If you would have called me a feminist in high school, I would have probably been offended.
But then I went to college, and I was surrounded by strong women, my friends and professors and celebrities in the news, all claiming the title. Slowly at first, then with a quick surge forward, I changed my stance. Today I am proud to say I am a feminist, although I admit I often feel far from the perfect example of a modern woman slaying the patriarchy. I find myself questioning daily if I can really claim the feminist title, as all too often my actions don’t line up with what I say I believe.
Can I be a feminist even though I sometimes dress for attention from men?
Can I be a feminist and skip clicking “share” on the article I am reading, even though it has a lot of great insight, because I am worried my friends might get tired of what I want to post?
Can I be a feminist even though sometimes I pretend to ignore the comments made by my family at the dinner table, because sometimes it’s just easier to sit quietly than start a fight with my grandparents?
Can I be a feminist even though one of my favorite guilty pleasures is singing along to offensive and degrading rap songs at the top of my lungs with my friends in the car?
Can I be a feminist even though I desire and enjoy compliments about my eyes, my body, and my outfits, sometimes more than I enjoy compliments about my accomplishments?
Can I be a feminist even though I keep my eyes down and mouth shut when a stranger grabs my arm as I walk past and makes inappropriate comments about the way I walk that I would rather not hear, or a man calls me a bitch for not smiling back at him?
Can I be a feminist when I stay friends with and willingly hang out with guys who rate girls and desire trophy wives when they are older?
Can I be a feminist when I continue to like and flirt with the guy who only texts me back when it fits into his schedule, and plays with my feelings like it’s a game?
Can I be a feminist despite the fact that the job I want does nothing to break stereotypes or further the advancement of women in the workplace?
Can I be a feminist even though I support my friends who want to remain pure until marriage, even though I believe that is a value based in religious patriarchal beliefs and is no longer relevant?
Can I be a feminist when I assure my friends its ok to want to be a stay at home mother, instead of encouraging them to try and have it all?
I have come to realize that yes.
Feminism at its basic core is social, political and economic equality for people of all sexes and genders.
While I truly believe that should be the case, sometimes I make decisions that don’t match up with that principle. Sometimes I let men make comments that prove they clearly have power over me. Sometimes I allow outdated sexist comments to pass without a fight. Sometimes I choose to be comfortable in my own head and realize I don’t need to share my opinion at every moment.
I do this because I value my relationships with men, with my friends, with my family, with my Facebook friends, with strangers, more than I value a fleeting feeling justice I might get from calling out their comments. I do this because while I do value change, I realize it comes slow and steady, and isn’t something you can change in one conversation. I do this because sometimes I am tired of trying to convince people who don’t want to listen.
And that is ok.
I don’t have to be the perfect feminist to still be fighting for change.
Feminism isn’t about being perfect and progressive and angry all the time, it’s about making the most change where you can, and letting that be enough sometimes.