The F Word

by Brandi on February 25, 2013

in Girl Talk, Lifestyle, Real Life

SuffrageYou know, feminist. In my head I like to call myself a feminist. I am a strong woman with a very particular set of beliefs regarding women in society. I think a societal patriarchy has no place in the modern world. I think there should be no expectations as to what young girls and boys should learn, play with, etc. And I absolutely believe there doesn’t have to be a “well that’s the way it is” mentality surrounding tradition and the roles of men and women in this day and age.

Yet, I have trouble saying the words “I am a feminist” out loud. There is just so much that comes with outwardly labeling yourself a feminist.

One the one hand, you get backlash from the number of people who think all feminists are angry, bra-burning, ball-busting, man-haters. This couldn’t be further from the sort of person I am. I tend to be quiet, polite, and a consummate people-pleaser. I really don’t like people assuming things about me without getting a chance to know me. Of course, I know that people make snap-judgments and it’s unreasonable of me to think that they won’t, but with such unfortunate negative stereotypes surrounding feminism I feel like I can never even get a foot in the door with some. I’m afraid that people will be unwilling to listen and be receptive to my beliefs and opinions. It’s a shame because I think that change and acceptance really starts with open and honest discourse. If I can make one person say, “Huh, I had never thought of that,” then in my mind I’ve done a good job, and when they’ve already deemed my ideas outlandish because I’m a self-described feminist I fear I’ll never even get that far.

I am also reticent to call myself a feminist because of the feminist community itself. I often feel like I’m not good enough to be called a feminist. I got married young. I am, at the moment, essentially a housewife. I love baking, entertaining, and, although I hate this word, crafting. I have heard and read “real” feminists rail against all of these things at one time or another. The idea that tends to come across is that you can’t be a true feminist unless you choose a partner (male or female) over a spouse, work in, and rise above, a male-dominated profession, and eschew any activity that could even remotely be described as feminine.

This is, obviously, ridiculous. The point of feminism is equality, and to me that means letting women choose whatever path they want, without interference from the opinions of others. We are all so diverse and will naturally have different interests. Women telling other women what they should do is just as bad as men telling women what they should do!

Plus, I sometimes feel like less of a feminist because there are so many people who are bigger feminists. I actively read about many feminist issues, but I don’t read it all by any means, certainly less than those “real” feminists I keep talking about. I will never claim to be the most knowledgeable or educated on the topic, I simply speak from my heart, and do what I believe is right.

I’ve been thinking about all of these things lately and decided to really try and stop letting other people’s thoughts about feminism fuel my perception of myself. Call me crazy, but shouldn’t we be rallying around any and all efforts towards female equality? Shouldn’t we be glad when people take any step towards feminism and not curse them for failing to jump across the finish line in one bound?

Well today I’m leaving all the feelings of others behind and saying here and now that I am a feminist. I bet many of you are too, so let’s stand together, stop judging who’s the most and least among us and just support one another. Agreed?

Brandi is a lawyer in Denver who spends very little time actually lawyering. She can usually be found working for free at a non-profit, hiking up mountains, or bossing her husband around because he made the mistake of asking her for help with his business one time. She’s horribly technologically inept (unless people still use AIM in which case she’s a genius) and takes one bite out of every donut instead of finishing a single donut in its entirety, which is probably a metaphor for something but she hasn’t figured out what it is yet. You can read more from Brandi on her blog, Randi Nickle.

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Britannia February 25, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Hear, hear sister! Your sentiments mirror my own precisely. I find it hard sometimes to describe myself as a feminist because of some women’s opinions. For instance, I’ve been told by one woman that I’m not a proper feminist if I shave my armpits. Yet she was wearing a full face of make up when she told me that! I don’t understand… Who on earth makes up the “rules” of what defines feminism??

Like you, I think that modern feminism should be about supporting other women’s choices. Although I currently work full time, I am about to take 12 months’ maternity leave (not all that unusual in the UK) in order to spend time bonding with my child. I have previously felt guilty about this decision and wondered if being a SAHM means I can’t claim to be a feminist but then again, I wouldn’t judge any mother who took a fraction of that time as maternity leave, precisely because I support freedom of choice. Just as they say charity begins at home, I believe that feminism has to come from us women, first and foremost.

Brandi March 14, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I agree that the rules are so arbitrary. And congratulations on your little one!!

Fiona McGier February 25, 2013 at 11:52 pm

When my 4 kids were babies, I belonged to a Mom’s support group, mostly to find friends who wanted to be in a playgroup and trade baby-sitting with me! We used to argue about whether or not it was possible to be a feminist while you were a stay-at-home Mom…but considering I was always working 2 part-time jobs because money was tight, that was really a misnomer. I think it meant that I wasn’t in a “career” job, but merely putting in time, earning minimum wage despite my career experience and my college degree. Unfortunately, that’s where I still am. I’ve been told outright that a woman didn’t think I could do the job because I wasn’t dedicated enough to keep working and put my kids in daycare. Sigh.

We females are very good at internalizing the idea that we need to judge each other. The supporting each other part is harder to learn how to do, I guess.

BTW, my 3 sons are feminists also, as is my daughter. None of them would describe themselves as such, but that’s how they live. I guess I did good…

Brandi March 14, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Very good, indeed! My mother raised three feminists of her own!

erica February 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I recently got into an argument with my Step-Aunt, who is 10 years younger than me btw, about this very thing. She kept saying that there is no equality for women and her main point was that until it is as normal for a man to take a woman’s name upon marriage as it is for a woman to take a man’s that women aren’t really anywhere near equal footing in this world. She was basically saying that any woman who takes her Husband’s name isn’t “choosing” to do so but it doing so out of obligation and therefore enslavement. I was like umm no, the point of feminism is to ensure that all women have a choice in all matters not for you to decide what is good enough for a woman to do.

Brandi March 14, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Agreed. I do think that a lot of women don’t think about not changing their names. And it is unfortunate that it is still expected to do so, but I know a lot of women who thought deeply about it and still decided to change. That’s what I think feminism should be about, the ability to make a conscious decision without archaic expectations getting in the way.

Galena February 26, 2013 at 1:56 pm

A lot of the pushback that comes from “feminists” comes from second-wavers who are still holding on to the militant attitudes they needed to make many of the strides that allow us many of the freedoms we have now. Those attitudes were a necessary part of our past and we wouldn’t be where we are now without them, but now, as you point out, it is a deterrent and it’s really unfortunate.

Third-wavers (like me) will accept anyone who wants to be a part of the feminist party with open arms. The point of third-wave feminism is to truly accept that feminism means equal treatment for all, and allowing everyone to make their own decisions. If I want to be craftsy and get married young and wear dresses and makeup, I am just as much a feminist as one who presents gender-neutral and doesn’t shave. My outward presentation has nothing to do with my core beliefs. I understand that no decisions are made in a vacuum and that there is an unfortunate history with shaving and the porn industry, and that makeup is a consumer industry born in making women feel inferior and getting us to spend tons of money on beautifying products, and patriarchy and male gaze etc and so forth. BUT I also enjoy participating in these constructs, and it is my right to participate as much or as little as I want. The overall takeaway of third-wave feminism is education and context, and giving everyone the OPPORTUNITY to make the decisions that they feel fit themselves.

It truly makes me so sad when women don’t want to identify as feminists. Do you believe in equal opportunities/treatment for men and women? Then you are a feminist! It should be that simple. None of this extra labeling nonsense.

Brandi March 14, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Well said! I completely understand that I wouldn’t even have the beliefs I do if it weren’t for all those who came before, and the prevailing social norms that caused the need for feminism in the first place, but I, like you, am a die hard third-waver and refuse to criticize any decision a woman comes to of her own volition.

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