Picture this: sitting at the table with your extended family and everyone is there - your grandma, your aunts, that uncle that isn’t really your uncle but he’s your dad’s friend so you still call him uncle. All present. And then it happens - the debate. Oh, you’re a feminist? Well, (insert some question you’ve probably got 100 times before, trying to spark a debate). You see, I understand that everyone isn’t a feminist just like I understand that not everyone fully understands what being a feminist means. I have gotten into many, many, many debates with people who don’t identify as feminists and it really opened my eyes to some of the questions people might have about feminism as a movement. So, I thought, why not delve into some of those questions.
These are some questions that you might be asked whether you have just begun to use the title of feminist, or if you’ve identified as a feminist for years.
Just a reminder, I am constantly learning as a feminist everyday so if I have said something that you disagree with or you found offensive, let’s talk about it! My views might not represent all feminist views! These are my own views as a feminist and how I would answer these questions.
“WHAT IS ‘FEMINISM’?”
The Oxford English Dictionary defines feminism as an “advocacy of equality of the sexes and the establishment of the political, social, and economic rights of the female sex” (1). The definition has since been upgraded with the introduction of ‘third-wave’ feminism in the 1990s as a result of what the OED calls “ the perceived lack of focus on class and race issues in earlier movements” (1). The introduction of third-wave feminism now recognizes a diverse identity of feminists rather than just those who are primarily white or economically privileged.Although feminism does have a generalized definition, all feminists choose their own beliefs and they may differ from other feminists, similar to how those practicing a religion may pick and choose on what they believe and practice. That being said, this article will be focusing on my beliefs as a third-wave feminist, representing women of “many colors, ethnicities, nationalities, religions and cultural backgrounds” as well as identities and supporting both “queer theory, and abolishing gender role expectations and stereotypes” (2).
“WHY ARE YOU A FEMINIST?”
I’ve always been surrounded by strong females. My grandmother was a really big part of that and she always taught us to understand how strong women really were. Defining myself as a feminist came a lot later, when I started to understand more of the world around me and became old enough to really get a grasp of what I believed myself, without the influence of others. That was also when I came to understand that it was not the belief of women being superior or the movement of hating men, despite common internet troll belief.
I, as a feminist, believe in equality: amongst many things, I personally believe in women being successful in the workplace. I also believe in men being able to be stay-at-home parents. I believe in those who declare their pronouns and how they identify and I understand that sexual orientation is not a choice, just like it is not your choice to be born into a body you feel foreign to, and you have the right to change that. I believe in the equality of sexes, classes, colours, identities, nationalities and religions. I believe that everyone has the right to an education. I am here for black girl magic and I want everyone to be able to express themselves without feeling as if they can’t due to social expectation and especially not because of fear for their own safety. I believe that gender is a construct and giving a girl a baby doll while giving a boy a chemistry set is not only shady, but damaging to their development. In short, although that wasn’t short, I believe in you being yourself unapologetically, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone. And when I say hurting someone, I mean like, stabbing them, I am in no way referring to those people who might say you are hurting them because they don’t approve of who you are. TIP: If you have negative people like that in your life, remove them. So when you ask me why I’m a feminist, instead of listing all of that, I will probably ask you why you aren’t a feminist and then go from there.
“WHY DO FEMINISTS HATE MEN?”
Hating men is not the preface of feminism. It never has been. As a feminist, I just want people to have equal rights. And in us having equal rights, that means I want men to be able to do things that have been previously declared stereotypically “feminine” via gender roles without feeling like you shouldn’t, or worse, can’t. Do you love romance movies? Nice! Watch them. Do you love the way your calves look in heels and a mini skirt? SLAY! Part of my personal goal as a feminist is to abolish gender role expectations and stereotypes. That being said, let’s revisit that whole baby doll and chemistry set theory.
Did you know that “as of 2010-2011, women made up just 17.6% of computer science students” despite computer science being amongst some of the most prominent topics of study? . Have you ever thought to ask why? It is suggested that this may be because children are so accustomed to their stereotypical gender roles at an early age and as a result, they lack interest by the time they’re ready to choose a major or even earlier, when they are choosing courses in high school. If you surround your children with unbiased opportunity from the beginning, they are more likely to grow in their true identities. In short, let’s give everyone equal rights and work to abolish the idea that you should be one way because of the sex you were born as. So, no, I don’t hate men, if that answers your question.
“IF FEMINISM SUPPORTS MEN TOO, WHY DOES TO STEM FROM THE WORD ‘FEMALE’?”
This might be better suited from a feminist history expert, but with the help of the internet, I’ve answered this one multiple times. Thinking about to the original Oxford definition, the word feminism stems from female simply because that’s what the movement originally represented. It was the belief that women deserved equal rights, but in the same sense, it was incredibly discriminatory because that definition did not cater to all women but rather, a specific group (minorities didn’t count). That’s why. No secret ulterior motives, nothing crazy. As feminism has evolved, it has surpassed the confines of supporting one specific group of women and has grown to benefit everyone: Anyone can be a feminist.
I hope I answered some questions anyone may have had about feminism and successfully managed to share my own personal beliefs as a feminist in the process. Being supportive of such a positive and inclusive movement has been a learning process and I try to improve myself everyday to make the world a better, more inclusive place for everyone to feel comfortable and confident in.
Still have a burning question that I didn’t get to? Let’s get the conversation going! We would love to read some of your thoughts, so be sure to get involved by commenting and sharing! Until next time ~
"feminism, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2017, 26 Oct. 2017. www.oed.com/view/Entry/69192.
“Third-Wave feminism.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Oct. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third-wave_feminism.
“Women in Computer Science.” ComputerScience.org, COMPUTERSCIENCE.ORG, www.computerscience.org/resources/women-in-computer-science/.