Honestly, I’ve been meaning to write this post forever, but I’ve put it off because I’m nervous about it. But at the same time I think it’s worth sharing why I consider myself a feminist and what that means to me.
“Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”
Personally, I don’t remember learning the word feminism or ever thinking it was bad. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s because I grew up thinking that Topanga from Boy Meets World and Jessie of Saved By The Bell were pretty awesome, although now I know they’re not model feminists. Some of my favorite fictional characters when was young, and still today, include Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird, Jo from Little Women and Mulan of, well, Mulan. The media definitely shaped my worldview of men, women and our society, as I’m sure it did for you, too. Even though there are plenty of negative images and stereotypes in the media, I’ve tried to analyze all of it from a young age and found myself drawn to strong female characters.
It wasn’t until college that I started to analyze and take on the word feminism for myself. In my first Ethnic and Women’s Studies class my third year of college, the professor asked those of us who considered ourselves feminist to raise our hands. I hesitantly raised my hand whole looking around the room to see who else would. But then I thought, “Hey wait, of course I am.”
That led to me learning more about feminism from professors, friends, books and Tumblr. Yep, Tumblr. Here’s some of what I’ve learned and why I’m a feminist.
What feminism has done for me (and you)
Although feminism is a relatively new term in history, the idea that men and women should be treated as equals has been around for longer. And it’s not going away any time soon. First there were suffragettes and then some 60 years later came the women’s liberation movement, which is now considered the start of the feminist movement.
Women are allowed to inherit, own, buy, sell and transfer property now. By around 1900, every state in America had given women control over their own property. Before that, property rights largely depended on marital status (unmarried, married, widowed) and varied state by state.
Women can vote and hold public office. Hattie Caraway, an Arkansas Democrat, became the first woman elected to the US senate in 1932. Thanks to the hard work of suffragettes, women achieved the right to vote in 1920.
Women could and did get fired from their workplaces before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978. My grandma was fired after her managers found out she was pregnant with her first child.
Women have more opportunities for education, sports and work in the United States now.
Why I still need feminism
Recently, someone started a Tumblr called “Why I Don’t Need Feminism.” You may have heard of it by now, depending on what you look at on the Internet. This Buzzfeed listicle tells about it. Now, I’m not saying every girl needs to call herself a feminist by any means, but some of these girls have got it all wrong. They’re talking like being a feminist means hating men or thinking women need to be elevated above them, which is not true.
I still need feminism because I believe all people deserve to be treated with respect, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or anything else.
I mean, that’s what I’ve been taught since elementary school or before that even! Love your neighbor as yourself. Stand up for your rights. It’s not about playing the victim. It’s about working towards a better future.
Today there a variety of issues feminist stand for, including access to birth control, abortion, same-sex marriage But feminists don’t need to agree on all these issues for them to be considered feminists. Just want to make that clear.
Some of the biggest issues facing women today are violence against women, the wage gap and the poor treatment of women in the media.
Opportunities for education and work for women need to be improved both in the United States and around the world. Less emphasis should be put on body image, which would help not only women, but men too. The world isn’t all that safe for women or the LGBTQ community. This is something we still need to work on.
We need to care for each other as a society and as a world.
What do you think about feminism? Do you consider yourself a feminist? What do you think are some of the biggest issues facing women today? Let me know in the comments below.
12 thoughts on “Why I’m a feminist”
I love this post! I find it especially interesting since you juxtaposed the personal with some historical reminders. The thing that makes me sad about people who say that feminism is irrelevant, or passe, or that they don’t need it, is that there’s a lack of understanding that feminism is intersectional and a movement that incorporates action against many social wrongs. It’s not just a women’s issue.
I’m glad you liked it, Alicia. It makes me sad when people don’t understand feminism but dismiss it, too. I agree that it’s not just a women’s issue. The ideas of masculinity and femininity have an impact on everybody, for one thing.
This is so well written. Even though I may have a different definition of feminism, I agree that it is something we should all be aware of with so many big historic milestones. We have so much to celebrate and also to improve and conversations like this is where it starts! xx
Thank you, Anna! I’m so glad you said that. Yes, so much good has happened and we shouldn’t forget that. I’m glad that feminism allows for differences of opinion and definition.
SLOW CLAP. Obviously this feminist love this! :)
Yay! You helped inspire me to speak up.
I love this post! Like Alicia, I really like how you grounded it with historical context. Feminism is SO not just a women’s issue but unfortunately, the media has a way of framing it (and celebrities aren’t helping) so that it seems like an issue that only affects women, and not all women at that. How people believe that’s the case is beyond me. Also, *thumbs up* for Mulan. I loved her as a kid and I love her still. What a badass.
Yes, I would love to hear more about how masculinity, body image and stereotypes have an impact not just on women but on men and gender non-conforming people too. It’s good to remember that we have come along way though.
You know, I’ve never gotten why people are so polarized with the word feminism and I’m guessing it has to do with the associations attached to it. I think most women actually are feminists; at its core, it’s just about having equal access and opportunities to things. Whether or not we choose to take those opportunities is on us, but feminism is about the choice.
Still, apparently the war against feminism has been good enough to keep people from touching the word or embracing it — even though it’s something that would benefit them. But this happens with a lot of minority groups, too. Creating division is a way of maintaining control. As is doing a PR campaign against what the word means and people’s place in society — knowing that belonging is one of the hugest human traits and that people don’t want to belong to a group of undesirables (as they have been marketed).
Anyway, I think this is a great post and I applaud you for taking a stand and sharing your point of view on this. I feel quite similarly! :)
Erika, thank you for pointing this out. You expressed what I was trying to articulate and more! I think most women believe in the basics of feminism too. But there are so many divisions within feminism and opposition against it that I’ve heard some women say they believe we should be equal to me, but they don’t want to call themselves feminist because of other feminists.
I’ve seen this with religion and race too. As you said, it happens with minority groups. I hadn’t thought of it that way but it makes perfect sense.
Love this. I hate seeing listicles like that Buzzfeed one, or ones about female celebrities who don’t consider themselves feminists because it sounds too “strong” or because they don’t understand what it means. Feminism isn’t just for women, because gender stereotyping hurts men, too. I just read this awful article on Thought Catalog (http://thoughtcatalog.com/wayne-wax/2014/07/the-3-big-female-double-standards-that-dwarf-slut-shaming/) – the first point is about how we label a crying man as a wimp. Instead of being all, “oh, men are so oppressed,” people need to understand that this is due to the fact that one of the worst things to call someone is “girly.”
Also, in case you’re interested, Kiersten and I are starting a feminist link up next week:
Wow, thanks for sharing that article! And yes, I’m totally interested in the feminist link up. Sounds great!