Name: Chanel Dubofsky
Location: Brooklyn, New York
How do you define feminism?
Well. I think. not surprisingly, that it’s hard to define. My definition says that it’s the movement to liberate gender, that is, to remove obstacles created by the definition of gender that oppress people. Basically, my entire social justice theory is based around the idea that definitions, and reinforcement of definitions, limit people’s access to their potential. I want to remove those obstacles, and I think we can do it, if people consider more deeply their reflexes and why they think what they think. This is a really broad definition, but for me, there are actually two really essential ideas that all feminists must own: The belief in bodily autonomy and reproductive choice, and the active fighting of homophobia (read: not tolerance), and an investment and interest in allyship and what it means. I also really believe that one should have an analysis around race, gender, class-intersectionalities, basically, but the academic jargon is often alienating.
When did you first identify as a feminist?
I was a feminist before I knew what feminism was, if i think about it. I remember having conversations about what I though about abortion when I was eleven or twelve, and I knew right away that it was very, very important to me to have jurisdiction over my own body, and by extension, my own life. I probably started using the word in high school, though. For my senior year superlative, I was named Class Feminist (there was also a Class Chauvinist category). I feel good that people were paying attention to my budding high school politics.
Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
My definition of feminism has changed this week. I think it was Gloria Steinem who said that women get more radical with age. For me, that is totally true. A lot of feminism for me has been the realization that I have spent a lot of my life not trusting my own instincts, and the beginning of trusting those instincts has been like a consciousness raising exercise. I’ve been realizing that I don’t have to do things like get married and have children, things that I have never wanted, and I don’t have to want them. The deeper my analysis gets, the more I understand the role feminism plays in my life and the more I want other people to understand how valuable it is and how potentially life changing. I fully identify as a radical feminist now, someone who wants to understand and open up the root causes of sexism, homophobia, etc, and create new ways of understanding and re imagining gender in the world.
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 was actually thinking about this this week. At my day job, I am really open about my politics, and I think of it as a safe space to be so. Sometimes, though, I wonder if everyone just thinks I’m loud and troublemaking, which for the record, i have no problem being most of the time. I think all of that negative stuff that’s out there about feminism is inside me, no matter how much I deconstruct. It’s one of the many ways sexism has impacted me.That’s the point of sexism, to cut women off from our power, even when we are aware that we have it.
I’m often challenged on my politics, especially by people who hold things like marriage very tightly. It’s sometimes hard for me not to back down, although I feel what I believe very deeply, and I think there’s much value in my analysis. When it comes down to it, I just want to make people to think about what they think,what they want, why they think and want things, and what’s behind it. That’s scary, but it’s the work.
What do you see as the future of feminism?
I’ll say that what i hope is in the future of feminism is that people move away from this idea that it’s possible to make choices outside of a context. All choices we make are based in a context that societal norms, pressures, expectations has shaped. Feminism is not just about choice, it’s about power and privilege and responsibility. I hope that becomes more of a factor in thinking about how to live feminism.
It seems to me that the future of feminism is in interrogating traditional notions of gender, marriage, sexuality, autonomy, family, etc. I love this. I love the rethinking and the confrontation. I feel giddy about it, wherever it’s happening, I want in.
Chanel blogs about feminism and art at Diverge, which is also the home of the Marriage Project, an interview series about women, marriage and identity. You can also follow her on Twitter at @chaneldubofsky. Chanel also writes for the Sisterhood blog at the Forward, Jewschool, and the Jewish Women’s Archive blog.
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