While I was on my mission in 2008-2009, the name of my academic department at UC Santa Barbara changed from Women’s Studies to Feminist Studies. Since I registered in 2006 as a Women’s Studies major, I still graduated with said title on my diploma.
And thank God for that, because I would have had to do a whole lot of explaining if I went though life with a degree in “Feminist Studies”, and “Women’s Studies” is hard enough. (But your jokes about how you should have had that major because of how good you are at “studying women” never cease to amuse me.”
“Feminist” is a dirty word to many. Ask almost any Mormon woman how she feels about women’s rights and she will most likely give you some version of “I believe in women’s rights, but I’m not a feminist or anything.” Non-LDS women will often respond in the same way. Bring feminism up to men and they usually just get uncomfortable and make an awkward joke.
Google told me that feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Any argument? *Looks around* No? That’s what I thought. We can all agree that gender should not determine the quality with which a person is treated. So that’s feminism!
But then why does this Tumblr titled “Women Against Feminism” exist, which has dozens of presumably female contributors? It hosts a series of images of women proclaiming why they don’t need (or want) feminism. You have probably seen one or more of these images floating around on Facebook.)
It exists because the idea of feminism has been demonized. Most women who reject the idea of identifying as “feminist” do so because they have one or more of the following perceptions about feminists:
- Feminists hate men.
- Feminists are lesbians, sluts, or have some other kind of reprehensible sexual habits.
- Feminists expect special treatment.
- Feminists are whiners with entitlement problems.
- Feminists are brazen bitches who you have to be on eggshells around in order to not offend them.
- Feminists are anti-family and threaten standards of morality with their advocating birth control and abortion.
Let me be the first to say that I have met many-a-lesbian who would call herself a feminist. I have also met many-a-brazen-bitch who would do the same. The perceptions I listed are not entirely absurd.
But you don’t have to be any of the things I listed in order to be a feminist. I know feminists of most religions and of no religion at all. There are pro-choice feminists and pro-life feminists, working feminists and stay-at-home feminists, queer feminists and non-queer feminists. One of the core values of feminism is that women should be free to do and believe whatever they want. And that means you can be whatever kind of feminist you want to be.
You can be pro-life and be a feminist.
You can be a Christian and be a feminist.
You can be a wife and be a feminist.
You can be kind, gentle, and introverted and be a feminist.
You can even be white, rich, and Republican and still be a feminist.
You can call yourself a “feminist” without worrying about what the man you’re on a date with or the woman sitting next to you in church will think about it. You are not abandoning a high set of moral values by subscribing to the idea that you and other women deserve fair treatment.
The feminist movement has taken many forms (trust me, I’m an educated expert in the field) and accomplished many things (both good and bad, in my most humble opinion), but attaching yourself to the label of “feminist” does not attach you to every single thing done or ideal held by every single woman (or man) who has ever lived.
Be yourself, be a feminist, and don’t ever feel a need to explain yourself.
(But I’m not like a feminist, lol.)