Six years ago I found myself knee-deep in research for my masters’ thesis. I had chosen to focus on the status of feminism as it related to women in their twenties. I had done my research and culled various information from previous studies and data. I had the hard facts, but what was missing were the voices.
I wanted to know more about these stark facts and figures I was reading about, so I added an extra component to my own research – interlacing the public with the private. In addition to all of the published resources that I poured over, I also began gathering the stories of women in their twenties from all over the country.
I started out by contacting my friends. I emailed them a questionnaire and urged them to forward it along to anyone else they knew that fit into my criteria of being a. 20-29 and b. female. I also used the Internet and found myself posting my contact information all over various message boards and forums. In addition to the questionnaires, I grabbed my video camera and hit the road, traveling across the country to interview women, all because I was curious as to how the “average gal” viewed feminism.
My results were mixed.
While on this journey I had many of my own “click” moments – you know, those moments of truth and recognition where something significant sinks in. There were times when I sat and engaged a total stranger and connected over something so empowering that there was this moment of “Yes! This is why I’m here and pushing these issues and proud to call myself a feminist.”
However, I also found myself experiencing a handful of “anti-click” occasions… moments that had more to do with realizing the limitations and shortcoming of the feminist movement. More than once I interviewed somebody who wanted to make sure that it was painfully clear that they were not a feminist.
For these young women, feminism was a dirty word and one that they didn’t want to be associated with. There was a of “I believe that women are equal and should be treated as such, but I’m not a feminist.” In fact, for some of them, their faces would scrunch up in disgust at the mention of the “f-word.”
These anti-click moments infuriated me and inspired me all at once. I wasn’t mad at these women that so vehemently denied being feminists, despite all the supporting evidence to the contrary. No, I was angry that somehow, as a movement, we had alienated pockets of women who shared our values and aspirations. How did we get to that place?
As those anti-click moments accumulated, I became more energized about my own identity as a feminist. I tried to find common ground with the “anti-clickers” in hopes that despite their fear or disgust with one label they could eventually see that it wasn’t about a word, but rather the actual actions that counted.
While all of that took place six years ago, I still find myself crossing the paths of women who feel similarly. I take each “anti-click” moment where I hear the “…but I’m not a feminist” disclaimer and use it to strive towards closing that gap and making it so the “f-word” is no longer something to be ashamed of.
It starts small.
I currently volunteer for an organization that helps teen mothers earn their GED. One morning I was helping one of them work on a history essay, and the conversation veered towards the evolution of women’s rights. We had a thoughtful conversation that ended with eager questions and excited thoughts about the topic. I didn’t bring up the “f-word” then, but it’s definitely getting thrown on the table next time.
Little by little we can break down these misconceptions and hope to only hear clicks.
Do you have a click moment? Share below in the comments or head over to Bitch to post there!