Monday, January 18, 2010

What IS a feminist, anyway?

I have new roommates this semester, and after a couple weeks of us all getting to know each other, one of them finally asked me the question she's been anxious to ask me since she moved in:

What do you mean, when you say you're a feminist?

I began explaining my various answers -

I'm a humanist/ humanitarian who specializes in women.

I care about gender issues and how they impact both men and women.

I want all human beings to be elevated, and I focus on elevating women; not elevating them relative to men, but elevating them as people. Period.

I tend to focus on issues like domestic abuse, rape, and sexual harassment.

I hate pornography, and I want it to stop.

My answers led to a new question:

Why do you call yourself a feminist, instead of using another term, when you know a lot of people will assume you're a baby-hating, man-hating, asexual or lesbian, who wants to hurt men and drag them down to the socioeconomic and political level that women were once at.

Why do I call myself a feminist? Well, I believe in reclaiming this term. It's not the fault of feminists that it developed those connotations - news stations and anti-feminists are only too happy to set up straw women by focusing on the more radical branches of feminism and pretending that that's what we were all like. So why turn my back on those who came before me, by rejecting the name they worked so hard to gain?

And now I want to ask you those questions:

1. What does feminism mean to you? If you are a feminist, what do you mean when you call yourself a feminist?

2. If you call yourself a feminist, why do you choose to hang onto such a loaded term?

3. If you don't call yourself a feminist, why not?

Remember, there are no right and wrong answers. If feminism means something negative to you, for instance, go ahead and explain why.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry, this doesn't answer your questions, but I looked up the term "strong women" in Wikiquote and I go the results for "misogyny". If that wasn't enough, I found a quote that y'all probably already know well, but I just discovered.

    "Just as it sometimes happen that deformed offspring are produced by deformed parents, and sometimes not, so the offspring produced by a female are sometimes female, and sometimes not, but male, because the female is as it were a deformed male." -Aristotle from Generation of Animals