Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my feminist identity and what it means when I proudly declare, “I’m a feminist” in any setting. I do feel like this happens for me pretty regularly. Maybe it is the field of work I’ve chosen or the crowd I run with or the challenges to women today and how I perceive them, but this phrase seems to be rolling off my tongue with increasing regularity.
What comes next? I’m going to vent about my recent feminist frustrations. Feel free to comment about your own struggles and femtastic frustrations.
1) I am totally freaked out by all of the attacks on a women’s right to choose in the US right now.
Every time I read the news it feels like a new piece of anti-choice propaganda has been put forward and the debate is on. I strongly feel that taking away a woman’s right to choose is saying that women aren’t smart enough to choose. That women don’t know what is best for themselves, their bodies or their future. So you don’t personally want to have an abortion? Great. Good for you. But do not tell me that I don’t have the right to an abortion if I don’t want a child right now. It is a choice and it is a personal choice, not the choice I want my government to make for me.
It hurts my feminist soul to read that every single Republican candidate that was even considered in the primary is pro-life and several have expressed interest in the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. It scares me to think that this is a majority opinion in the United States and makes me wonder how this has gotten to be such a popular opinion as of late. The idea that the country could elect someone with a goal of overturning Roe vs. Wade is something that keeps me up at night. This coupled with states deciding not to fund organizations like Planned Parenthood and the debate over Obama’s health care reform’s inclusion or exclusion of birth control access just makes me feel like we’re living in a troubled and conflicted time. On one hand, with all the economic turmoil I feel like people want to return to a more “wholesome” time, yet these choices are sending our country’s women’s rights in a tailspin backwards.
2) I’m sick and tired of folks reacting to the word “feminist” as if it has a permanent “angry” attached to the front of it.
Whenever I say I’m a feminist there is inevitably someone who gives me a look like, “Oh shit… here we go… another angry woman.” Maybe ranting in this post confirms how angry I really am (ha). Just because I believe women deserve equal treatment does not mean I am going to bring it into every single issue nor am I going to immediately start a bra burning in the middle of your office (although it might be fun). Webster’s dictionary defines feminism in two statements: 1) the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2) organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests. This pretty accurately describes my thoughts and aspirations when identifying myself as a feminist. I do believe that the sexes should be treated equally and I am interested in women’s rights. Sure this makes me angry sometimes, but what really makes me angry is that, on average, women still make less money than men. I think about things like Slut Walk a positive and modern display of feminism: it’s about rights and it’s fun. Feminism frequently takes fun-loving women who share a belief that women should have the right to _______ and allows them to organize and express themselves. Somehow banks lobbying for a government bailout are not seen as angry, so why is it that when we use the f word (feminist) it comes with a dirty and angry connotation? I think feminism is beautiful and wonderful– next time you hear someone declare themselves a feminist, I say high five them! Feminists rock.
3) How do I negotiate my own feeling that all men and women should be equal while respecting that everyone does not share that view, and may be opposed to it for their own moral, ethical or religious reasons?
Recently I was in a training on effective and respectful communication between groups of different backgrounds (races, religions, etc.) and we spent a fair amount of time discussing the differences between maintaining and sharing your beliefs and pushing them on others. I don’t want to be colonial but I do believe in women’s rights. How do I negotiate my beliefs when women choose and love the lifestyle of a culture they belong to? I really don’t have an answer to this one– it’s just been on my feminist thought sphere for a while. I feel like all I can do is work to create change where change is wanted and needed and has buy in. This is a hard internal call but I am doing my best to stick to my gut and internal ethical compass to check me when I’m pushing to far.
I feel like some of this will come with time and some will depend on who we elect and the changes we fight to see made in our world. At the end of the day, I know that I am proud to call myself a feminist and I plan to continue to deal with my struggles in feminism as they arise.