Name: Jeanette Grey
Occupation: Aspiring Romance Writer
Location: North Carolina, USA
How do you define feminism?
To me, feminism is about challenging gender stereotypes and working toward a world where women and men alike can be fully actualized people who are free to pursue their lives and dreams in whatever way they see fit. Because women have been systematically shut out of so many avenues of society for so long, this necessarily involves celebrating the accomplishments of women and destigmatizing parts of the female experience that have so often been dismissed by a male-dominated society.
It apparently also means using lots of big words to explain simple concepts such as, “Women Rock,” and “Gender Stereotypes Suck.”
When did you first identify as a feminist?
I can’t think of a time in my life when I didn’t identify as a feminist. My mother always labeled herself as a feminist, and some of my favorite stories growing up were about how she fought for her place as the only woman in her all-male engineering school. From an early age, I was taught that women can and should do anything they set their minds to.
In my sophomore year of college, I took a feminist literature class that cemented my status as a feminist. It was such a great experience to be surrounded by women and men who thought all people were equal. That I also met some women who felt just as empowered by finding cute, functional bras as by burning them didn’t hurt matters.
Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
Yes, it has, in a couple of important ways.
First, my definition of what feminists should want for women has changed. For a long time, I thought women were as good as men and should be able to do the same things men do. Only, that mindset of saying women should be able to do the jobs that have usually been held by men implicitly values traditionally male roles over traditionally female roles in a way that is ultimately damaging, I think. Over time, I’ve come to recognize that while, yes, women should be able to be engineers or senators or construction workers, just like men, they should also be able to be housewives and teachers and nurses. I now think that part of feminism is elevating what we’ve long viewed as women’s work, as well as giving women access to the things that used to be viewed as men’s work.
As a romance writer, this has been a really important mental shift for me, and one that’s helped me finally be able to pursue my own career ambitions without guilt. For the longest time, I was embarrassed about liking racy novels and wanting to write them, partly because they were too girly and therefore beneath me and my feminist politics. Now I see that the problem isn’t the kind of books I like. It’s society’s dismissal of those books as being for women, and therefore lesser simply because they’re not targeted at men.
The second major way my view of feminism has changed over time is that I’ve made it more expansive, and I’ve grown it to include the rights of men to be whomever they want to be as well. Gender stereotypes hurt everyone, and while men have not been held back in the same ways women have, they are still limited by society’s expectations. Men should be able to cry or watch soap operas or drink cosmopolitans without being accused of being gay or less than manly. In short, everyone — female or male — should be able to be true to him or herself.
Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
Not really, but I do hear lots of women preface their statements by saying, “I’m not a feminist, BUT.” It drives me crazy, and I hate that political spin doctors have been able to reframe feminism as a dirty word. My only response is to loudly proclaim that I am a feminist to anyone who will listen.
What do you see as the future of feminism?
Hopefully, feminism will continue to expand. Hopefully, we’ll continue to break down the emotional, societal and economic barriers presented by traditional gender stereotypes. And hopefully, someday, we’ll reclaim the word feminism as the powerful word that it is.
Jeanette Grey is an aspiring author of romantic fiction and literary erotica. Her cyberpunk romance, Unacceptable Risk, will be available from Samhain Press this winter. Find Jeanette online at http://www.jeanettegrey.com/ or on Twitter as @jeanettelgrey.
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