At this, the half-year mark, we want to send a huge THANK YOU out to all participants and readers!
We thought that to celebrate this milestone we would talk a bit more about ourselves and about what feminism is to us – expect to see a post where we answer a question for the next four Fridays. We will share our thoughts and we are hoping that you will chime in with your answers either on your own blog or in the comments.
Why do you identify as a feminist?
My favorite definition of feminism comes from bell hooks, who says that feminism is the struggle against sexist oppression. Globally, women suffer disproportionately from poverty, little or no access to healthcare, illiteracy, and various forms of domestic and sexual violence. I call myself a feminist because I think this is wrong, that it’s not inevitable, and that it’s my personal responsibility as a compassionate human being to combat this state of affairs in my daily life in all the small but meaningful ways I can. Because women and children are often the most vulnerable members of their communities, raising their standards of living raises the living standards of whole communities. Feminism is not enough: a coherent, effective approach toward social justice, or becoming the person I envision as my best, most fulfilled self, must also include the struggle against other forms of oppression which inevitably intersect with those of sex and gender based discrimination including, but not limited to, sexual, religious, racial, and economic systems of devaluation. So, feminism is not an end-point: it is, however, a crucial part of both my social justice worldview and my personal understanding of myself, the world, and what I want to accomplish within it, regardless of barriers imposed by sexist social structures. It gives me the tools for understanding my place in the world in relation to others, and for realizing most fully my own potential while encouraging others to do the same.
Because, as Cheris Kramarae put it, “feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.” This may seem obvious, but we live in a world that still treats women as second class citizens – be it through the gender pay gap, the unfair division of domestic labour or the reality of sexual assault in the developed world; or the incredible poverty, illness and violence that disproportionately afflict women in the developing world. Gender is of course not the sole cause of inequality in the world, but feminism is nevertheless a crucial part of any social justice movement. It all comes down to the fact that the world does not give women a fair deal, but there’s something we all can do about that.
Simply being a woman affects me in so many ways: if I am sexually assaulted or am abused by my partner, I don’t have recourse to justice because I am disbelieved and my character is questioned; as a woman if I decide to take time off to raise my children, it will count against me if I try to rejoin the job market; as a woman I am less likely to have the same autonomy over my body and my health, because other people restrict my health care access and choices; as a woman I have to put up with sexual discrimination and sexual harassment on the job and in the streets on a regular basis. The list is endless, horrifying when put together, and also upsetting. If, as a society, we refuse to give fully equal rights to (and are actively decreasing the rights of) roughly half of the members in the society, what does that really tell us about our values and our future? I want to live in a world where women can live safely and securely and have the same rights as men. I want to live in a world where my gender (be it female or male) dictates such a large part of what I can do, what I can want, and what I can become. I want to live in a world where we are all safe and free to be ourselves. It is unacceptable that we aren’t already there, and we can all do something about it. Hence, I identify (loudly, and proudly) a feminist.
Compared to the answers of the others, I feel a little ashamed to admit that I must have been fairly late to identify as a feminist. Yes, I hail from the generation that likes to use the words “I’m not a feminist, but..” and even when my interest in university started to go in the direction of gender studies, I would have endless discussions with male friends in which – apparently – the argument “I’m not a feminist” is considered necessary to be taken seriously. However, since I started using gender as a category of analysis in university (which was at about the same time that I started blogging and found the wonderful Women Unbound Challenge), I have realised how necessary it is to identify as a feminist. Most of us are well aware of the visible gender gap across the world, but what made me truly identify as a feminist are the more ‘hidden’ inequalities. Ever since I started looking at historical sources – and consequently at everyday things like commercials, movies, books and TV shows – through the eyes of discourse analysis and the implicit ways in which women so often are subjected, I have truly become a feminist. Silly as it may sound that I needed these implicit things to hit home before I could come to terms with identifying myself as a feminist, I think it does say a lot. So, I identify as a feminist because all too often, explicitly and implicitly, women are still considered unequal to men, because sometimes, they are not even considered human. As a fellow human being, I don’t want to accept these things at face value. I want to at the very least be aware of them. Moreover I would like to draw attention to these issues so that other girls who once said that they are not feminists – almost as a defence mechanism? – will realise that asking for equality is nothing to be ashamed of, that it is, actually, necessary. As such, like Emily, Amy and Ana, feminism is not an endpoint, it is but one part of the awareness of inequality in the world. However, to me it is one of the basic things to be aware about – and an important one at that.
What about you – do you identify as a feminist? Why or why not?