30 June 2014

I'm a Feminist (there, I said it)

I call myself a Mennonite, a hippie, a Philadelphian, a nerd and a liberal. But none of the titles I claim carry with them as much baggage as feminist does. (Well, Christian might, but that's a whole other blog post.) When Franconia conference asked to list my blog on their website, they asked for a short description of what I write about. I thought long and hard about whether or not I wanted to include feminism on that list. I AM a feminist and I DO write about feminism, but I was still hesitant.

When I was in high school, I began reading a lot of Barbara Kingsolver. She helped me to identify my own belief that women and men are equal and to see that that is not how our society functions. I saw this in the way the dress code was much stricter for me than for my male peers. I saw it in the way my girlfriends talked about their future in terms of marriage and my guy friends in terms of career. I learned quickly, though, that speaking up about these disparities will get you labeled a "feminazi." I learned quickly that feminists hated men and that I didn't want to be counted in their ranks.

It's become common practice for interviewers to ask young famous women whether or not they are feminists. Theoretically, I like that feminism is being talked about so publicly. In practice, however, this question simply serves to create ammunition to hurl back at these women. If she says yes, everything she's ever said or done before that moment will be scrutinized to determine if she is really, truly feminist enough. If she says no, she's a traitor to the sisterhood and will be lambasted as such.

Shailene Woodley recently said she isn't a feminist because she believes in equality, not the superiority of women. She was blasted by feminists for not getting it. Lana del Rey says feminism bores her and she has been criticized for embracing ultra-femininity. Beyoncé, a professed feminist, was called a terrorist by bell hooks because of her use of her sexuality to promote herself. A girl can't catch a break.

Roxane Gay wrote a book called "Bad Feminist." I haven't had the opportunity to read it yet, but I've read some interviews she's done and I really want to. In one interview I read, she talks about how for years she rejected pink "because it is so often mindlessly used to code the feminine." But then she realized that it made no sense to "not enjoy a color because of how it is misappropriated." This nails it for me. You can ask anyone who knew me five or more years ago and they can attest that I HATED pink. I refused to wear pink. I wouldn't buy anything that was pink. I judged people for liking pink. But then one day I got a free bag. The catch? It was pink. I'm a good Mennonite and not one to reject something free, so I started using it. And then, I started liking it. Not just because it fit all of my gym things or because it was the perfect weekend getaway bag, but also because it was pink. I like pink. (Saying that feels almost as loaded as saying I'm a feminist.) I realized that I had spent literal decades hating a color for crying out loud! 

It is in this same way that I have come to embrace the title of Feminist. Despite it's baggage and stereotypes of bra-burning, men-haters. I am a feminist because men and women are still not treated equally in our society. Because my body is still seen as a object and not a person. Because young girls are taught to be pretty rather than smart. Because we have too much work to do to fight over what we call ourselves. Because I believe we can only make a difference in this world if men and women are at the table together and on equal footing. I am a feminist. There, I said it.

1 comment:

  1. You nailed it, Brooke!! Glad you completed your post :)