Thought Catalog
August 3, 2011

The Definition Of Feminism

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What is the issue?

You’re already annoyed just by looking at the title, aren’t you? I understand. Feminism is a loaded word. It comes with a lot of different definitions, ideas and preconceived notions. It also just has a really bad rep. People are quick to judge and tell people, “You aren’t a true feminist. You let your boyfriend treat you like crap! You wore red lipstick to entice males tonight. You disrespected yourself when you watched that Judd Apatow movie. You, you, you, you!”

I also have a penis, which might annoy you. After all, how could I ever understand the every day plights of a female? I’ve never received a smaller paycheck than a man for doing the same job, I’ve never been catcalled (JK, I have. I lived in West Hollywood. WHAT’S UP DEGRADATION?) and I don’t live in fear of being raped. Rape isn’t even on my radar, which is a gift that I’m aware of and don’t take for granted. You’re right about all of this. The only thing I can really say that would make you feel like I kind of know what I’m talking about is that I pay attention. To everything. To my best girlfriends, to the celebrity narratives in our tabloids, to every horrible romcom, to the way people treat one another. And I also love women unabashedly. They’re such beautiful complicated people. Men are too obviously but women have this way about them that is truly magnificent.

I’ve written about feminism a lot in the last year but I figured I would condense all of these thoughts into one post. It will be similar to all the others but just super sized. Now let’s get on with it.

Feminism means being in the supermarket and looking at the tabloids in the checkout line. You see the headlines “SCARY SKINNY” next to “HOW TO LOSE 5 POUNDS IN 5 DAYS” and think to yourself, Gee. I’m confused. Won’t I be scary skinny if I lose 5 pounds in 5 days? I’m getting mixed messages that aren’t good for my self-esteem. That’s screwed up!” Acknowledge it. Hate them for it. And then maybe buy it and laugh at it. It’s okay. You can still buy that garbage and love yourself.

Feminism means watching any romantic comedy and getting annoyed that another fat ugly man is married to a bombshell supermodel. No one makes mention of the giant inequity in looks. You are just being subjected to another screenwriter’s fantasy. Great. Now this movie is going to paint women in an unflattering light and pass it off as inspirational. Double great.

Feminism means not being one of those girls who hates other girls. I mean, you’re allowed to not like girls but it should be on the basis of their personality rather than the fact that they have a vagina. By being mean to other women, you’re allowing sexism to happen in a way. You’re not getting what you want because you called the girl in the tube top dress a whore.

Feminism means trying to find a man who loves women, who’s a feminist in his own right. This is a hard thing to do. You will probably feel disrespected at some point and it will cause you to question your whole relationship; it will make you wonder if you’re dating someone who just doesn’t like women or holds on to harmful antiquated ideas about them. If you let it go and let the mean comments pass through you, you will feel like you’ve betrayed yourself. And that’s okay because we all betray ourselves once in awhile. The key though is to think critically and figure out if you’re with a dude who not only likes you but respects your gender as well.

You don’t lose your feminism when you get a bikini wax or shave your arms or laugh along to a Nancy Meyers movie. Your feminism doesn’t go missing when you don’t behave directly in accordance with your beliefs. It will always be there. It’s who you are. You either have it or you don’t. You either think this is wrong or this is right.

Feminism means challenging the screwed up things that are happening each and every single day to women. This doesn’t mean you have to protest the streets or listen to Bikini Kill. It can mean telling the drunk misogynist in the bar to piss off. It can mean telling your clueless self-loathing girlfriend that her favorite movie shouldn’t be the one that made girls look like neurotic insane people. By absorbing movies, art, TV shows, and music through a feminist lens, you are immediately able to pick apart the messages that society is sending you about your gender. And some of the time, it’s scary.

I don’t know why feminism is a dirty word. I want to clean it up a bit and give it a bath. Take it to a woman named Svetlana and let her give it a thorough cleansing. Because it’s not scary. In fact, the idea behind it is so simple. So can we just like women now? Can we just respect them and get on with it? Can we? These are a variety of definitions of feminism that all essentially mean the same thing: Women are equal to men and deserve everything men are already entitled to. One definition for one very confused word. TC mark

image – Gage Skidmore

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