A year or so ago I started calling myself a feminist ironically.
It was a joke, I swear.
My sister started it because there were so many times I would go on long rants out of the blue about, well, about feminist issues. I would say “I’m not a feminist, but…” and then proceed to say some very feminist statements. I sounded like a long SJW tumblr rant. So it became our running joke that I was a super liberal, angry feminist. (And coming from a conservative, Christian, pretty right wing household, this was quite the joke.) We’d laugh about it and make fun of me for it, but then I started to think about it. If I agreed with what feminists stood for, why wasn’t I seriously calling myself one?
So I did my research. I studied up. I read stuff. Listened to opinions. I learned what the cause was really all about. And I discovered that I was a hardcore feminist. I had shied away from the label for the same reason that most people do: the stigma around it, the lack of understanding, and the fear of being associated with certain people or viewpoints that we don’t hold to. But I realized that was a completely illegitimate reason. After all, I call myself a Christian. (Most people who follow the biblical teachings of Jesus do as well.) Yet I don’t agree with everything in popular Christian culture, and I sure as heck don’t like being stereotyped as hypocritical or two-faced or a know it all. But I still hold to that label. My point is, there are always going to be things you don’t agree with in any group you’re a part of, but that doesn’t mean you ditch the group.
So yeah. I’m a feminist.
For me, feminism is the idea that woman are people. It sounds simple enough, but you have to acknowledge that there are ways that women are treated as “less than,” and a lot of people don’t see it or don’t want to admit it. Feminism is the idea that we are not things or objects; we are not here to give sexual pleasure to men and we are not here to be the sidekick. Feminism means that women get to be individuals despite their profession, sexual orientation, or marital status. We are not valuable just because of what we can give society or because of the partner we are with. We are valuable because we were made in the image of God just like men.
Feminism is not the idea that women are better than men. It is not the idea that a woman cannot be gentle or quiet. We do not argue that all females must be in the workforce; we do not put down motherhood. We fight for the idea that women are individuals with preferences and differences and that means some women will be mothers but some will not. Some women love “girly” things and some women like traditionally masculine things. We have differing skills and abilities and personality traits so I argue that womanhood cannot be condensed into a narrow understanding because not all women fit the bill and that’s okay.
Again, many people agree with the sentiment but refuse to label themselves “a feminist.”
There are issues that are “feminist issues” that I am not sure how to approach. As a feminist, I do not believe in the idea of “women’s rights” meaning the women have the right to abort their babies simply because they grow in their bodies. Because I stand for the rights of unborn children to be able to live. But I also know if you take away the right to have abortions, you only take away the right to have safe abortions. This has been shown historically, before medical procedures, women would toss themselves off flights of stairs to abort a pregnancy. But I am not so naive to think that women love murdering children. I believe that life is messy and sometimes we are placed into situations that have no good outcomes; such as that with the situation of saving either the mother or the child, or issues of children of rape.
As a feminist, I believe that women have the right to wear whatever they want. As a feminist, I feel that sexuality is precious and the human body is beautiful and should not be sexualized. I certainly don’t think that women are responsible for the actions of men in that because of the way they choose to dress they are “asking for it.” I don’t think sex work is a good idea because it devalues the incredible thing that sex is, but I also don’t think that women who choose that profession should be looked down upon as “less than.”
Feminism is not clear cut because life itself is not clear cut. It’s messy. That’s something I learn more everyday. Life is messy. There are contradictions and times when you get stuck because no way out is satisfying. That’s just the world we live in. So I think if we can accept that, the idea that feminism has flaws just like everything else, we can move forward. Feminism is imperfect because we are imperfect. (Bad Feminst, Roxanne Gay.) But still I hold on to these ideas with every last bit of energy I have. I need feminism because I believe that there is a real problem and I need to believe that things will get better.
So why do I believe all this? Why am I a feminist?
A part of it started to grow in middle school when my friends and I all discovered that we liked attention from boys. It started when my best friends and I fought for the attention of boys. It started when I was angry at other girls for getting more attention, for being prettier, for being more likable. It started because as girls, we feel that other girls are our competition and that is simply not true. I thought that if a girl was pretty, I was not. I began to think that something was wrong with me because my friends had boys that liked them and I did not. I started to think that my worth was solely based on the affection I got from males. I looked to them for validation and approval because that was what seemed to matter. The girls who got boys were pretty and fun and popular. And I was not. I started to be angry at girls who were my friends because I thought it was a contest and I thought I was losing. Women face enough oppression as it is, but sometimes our number one enemy is ourselves.
The idea grew in high school when I experienced my first rejection, my first hurt, my first guy friend who never wanted to talk to me again. I saw how that tore me apart because I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t his friend. I didn’t know how I would live if we weren’t together. He didn’t like me because I was shy and I thought it was my fault for not being more brave. I would beat myself up for not matching up to his standard. I cried myself to sleep every night. I was a complete mess because I put our relationship before everything else and when that fell through, there was nothing of me left. I thought, as a woman, it was my job to be committed and to love without limits and I thought I was supposed to make sacrifices for us. And that guy left with everything. I had nothing. I saw that my friends did the same thing. They gave their all to guys who gave nothing. I saw that guys lead on, used, abused, and fled. My friends and I would cry and wonder why we weren’t good enough. Maybe it was our looks. Our personalities. Our taste in music. Maybe if we could be more submissive, more loving, more outgoing then maybe he wouldn’t have left. I saw that we, women, put all the blame on ourselves when relationships fell through, simply because we thought we were not enough. We thought that in order to be good girlfriends, we had to change and get rid of the parts of ourselves that he didn’t like.
When I was entering college I realized I was a feminist. See, I have a larger than average chest size. It’s something that isn’t my fault. It’s genetics, body predisposition, and simply part of the way I am. No amount of healthy eating or exercise will cut it. Now to people who just know me in passing and random strangers on the street, I am just a woman with big tits. I am not smart, I am not creative, I am not funny; I am immediately thought of as an object to lust over. I am catcalled. I am the recipient of crude comments even when I am fully and appropriately dressed. I don’t dress provocatively, but still I am reduced to nothing more than my cup size. I can’t walk down the street without thinking that men are undressing me in their minds. I can do nothing to stop it. And it’s not just me. My sister and my friends are catcalled and objectified on the daily. Women everywhere experience this. Because we have enforced this idea then women are to be sexy and women are here to be beautiful and women are here as eye candy. Nothing more.
That’s the worst part of it all.
That women are reduced to nothing but things to have sex with. We are nude models. We are loved for the sensation we give others. We are valued because of the size of our jeans and size of our chest. If we cannot be beautiful, we cannot be anything. If we are not beautiful, we are irrelevant. That’s why in high school one of my friends was starving herself. Because she was told she wasn’t pretty enough, and women are not worth anything if they are not pretty. So I watched in horror as she shrunk down her size by starving and binging and purging. Because if she wasn’t pretty, men wouldn’t love her. If she wasn’t pretty, she wouldn’t matter.
What made me a feminist was the day someone I love very much told me she was gang raped. Several men undressed her and stole her virginity. She wasn’t even in high school yet. I don’t care if that’s graphic, because it was the truth. It happened and I could not ignore that, and people should not ignore that. Because I know more people that have been raped then people who like my favorite TV show. Because according to RAINN, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Because my friend wouldn’t let me put a hand on her shoulder because it gave her flashbacks. Because its 2017 and people still make jokes about rape. Because hardly anyone in my life considers themselves a feminist because they are too scared to admit that this thing happens every day. Because they won’t stand up for this real abuse because God forbid someone think they hate men.
I’m a feminist for all those girls who hate themselves. All the girls who are catcalled and sexualized. I stand up for those who have been molested and raped. I am here for women who were told to be quiet. I’m a feminist for myself because I need to understand that I am a person who is valuable on her own. I am a feminist for all the female fans at Wrigley who were told that baseball was a boys sport. I’m a feminist for my little sisters who I hope will grow to be strong, and loving women. I’m here to tell girls to lift heavy, speak out, be different. I’m here because people say “Men don’t like it when girls…” I’m a feminist for all those women with shaved heads and all the girls who don’t fit the standard. I’ll fight until girls stop calling each other “bitches” and learn to be supportive. I’m a feminist for women of color and disabled women, who have it even harder than I do. I’m a feminist because Jesus’ best friends were prostitutes. I’m a feminist because women matter too.
And because feminism is for everyone, I am also here to support men who cry, because it is not a sign of weakness. I’m here to fight for men who are overly sexualized and feel that in order to be a man they need to have muscles. I’m here for men who wear pink. I am a feminist for stay at home dad’s and males with careers that are labeled “women’s work.” I’m here for the men who are raped because their voices matter too. I fight for the guys with eating disorders. I’m a feminist because I don’t think men should feel the need to be aggressive; I fight for their right to show emotions.
I am a feminist because John 15:12 says to “love each other as I have loved you.”
Feminism means loving all people regardless of gender.
I don’t know how you can’t be a feminist.