What is Feminism?
I’ve heard this question a lot, often from people of my own generation – millennials – who are confused (What is Feminism? Why do we need feminism? Aren’t we equal already?) or think I’m lying when I say I’m a feminist since I wear a bra, shave my legs, and date men.
The answer to “You’re a feminist? What does that mean?” isn’t the same for every feminist. It has as many answers as you would get asking: “You’re a Catholic. What does that mean to you?” or “You’re an American. What does that mean to you?” or “You’re a woman. What does that mean to you?” Even my own answer is constantly changing. Feminism – like me, like the world – is always adapting, adjusting; it’s a work in progress.
With all this confusion in mind , I understand before writing a blog on feminism, I must first provide a more specific definition of feminism, or rather, My Feminism. I don’t have the be-all, end-all definition, not even for my generation of feminists, or myself. I couldn’t fit every nuance into a read-able blog post. I hope you’ll bear with me through this post and the many more to come on what and how and where feminism is. Here’s where we can start:
Feminism is a philosophy, it’s a culture, it’s a political ideology. It’s an identity.
Feminism isn’t just about women. It’s about men. It’s about people of color, people in the Third World, people in poverty, people who are sick, people who could be sick, children, people of all classes, races, sexualities, physical abilities, religions, political parties.
I guess it’s just about people.
Feminism is about being better to one another (and ourselves), judging and assuming less. Especially women, as feminists we should not tear each other down, talk behind each others’ backs, but help build each other up.
Feminism is understanding life is not a zero sum game. We can all help each other, we can all succeed.
Feminism is keeping an open mind, and truly questioning everything.
Feminism is taking a really critical look at the world around you, noticing when you think something is “wrong” or “should be” or “shouldn’t be” and asking yourself why that is, and being prepared to think in a new way.
Feminism is empathy. It’s not just understanding there are other ways of life; people of other cultures, other religions, other races, classes, sexualities, abilities, who have a different outlook on and experience in life. It isn’t just recognizing that. Or tolerating that. Or presuming to know what someone else’s life is like.
Feminism is feeling those differences, being sensitive to the world around you, trying your best to stand in another’s shoes, but knowing that those shoes will likely never fit.
Feminism not disparaging yourself or someone else because of these differences. Knowing it, not shying away from it, neither saying these differences are good nor bad, but standing up when there are inequalities because of those differences.
Feminism is understanding the intersection of all these differences – race, class, gender, religion, and so on – and how these identities can lead to oppression.
Feminism is not being afraid of the words “oppression” and “privilege“, and realizing they are as real today as they were in the 1400s, the 1800s, and so on.
Feminism is loving women and loving men, but mostly loving humans, just for what they are, not based on some preconceived notion. Feminism is listening.
Feminism is not accepting “boys do this because they are boys” and “girls do this because they are girls” or any stereotypes based on superficial things.
And most importantly – Feminism is opposing violence. Violence against women. Domestic violence. Violence in conflict. Child abuse. Hate crimes. Feminism is opposing the hate, objectification, ignorance and fear that leads to violence.
What is Your Feminism? I’d love to hear what your definition of Feminism is, either specifically for you, a group like Millennials, Men, People of Color, whatever you feel like telling me. Please share in the comments below or on the original post on my blog: http://feministmillennial.wordpress.com. I have a feeling this will be an on-going discussion, and I look forward to it.