I have met many young women who embrace the idea of having: the same rights as men, the same wage as men, and believe that rapists should be punished more severely. However, if you ask these women if they are feminists, many of them reply “no.”
What is it about the label of “feminist” that works as a repellant? Is it the idea that some women may believe in equal rights but would not identify themselves as politically active in the movement for/toward equal rights?
In Chloe Angyal’s article for Guardian on April 7th titled “You’re Not a Feminist, but…what? Many young women embrace the ideas of feminism but are reluctant to use the ‘f-word’ for fear of rocking the boat” she discusses the tension around the politically charged word . Angyal argues “feminism demands a complete overhaul of how we think, how we behave, how we talk, where we work, what media we consume, how we vote and how we raise our families…that’s why it’s so thrilling—and so threatening.”
Though I do agree with Angyal that being a feminist engages several parts of one’s life and activities, what it really does is “refocus” the lens in which we view the world and forces us to be critical of what we see through this lens. It makes us acknowledge why we see things the way we do and how we are informed by our gender, personal/familial histories, race, neighborhood, socioeconomic status, etc. I don’t think it is so much a conscious change in lifestyle but more of a shift in thinking and field of view. For some action follows thought, and for other feminist thinkers, thoughts simply ruminate.
Click: Young Women on the Moments They Knew They Were Feminists set to be released this May, chronicles the various lives and thinking of women who do identify as feminists. The anthology, edited by Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan, shows the different “paths” and strains of feminism, highlighting the fact the feminism does not have to be public (though in some cases it is) but rather it is extremely personal.
Some personal accounts are directly political, and reference Roe v. Wade, yet most are simply human. Many entries center around observations about the way the individual views her world, and how she is influenced by the cultural climate of her time.
Winter Miller explains in her chapter“I Was Not Aborted and Further Miscellanea”: “Despite my feminist DNA, there are still times when I catch myself behaving in a way that is rooted in our inherently pro-heterosexual—and also sexist—values…It’s hard to know where the lines blur, between internalized homophobia, compulsory heterosexuality, the laws of attraction, and good fashion sense.”
I interviewed the Editor of Bitch Magazine, Andi Zeisler about how she started to construct her feminist lens:
“One thing I remember pretty clearly was that chores when I was growing up were divided along gender lines, or to put it more bluntly I was expected to do household chores (clearing dishes, washing up, hanging laundry) and my older brother was not. I began to rebel in middle school, when my mother continually asked me to mend my brother’s clothes or sew buttons back on or whatever. This was especially galling because my brother took home ec and knew how to do that stuff all on his own, but the default assumption (not on his part, but on my mother’s) was that I, being a girl, should be the one to do it.”
In essence, feminism is not always about activism, it is not always political, it does not always denounce heterosexuality, it is not always against men and in many cases INCLUDES men, and it is not against procreation. Feminism documents a process (albeit mental or reactionary). It critiques compulsory “normalcy” and asks how normal became normal. Each and every feminist I have met participates in a different way.
I am a feminist who is engaged to be married and wears high heels. I work with several organizations promoting women’s rights, specifically women who have been involved in domestic/sexual violence situations. I would align myself with anyone who felt “left out of” or “beaten down by” the “way things work” and my understanding/lens of “the way things work” shifts weekly if not daily.