Name: Carrie Nelson
Occupation: Grant Writer
Location: New York City
How do you define feminism?
I define feminism as the belief in gender equality. I think the reason a lot of people don’t like the label is because of the misconception that feminism is about female supremacy. It isn’t. It’s about the freedom of gender expression. According to my definition of feminism, a truly feminist world would allow individuals the freedom to identify and express their genders without restrictions or reprimands. And no one gender identity or expression would be privileged over any other.
When did you first identify as a feminist?
I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t identify as a feminist. I’m not sure when I first heard the word, but it was definitely during elementary or middle school, and I decided pretty quickly that, whatever this “feminism” thing was, I wanted to be a part of it. Luckily, when I was 10 years old, the first Spice Girls album came out, so feminism (albeit a very watered-down version of “feminism,” but whatever) was pretty “in” when I was growing up.
Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
When I first learned about feminism, I understood it to mean that men and women should be equal. Which isn’t necessarily inaccurate; it’s just awfully simplistic. It took me quite a long time to understand feminism the way I understand it now.
I began the process of coming out as a queer person when I was 15, and I spent my high school years getting acquainted with LGBT activism. At the time, it felt like a more pressing cause than feminism, probably because I was seeing a lot more overt homophobia than overt sexism in school. So even though I identified as a feminist, I put “feminism” on the backburner, seeing it as something a little outdated in a practical sense. I mean, my mom worked outside the home! Teachers never discouraged me from pursuing any ambitions based on my gender! Abortion was legal! Clearly, feminism had been pretty successful. Other movements deserved my attention.
It wasn’t until college, when I started taking women’s studies classes and reading blogs like Feministing, that I started to see the connections between queer activism and feminism. That was when I started to think consciously about intersectionality, about the ways in which racism and classism and heterosexism and cissexism and ableism all work together to reinforce hegemonic gender roles. Once I started defining feminism as a movement about gender equality and intersectionality, it became relevant to me again.
Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
I really haven’t. But honestly, feminism is personal. I don’t object to other people not using the label, or even pointing out the problems with it – it’s a loaded term, and it doesn’t work for a lot of people. I wish that wasn’t the case, but it is, so I don’t hold anything against anyone who doesn’t claim that label for themselves. And I’ve found, with that kind of attitude, people don’t object to my personal use of the label.
What do you see as the future of feminism?
Shameless plug time! I think feminism is going to become a much more powerful movement now that online activism and blogging communities are connecting feminists and other progressive folks from around the world with each other. I feel lucky to be part of the Gender Across Borders community, which is doing its part in helping to facilitate these conversations. Gender equality is only going to be possible if people are open minded to new ideas about gender, and I think the Internet is doing a lot to make that possible.
Carrie Nelson is an Editor and Founder of Gender Across Borders. Her background is in film production, and she currently works as a grant writer for an LGBT nonprofit organization. She lives with her husband, also a writer, in NYC. You can follow her writing and ranting about movies and feminism on Twitter.
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