I only just discovered feminism a few years ago. It may be an old movement, but it is entirely new to me.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I “knew” about it, but only from the narrow perspective of fundamentalism, which basically taught that it was akin to homosexuality in its destruction of family values and ruination of marriages.
When I got a real does of feminism, the straw men—er women—fell easily away. I was a big fan of their early victories, such as getting the right to vote, establishing that wives are not property to their husbands, fighting for education, etc. I looked at real feminist’s lives and was impressed by how sane they seemed to be. They stood for things that I already felt were important. In my mind, once I was exposed to the truth, it was a no-brainer to be a feminist. I already was one!
Adopting the label of “feminist” was empowering and scary at the same time, kind of like adopting the label of “bisexual.” I knew there would be people who made false assumptions about me based on negative stereotypes. I knew that there might be a handful of people who would be turned off by the rhetoric and antagonistic towards the “agendas” of *gasp* equal rights.
But that was all part and parcel of taking a stand for something. By the time I decided I wanted to be a vocal feminist, I’d already faced so much backlash for my worldviews that the idea of yet one more person disliking me seemed like another no-brainer. It was worth it to stand for women’s rights.
I hadn’t even been a feminist for a year before I encountered a new enemy to feminism—feminists. I started hearing rumblings about former feminists who declared they were no longer feminists because they wanted to be more “inclusive” or who felt that feminism had become too vitriolic and had lived past its use.
All this while the GOP was doing everything in its power to take us back to the early 1800s, including some who thought women shouldn’t be allowed to vote!
I was confounded, to say the least, and horribly disappointed that feminists seemed to have started believing the anti-feminist propaganda. Seriously, this is the movement that has been demonized from the get-go. Perhaps we’ve forgotten, but there were printed cartoons trying to make feminists look like man-eating monsters to defame the women’s movement. This kind of antagonism is nothing new to feminism.
This past weekend, I overheard part of a conversation at a writer’s event. The New Feminist Agenda by Madeleine Kunin was being featured, so it was natural for feminism to come up in the conversation. Those who have met Madeleine know that she is an incredible feminist and an inspiring woman. Those who have read her book can tell you that the “new” agenda she proposes is one that focuses on family needs like childcare and job flexibility for both men and women—hardly anything “radical” or “family-hating.”
Although I did not have the pleasure of hearing Madeleine speak this time, I did hear a few women discussing a story she told—of a college girl who said she would rather be called a slut than a feminist. The women were saddened, understandably, by this young woman’s attitude towards feminism. While I agree that it’s disheartening that a woman who is benefiting from the hard word of so many feminists would consider it an insult to be associated with women’s rights, the sadder part was the discussion that followed.
One of the “feminists” wondered if the title of Madeleine’s book should have used a different word because “feminist” was just too . . .
I actually didn’t hear the end of that thought, but I can fill in the blank with any number of words that I’ve heard before. “Tainted,” “negative,” “off-putting.”
Oh my heart broke at that moment.
Let me make something clear, I don’t think everyone has to identify as a feminist. I’ve got friends who support equal rights but who do not consider it a big deal to identify as a feminist. That’s fine. If the label doesn’t feel right, don’t wear it.
But if you do identify strongly as a feminist, why the hell would you let someone scare you away from your own identity?
Yes, there are a handful of extremists who trumpet the feminist label while doing horrible things. Does the fact that feminism has some crazies—some truly horrible, mean, bigoted people—involved in it make it an illegitimate movement suddenly?
Because that would mean that the Republican party, the Democratic party, the Catholic church, Islam, Christianity, Mormonism, Atheism, Humanism, Agnosticism, and any other movement or philosophy you can think of are all illegitimate for the same reason.
Every group is going to have extremists within it.
Every group is going to have assholes.
But the majority of feminists don’t actually want to castrate men, take all the power, kill babies, dismantle all of society, destroy the family, force women to stop shaving their legs, or oppress other people based on race, gender, religion, etc.
Do people like that exist?
You’ll find them wherever you go, including within feminism. But guess what? It’s not because they’re a feminist that they hold onto their own brand of bigotry. One jerk within a movement doesn’t make every other person in that movement a jerk as well. One flaw in the history of a movement doesn’t make it entirely flawed.
I’m more than willing to denounce anyone who is promoting their own brand of bigotry, but I refuse to let their stupidity take away my identity.
Today, I’m here to tell the world that I’m fucking proud to be a feminist.
If that means I’m called a “slut” because I refuse to conform to the sexual double-standards and taboos of society, then I’m proud to be called that too.
If that means I’m called a “bitch” because I don’t erase my individuality around other people, then I’m proud to be called that too.
If that means I’m called “radical” because I have a voice and use it, then I’m proud to be called that too.
The people who already hate what I stand for DO NOT get to define me. I am a feminist because I believe that women’s rights are as important as racial rights and gay rights—because they’re all part of human rights.
For the past two years, I claimed my identity as a bisexual and walked down the streets of my home town and of New York City with people holding signs that said “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.” While there are certainly people within the Queer community who hold prejudices against others and against their own or who ascribe to ideas that I’m not comfortable with, I’m not ashamed to identify as LGBT.
Perhaps this is the year, then, that I need attend a slutwalk topless screaming “No means no” or march on D.C. with a sign that says “My body, my choice.” The world can demonize feminism all it wants, but I’m not giving up.
And if you identify or used to identify as a feminist, I challenge you to claim your right to your own identity. Grab hold of it with both hands and don’t let anyone scare you away from it. There will probably continue to be a negative view of feminists for a long time because we’re nowhere near where we need to be yet. There will always be people who hate you for what you stand for. But that should be all the more reason to stand proudly.
The very fact that feminism is considered a dirty word is exactly why we still need feminists.
I resonate with this post for so many reasons! Feminism is the new “F-word” that has become even dirtier than the original F-word. I chose to identify as a feminist some years ago, and you are so right, it is like coming out of the closet or something. How can a few, ‘scuse me, but Feminazis as they are referred to, give such a bad name to what is essentially a humanist movement? Rock on for posting this.
Sometimes I still question whether the “feminazis” even exist. I hear about them all the time, but I’ve yet to meet them. I know there are a-holes out there–feminists who hold prejudices against transgender or people of color, but there nowhere near as numerous as the media would have you believe. And where they do vocalize themselves, there are plenty of other feminists there ready to stand up for equality.
I was wondering, what your thoughts are of male feminists? I am a heterosexual male and until just recently I was unaware that I could even be a feminist. I haven’t fully embraced the label yet but I am intending to. I just feel that I have to go through a similar experience that you have just outlined. Before reading this post I was afraid of the negative reactions that people have towards feminism its self as well as dealing with how people will respond to me as a male feminist. I’m male. I’m a feminist. And I’m going to get used to it. (I don’t mean to be rude by spitting your title back at you in such a way. But it seems fitting as a means to psychologically bluster myself…it just felt right.)
I love male feminists. I’m married to a male feminist, and we frequently have fun little competitions to see who is more “feminist.” I am so happy that you are taking that journey. I think you will find it rewarding, but can also be hard. As part of the “privileged” group, you will receive backlash from men who aren’t comfortable with a man who stands against sexism. There may also be some women who are hesitant to trust your claim. But male feminists are incredibly important allies in the fight for equality. If the patriarchy has taught us anything, I hope it has taught us that the beauty of humanity can only shine fully when all of humanity is allowed to shine. Men make up the other half of the population and definitely need to be part of the quest.
I enjoyed reading your blog. I think the biggest part that people need to realize is that we should embrace our identities, not run from them or change them. If we do so, we are not of ourselves – but what society wants us to be. This can be applied to anything too, which I feel is what makes it such a strong argument. To those who are afraid to speak their minds, cant continue to fight within themselves. It causes depression, pain, and they dont truly find self discovery. I am a christian, and I know there are always a few bad apples. Its hard because those are what our (and most) stereotypes are based off of. And when we feel bad about who we are, it is tough to feel confident in it. If we could truly be unbiased (impossible), maybe there would be less depression in the world and less pressure to conform. We just need to stay strong in our beliefs.
What does being a feminist have to do with being a slut? What does being an independent and responsible woman have to do with treating sex as a form of entertainment?
A feminist slut is a paradox. Sex is a drug. A slut is a slave to sex and in turn a slave to the men who give it to her.
It has a lot to do with it when merely wanting to have access to birth control gets you called a slut and when being called a slut(as Sandra Fluke experienced) apparently means that your thoughts and arguments are worthless in a debate. It has a lot to do with it when women are called sluts for having a sex drive but men are considered normal for the same thing–or when women are deemed “addicted to sex” because they enjoy it whereas it’s considered abnormal for a man to have trouble wanting or enjoying sex. A feminist slut is not a paradox. Feminism is about equality, and the word “slut” is an arbitrary double standard that is only applied when equality is not present. Sex is pleasurable. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Having perused your blog, I have to say I’m mildly surprised that you would comment an opposing view on someone else’s blog when you seem to dislike others doing the same so much that you would disable comments. But I am rather amused by your views on sex. I think it’s admirable that you are wise enough to see many of the lies that the media and society propagates about sex, women, and sexuality. However, I think you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Just because you feel surrounded by unhealthy and dangerous expressions of sexuality doesn’t mean all expressions are unhealthy or dangerous. Surely you’re familiar enough with logic to understand how that would be an illogical jump. I think if you were to allow yourself to entertain multiple opinions, you might find that it’s not quite as simple as you seem to think. And entertaining multiple opinions does not mean you have to accept them all. In fact, if you truly value free will and independent thought so much, the more information you have and the wider your spectrum of understanding, the more likely you are to be able to weigh ideas against each other, build on them, discard them, or otherwise think through them. If you limit yourself to what you were taught and it’s exact antithesis, then you really haven’t broken away from your old mode of thinking at all. Your understanding of birth control is severely lacking, as is your knowledge of the risks involved with sexual activity and your understanding of the “addiction” of hormones produced by sex (which I might add are hormones you need and that your body produces in multiple ways whether you like it or not). Perhaps try approaching the world with a little less black and white thinking. Extremism rarely holds up under closer scrutiny. That being said, if you truly find no pleasure in sex, then perhaps you should embrace yourself as asexual. If you are merely scared of it, I wish you luck in addressing your fears. Fear is the greatest enemy of freedom and free will.