“Are you a feminist?”

*I want to preface this post with: Anything I share is from personal experience, personal research, personal readings, and personal opinions. I like to stay open minded and enjoy discussions about this topic, but this is not a place to bash others. This is simply a reflection.

Over the course of this past year I made the decision to take on some classes at school revolving around women and gender issues. I have always felt that I am a forward thinking person, but the questions I’ve wanted to ask and the discussions I’ve wanted to have, have never seemed appropriate.

I live in the Bible Belt of the United States – which is not at all a bad thing, that’s not my point. My point is that bringing up these kinds of discussions and questions can at times be a touchy subject for some. I’m so thankful that I have had the opportunity to take educational classes and be around people who are willing to have these discussions and challenge me to find my own answers and beliefs about these pressing issues.

Although I have never believed that women should be considered less than men, up until recently, I had never felt the need to educate myself on the history of feminism and women’s movements. Below is a recent journal entry prompt in my Gender and Communications class.

“Are you a feminist? If so, what kind of feminist are you?”

Here is the definition of feminism: The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men.

That is the definition. Just that. Plain and simple, nothing else. Now, let me tell you what the general, uneducated public’s definition of the word is: A movement for women to bash men, make excuses, throw away bras, grow out body hair, and then talk some more about how terrible men are and how hard women have it.

LOL. That was my own exaggeration for a little bit of comedic relief, but the sad thing is, that’s actually pretty accurate. That’s what many people in my community (and on my Facebook page) tend to believe. This may partially be the reason why it took a long time for me to start claiming myself as, dare I say it… a feminist.

The stereotype that you tack onto your back once you start claiming yourself as a feminist can be a little daunting. Especially if you are not the stereotypical woman that being a feminist suggests you are.

Let me clarify. I do shave, because body hair is itchy and I don’t like the feel of it. Not because I feel pressured to do so by others. I don’t make excuses because of my gender or my period, if I do, it’s clearly a joke. I wear a bra sometimes. I love men and am lucky to have had great experiences with the vast majority of the ones in my life. I don’t believe that women are superior to men. If I did, I wouldn’t be about the whole feminist thing.

Although it is slowly (slowly) improving, we cannot deny that there is still a lack of equality in regards to rights and the treatment of women in our society. And I’m just talking about here in the United States. There are many countries who have it far worse and that would have to be a completely separate post.

I’m trying to hit close to home. To women who tell me they are not a feminist, I always ask why. As a woman, living and breathing and thinking and feeling, I am baffled why you would not be “for” your own gender. And as a man who loves the women in his life, whether it be wife, girlfriend, mother, sister, grandmother, how could you not want her to be treated fairly and equally? However, it has never been my desire to come off as that nasty term people use – a “femi-nazi.” It is true, many radical feminists can come off just as closed minded as women who are scared of the term. To those women I ask, if a feminist has cookie cutter ideals about how a feminist should be…isn’t that contradicting in some way?

To me, being a feminist is not cookie cutter. There are many different women on the spectrum of feminism. Who says a stay at home mom can’t be a feminist? Who says a Republican woman doesn’t have the same concerns for her gender as a Democrat? Who makes the “rules” of a movement? These are all questions I’ve asked myself. Just like people in general, women are not all the same. We have been raised in different homes, states, countries. We have had different experiences with family, friends, men and women. Our education is not all the same. Our food preferences or clothing style, our handwriting, our shoe size, the relationship we have with our dad or mom, our hardships, our religions and beliefs, they are all different. As women, I do believe that we should all be about empowering one another. It’s so easy to bring others down because “she doesn’t agree with me” or “why would she ever choose to do that.” But a quote I’m very fond of puts it in perspective for me;

“A huge part of being a feminist is giving other women the freedom to make choices you might not necessarily make yourself.” -Lena Dunham

Oh Lena. Being a feminist doesn’t mean that that is the only way you define yourself, it shouldn’t be that at all. To me, it is now just one part of me. It doesn’t make up my whole being or life, but it does change the way I look at things and it urges me to ask questions when I don’t understand.

Do you remember a time where you felt like you had to do something because of your gender? Do you remember a time when you felt like you could NOT do something because of your gender? How often do you find yourself tearing down other women because they are different than you? Do you have negative ideas about men and what a man “should be” to a woman?

I encourage you to educate yourself on the topic. Women AND men.

If you have Netflix, watch the documentary Miss Representation. It’s worth your time. Tina Fey, Lena Dunham, Sheryl Sandberg, Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, they have all written great books that bring issues to light in a funny, but “girl power” kind of way.

This post could go on and on, but I must get ready to conquer my day. And shower, yeah I should do that too… I’ll leave you with a few links.

If we talked about men the way we talk about women

32 Things you Realize When you Become a Feminist (sorry about the language)

That’s what’s in my jar.

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