Disclaimer: I have wanted to write this blog for a long time and have been waiting to feel qualified enough to do so. I still don't feel qualified or educated enough to do so, but it is what it is, feel free to lay the criticisms on thick. Some people might find this redundant or giving acknowledgement to old stigmas, but I know enough young people who read my blog and grew up where I grew up to believe that I should write this.
For the first eighteen years of my life, I would have never called myself a feminist. I grew up in a town where 'feminism' was a word you rarely heard unless someone was associating it with man-hate, lesbianism, and bra-burning. I never studied feminism or women's rights as a child; I remember very distinctly the paragraph women's suffrage & the 19th amendment were allotted in my U.S. History book, as well as the two pages the Civil Rights Movement happened inside of. High school is a pretty misogynistic place, especially in small town Ohio, where short shorts, nose rings, and feathers in your hair are considered distractions to your peers, where you'll find yourself slut-shamed in the school newspaper if you show cleavage at a party, where average football players are treated like Gods and grow up to become cops in a boring town where the biggest crime bust is a house full of college-accepted/scholarship-awarded students. High school is a place where boys are called, "pussys" for any number of reasons, liking someone, playing the wrong sport, not fighting others. A place where girls are judged on physical presentation, called sluts/whores/bitches/hoes endlessly whether they're sleeping with someone or no one, and taught that the competition between us is never ending, might as well adapt. To all of the confused people who have been told high school will be the best years of your life, they lied, that's a big fucking lie.
These days I sport a red fist in the center of my back, and I call myself a feminist. Somewhere, in an alternate universe, there is a little blonde cheerleader who would be completely mindfucked by my existence (or maybe she would think I was cool as hell, after all, she is going to become me). I'm not using this blog to stand on a soapbox and preach my beliefs, I simply want to express, as the daughter of a feminist who said, "I wouldn't call myself a feminist," there is nothing wrong with calling yourself a feminist. Feminism is defined by the individual and accomplished by the unification of those individuals. There are a million or more definitions of Feminism. I call myself a mermaid and a fairy princess too, and by some definitions, I guess I'm not? (But I am).
I recently read a quote by Lady Gaga that said, "I'm not a feminist. I hail men. I love men."And a quote by Katy Perry that said, "I'm not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women." These make me sad, these statements mean that little girls who worship these women will hear these statements, read these statements and continue to believe that the stigma of feminism is feminism. For starters, Lady Gaga, I too love men, I too hail men. My father, my boyfriend, my brother, my Uncle John, my Uncle Rich, my Grandpa, my Uncle Kris, are some of the most important, influential, beautiful people in my life. Feminism can have so much to do with loving men, with banding together with men, with believing in the goodness of men as they honor the power of women and vice versa. Feminism is about men and women, it's about cooperation, partnership, accepting that as a man it is difficult to see the privilege you have. People say Feminism needs a better marketing campaign, a fresh new look, to be beautified; but isn't that just perpetuating everything that is already hard about being a woman in this society? Maybe people could read into it a little, spend a couple minutes on feministing.com, womenundersiegeproject.org, jezebel.com, etc. once a week, just to see that there are constant human rights attacks surrounding us in every sphere. Read The Feminine Mystique, The Vagina Monologues, Sexing the Cherry; read anything and think about it, all of it. And if you genuinely don't care, you think that the world is fine that the way it is and we are just nitpicking, I implore you to do a few things:
1. Google the phrases, "Women have...", "Women should...", "Women can't..." "Women shouldn't..." etc.
2. Google the things that are happening to women and girls in India/South Africa/Syria/all over the world.
3. Investigate the efforts throughout this country to take away/limit a woman's right to a safe abortion, a woman's access to birth control, or the fact that 60% of sexual assault in the past five years has gone unreported (RAINN).
4. Does it make sense that women make up 50.8% of the U.S. population and only make up 18.3% of the U.S. Congress (CAWP)? That means, for the most part, old men are deciding what women can and can't do with their vaginas.
5. Wait patiently for the next article to come out about a woman who was raped and then somehow made out to be the perpetrator of her rape, because it will happen again, our society allows for it.
6. Watch the movie, Miss Representation on Netflix.
7. Just ask yourself a couple questions:
-Do women deserve to earn the same amount of money as men?
-Should young women be taught that their empowerment is often made synonymous with militance, bitchiness, ugliness, etc.?
-Is there any sound reason why every day, a third of my twitter feed is men calling women sluts, women calling women sluts, women and men criticizing women for the way they dress, do their makeup, how much they weigh, what they go to school for, the way they talk, who they sleep with, who they don't sleep with, and on, and on, and on?
My own personal definition of feminism is this: We live in a society in which boys and girls are taught from a very young age that there are certain qualities they should uphold in order to belong in our society and that is bullshit. As girls, we are constantly fed images of photoshopped, oversexualized models, we are taught that we have to be innocent and virginal but at the same time sexy, sophisticated, and experienced; two standards that are impossible to carry at the same time. I believe that because I am a human, not just a woman, it is my job to fight for the rights of all humans; I believe in intersectionality and I believe in recognizing your privilege and your injustices and the experiences with which you can only empathize. I believe that we should have the career we want, the education we want, the healthcare coverage we want, the ability to wear what we want, say what we want, be with who we want and that we shouldn't be limited or held back or condemned or judged or slut-shamed for the decisions we make. Parts of my feminism need reinforced, and some parts may not belong in your definition of feminism, and that's okay. My favorite part of feminism is accepting that it looks different to all of us and yet, we still believe our unity is the driving force behind women's empowerment.
I have always believed that what makes a person special is their desire to reach the top, and instead of trying to get higher, climbing back to the bottom and bringing back as many others as they can back to the top with them.