Are you a feminist?
Am I a feminist?
Feminist is a loaded word.
Celebrities get lambasted for calling themselves feminists, or for wiggling out of the confines of the word. Taylor Swift got ridiculed when she said, “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.” Technically, that’s equality, one of the principles of feminism, Taylor. Katy Perry is not a feminist, but Keira Knightley is. And don’t even get me started on Beyoncé. More words have been dedicated to Beyoncé’s “is she or isn’t she” feminism stance than anything, except maybe kale. (Beyoncé “came out” as a feminist on her new album, which you’ve probably read about a million times. I’ll spare you.)
The thing about feminism is that it’s different for everyone. It’s open to interpretation, which is what makes it so hard to navigate. Feminism is not about hating men; I hate that I have to even say that, but people still think it! That’s completely ridiculous. The dictionary defines feminism as “the theory of political, economical and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.”
I’ve always considered myself a feminist. I care deeply about women’s issues like healthcare, safe abortion access and workplace equality. I spent most of high school debating and arguing with my close-minded male classmates whose male privilege was written all over their faces. I vote for candidates who support women because their decisions in D.C. will affect us all. I surround myself with smart, savvy, often-outspoken communities of women.
I have friends who are astounding feminists, who volunteer at Planned Parenthood and protest outside anti-choice rallies. I have a feminist stripper friend who writes so eloquently about working in the sex industry as a stalwart feminist. I am in awe of them. I always feel a bit lost when they’re around, because even though I know I have the best of intentions in my own version of feminism, I also feel like I’m doing it wrong.
Am I a bad feminist because I’d rather read Cosmo than Bitch or Bust? Am I a bad feminist because sometimes all I want for my life is to get married, have babies and a nice house out in the country? Am I a bad feminist because I like misogynistic rap music, because I wear lipstick, because I rarely if ever donate money to Planned Parenthood and the like? I always mean to, I swear!
Am I a bad feminist because I kind of liked dancing to that stupid Robin Thicke song, that I think the aforementioned Katy Perry has some redeeming qualities? I don’t know. Am I not a feminist at all? I’m pretty sure I am, because I just want the best for all womankind.
What makes someone a feminist? Internet culture is very finger-pointy in general, but especially on the topic of feminism. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. People will find a way to knock you down, seek out hidden meaning in your words. I don’t want to feel guilty about the things I do and enjoy, but sometimes it’s inescapable. The feminist websites in my media diet have helped me embrace all of my quirks and imperfections, but they’ve also occasionally made me feel like I’m doing something wrong. But who gets the final say in feminism? Who defines what a feminist is? That’s my problem. I consider myself a feminist, and that’s what matters, right?
I find myself examining people around me and wondering if I could put them in the feminist box. Is my mom a feminist? I think so. I think my grandma was too. Perhaps they chose family over a career, but they were still vocal about helping other women and they did so, with their votes and their money and their words. And at heart, I think that’s what feminism is. Shouldn’t all women go in the feminist box?