined as a "discourse that involves varous movements, theories, and philosophies."  Since I have no idea what I'm communicating to another person by using the term, I don't use it.

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