On being a woman in the USA.

Occupying Feminism

femisnot“Why does feminism matter?”

That’s the theme question and writing prompt for Day 2 of #FemFest. This is my answer–today, anyway.

Yesterday I spent a considerable portion of my day thinking about how to talk to two young women who–independent of one another–pooh-poohed the very idea and existence of feminism as something that either didn’t concern them or that they didn’t feel a part of. In talking to the first woman, I learned that as a “working-class black woman,” she didn’t feel at all welcome in or comfortable with feminism–in fact, she believes feminism is pretty exclusive. Being white and new to active feminism, I don’t feel equipped to talk much about why that is (I’ll write more about this in a future post), but I did my best to assure her that my brand of feminism, and that of most of the feminists I’ve encountered, is the inclusive kind.

In the second case, a young blogger declared that feminists are a bunch of whiners who feel inferior–who believe they’re not yet equal to men and are fighting to become equal, which is silly because duh, we already are. She declared that, as a strong woman, she couldn’t possibly be a feminist, because feminists are obviously weak if they think they’re not equal.

In both cases I gave it my best shot, but I have no idea whether I got through. Frustrated, I turned to Jenn Pozner for help during her daily waiting-for-the-subway-Q-and-A.

While I waited for her to respond, I pondered whether my question was a) stupid, and b) answerable via Twitter. After ten minutes, I was certain I’d caused poor Jenn to roll her eyes so hard she passed out. I wondered whether I should call 911. Then this popped into my feed:

I went back over my attempts at communicating with these two women, and I felt pretty good about them. And I realized how close I’d come in the second case to not even trying. Who was I to tell a young woman that she was wrong in her assumptions about feminism? And why would she listen to me? I’m one of THEM! I even closed the tab with her post in it and tried to move on, but it just kept niggling at the back of my brain, so I went and found it again and I told her some of the reasons I think feminism is important:

It took me many years to get past the lies society taught me about feminists and feminism and to call myself a feminist. Feminism is not about seeing your gender as unequal. It’s about noticing that our society doesn’t treat us as equal and deciding we’re fed up with that and want it to change. Feminists are the reason women have the right to vote, own property, get a bank account without our husband’s signature.

I still shave my legs and wear makeup, and I don’t hate men. I don’t feel inferior–but I am tired of being treated as though I’m inferior, and I’ve decided not to tolerate it anymore. Believe it or not, I’m stronger than a lot of people. I’ve survived some of the worst humanity can dish out, and I’m still here. Still fighting for what I believe in. As for things that aren’t fair, I’d much rather write about them and talk about them and work to change them than do nothing, but I certainly do my best not to whine. ;)

I think you’ll find that there are as many kinds of feminism as there are women (and men) who identify as feminists. Some of us are pretty cool people, once you get to know us. :)

That comment has not been approved and published, and it may not be. But I believe there’s a good chance that blogger will see things at least a little bit differently over time because I took a few minutes to be patient, provide clear and concise information, keep things light, and most importantly, to pay attention to what she was saying and respond to her specific criticisms.

And this is why my feminism is important. Because when I hear that something I wrote helped someone “get it” or made them feel something or helped bring them to a place where they felt comfortable declaring, “Yes! I am a feminist!” I know that I have to keep writing and talking and working for change. When I see my daughters’ eyes opening to the patriarchy that oppresses all of us (male and female), I know their lives will be better for that understanding, and that they will go forward and carry on the fight until there’s nothing left to fight anymore.

feminismFeminism is important because there are still people out there who think women ought not to vote, work, or have a place in government. Because rape culture teaches us that our bodies are not our own, but made for men’s pleasure. Because boys are taught that it’s bad to be “girly.” Because the patriarchy hurts us all.

I am more than my body. More than my role as a mother and lover. I am more than a vehicle to transport my breasts and vagina to a man’s bed. I am more than a baby-making machine. And so are my daughters. And I will fight until the day I die to create a world in which they don’t feel the need to apologize for being female.


This post has been part of Feminisms Fest (#FemFest on Twitter). Learn more.

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What is feminism to you? Why is it important?

20 responses

  1. “and in the Western world, feminism is not needed.” If it’s not needed, then why are there still women getting raped in North America? Why do I still have to fear walking home at night, holding keys between my fingers, clutching my cell phone, and being so weary of every man? Why can I not just sit back, relax, and enjoy being a woman? Because, not just in North America, women still need equality. We were not just fighting for it here, we are fighting for it everywhere, all over the world.

    June 5, 2013 at 2:19 pm

  2. Equality

    Feminism is not about equality. Gender equality is about equality. Feminism is nothing but glorifying women, and in the Western world, feminism is not needed. Society is more female-friendly and sets women in higher regard already. In fact, things men do to women seems to be taking a lot more seriously than what women does to men. If a man rapes a woman, it’s the worst thing ever. If a woman rapes a man, the man is just a pussy and is being laughed at. Typical example of a modern feminist in the western world is a girl hitting a guy, and immediately telling him he can’t hit back because she’s a girl. Where is the equality in that? What about the “children and women first”-phrase? It’s expected by society that men stays behind while the women is saved, in cases like lifeboats and getting saved from burning houses. Society is expecting men themselves to stay behind. That’s not equality. People should learn treating others as individuals, not as groups and genders. We are born equal, and no gender should have more rights than another. GENDER EQUALITY!

    April 19, 2013 at 7:27 am

    • Sorry, you don’t get to tell me what my feminism is about. Thanks for reading!

      April 19, 2013 at 8:27 am

      • I also must note, your paragraph about why feminism is important is very inspiring to me. For a few months now, I have been learning more and more about feminism, and I have no idea why it has taken me this long! I don’t hear that word very often, unfortunately… But I’m thankful for finding your post. Thank you.

        June 5, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    • Miles

      I fully Agree with the person who posted as Equality. Just voicing my support for them.
      Feminism cares more about female issues than it does about Male issues.
      Egalatarianism is the actual word to describe the idea that Men and Women are equal.

      “You don’t get to tell me what feminism is about” is a really, really poor rebuttal and just indicates insecurity.

      May 7, 2014 at 8:44 am

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  4. Evisceratus

    Feminism is a good thing sometimes I don’t think I articulate that fact when I write. It’s expanded the rights that women have from voting to property ownership which are great things.

    Lately I don’t have much good to say about feminism as it seems like it’s been bastardized into becoming a mere minion of liberalism and the democratic party.

    Regardless of which party you associate with that isn’t a good thing just like it isn’t a good thing when republicans turn religion into a pawn for whatever they are doing that month. Religion should be so much bigger than one political party just like feminism.

    That isn’t to say religion and feminism shouldn’t play a part in our political decisions, but they should be the kings on the board not the pawns.

    March 27, 2013 at 7:48 pm

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  8. I’m so grateful for this post and your thoughtful outreach to your friends who are less than enthusiastic about feminism. Thanks for participating in #FemFest!

    February 27, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    • Thanks for hosting Day 2, Danielle, and for reading. :)

      February 28, 2013 at 12:30 am

  9. I’m glad you’re in the fray!

    February 27, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    • Thank you!

      February 28, 2013 at 4:06 pm

  10. might your words continue to help others “get it.”

    February 27, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    • Thank you. I hope so.

      February 27, 2013 at 7:28 pm

  11. Your explanation was perfect. I consider myself a feminist but branches of it scare me from revealing who I am within the movement. Much of what I enjoy (comics, games, anime) is considered sexist and I’ve had to defend myself before. Through you and other thoughtful writers though I’m coming to a greater understanding of feminism, why it’s important and more importantly – my place within the movement. So…thanks! :)

    February 27, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    • Thank *you*. I’m honored and blushing. ;)

      February 27, 2013 at 7:27 pm

  12. Great post! It’s terrible that there is such a negative stereotype about feminism. There is nothing negative about working for equality of ALL people!

    February 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    • Thanks! Yeah, it’s really frustrating. I wish I knew a way to counter it besides what I’m already doing.

      February 27, 2013 at 5:13 pm

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