How do you define feminism?
Feminism is the idea that all people have equal rights and the freedom to be whomever they choose to be. It’s called ‘feminism’ because historically, women have been at the bottom of the human pecking order. We’re working to dismantle the stereotypes, expectations, values, and cultural norms that keep women there. Sometimes, along the way, men end up with the patriarchal systems that keep them in the ‘manly man’ line dismantled along with us. Personally, when someone asks for a short definition of feminism, I feel like channeling my Scottish ancestors and yelling “Freedom!” at the top of my lungs.*
When did you first identify as a feminist?
I first identified as a feminist after taking a literary theory and criticism class in college. Before that, the only thing I knew about feminism was that it made mothers worked and forced babies into daycare. (Laughable now, I know). Still, I’m fairly certain I would have made a good feminist all along if I had known what it was. I rejected traditions and gender roles when I was young and have channeled my quasi-anarchist tendencies since then. One important way I’ve grown into my feminism is to realize that my rebellion against the femininity forced on me as a child was actually misogyny, not feminism–hatred of the feminine doesn’t make one a feminist. Rebelling against the oppressor by eschewing the oppressed doesn’t help. That has been one of the most challenging things to shed.
Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
I’ve gone from thinking feminism was one train stop away from hell to knowing, understanding, and claiming feminism as my own, so I guess my definition has changed. 🙂 Really, though, my definition of feminism hasn’t changed since I claimed the term for myself. My understanding has grown deeper and more practical (I’ve grown into my feminist shoes, if you will), but the core ideas have always stayed the same.
Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
Um, yes. Loads of resistance. I’m really jealous of the other participants who haven’t, and I hope that one day, that will be my life. Right now, I know that I’m inviting the resistance. I (mostly) willingly attend a church that has the sign, “Welcome to ___. Self-Identified Feminist Population: 4.**
Feminism is still this shadowy boogeyman to them, so I’m working on educating (and, per leadership request, have started compiling a Feminism 101 curriculum). Almost all of the resistance I’ve encountered is based on ignorance, fear, and misconceptions–it’s very rare for me to encounter resistance to feminism itself. Most of the time, I laugh at the ignorance of the resistance (and try not to get too cynical). If it gets bad, I take a break, immerse myself in feminist lit, bounce ideas off a friend, and then come back. I’ll come up with a long-term strategy later.***
What do you see as the future of feminism?
I’m seeing such a split in cultural ideas of feminism that it’s hard to say what the future is. On one hand, I’m seeing a huge cultural backlash to feminism (especially in mass media). On the other hand, the feminist movement seems to be gaining traction. SlutWalks went further to build awareness than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime (short though it is), and I’m hopeful that we’ll see some of that begin to stick. I see people shying away from the term ‘feminism’ because of all of its history, and while that saddens me, people who don’t identify as ‘feminists’ are working on so-called feminist issues. Feminism, human rights, social justice–for the most part, we seem to be moving towards a common goal. While I would love it if we got the term ‘feminism’ back, I’ll take the progress we’ve been making on those issues.