Yeeesss, feminism. Does it mean anything to you? If it does, what does it mean? How would you define it? By your own definition, would you count yourself a feminist? Are you afraid others would judge you by your response? Well, you don’t have to be afraid here, anyway, because I don’t have any plans to judge you. We may not always agree, you and I, but I do my darnedest not to be in the business of assessing people’s worth based on one quality or belief alone. I’m a writer; I’d like to think I respect human complexity more than that, and if you’re an artist too, I suspect you feel the same way—about that at least.
So…what does feminism mean to me?
To me, being a feminist is about advocating equal rights, opportunities and attitudes toward all genders and peoples with a specialized focus of representing and/or empowering both minority groups and groups that are marginalized or commonly discriminated against in certain situations, whether they’re women or men, etc. Lengthy and tree-huggy? Oh sure, but it’s what I believe, and by that definition—my definition—I am a feminist.
On the other hand, I think it’s safe to say that to many in society, being a feminist is about blaming men for every problem in existence, complaining about imaginary problems/exaggerating general hardships, displacing anger and personal frustration onto the masses and advocating female supremacy/a social matriarchy as opposed to gender equality. By this definition, I am not a feminist. I was taught that this was called “Radical” feminism and misandry, but what do I know? I can’t please all of the people all of the time, nor do I have the energy to try, but being aware of having an unpopular opinion or definition that differs from the status quo is a good way to invigorate oneself, too, when you feel you’ve got something to prove, when you feel like maybe, just maybe, you can open someone else’s eyes to what you see, too…
But at this point, when it comes to this issue, I believe it really is about what an individual thinks. You can’t really tell someone he/she’s wrong when no one can agree on the paradigm anymore, can you? True, I do believe in equality and basic human rights, but I also usually seek to represent and/or empower women, minority or marginalized persons or groups especially with many of my works (and that’s not to say I can’t, don’t or won’t give my gentlemen or Caucasian characters their due, too—I’m not blind to biases Caucasians experience or to the prejudices and societal pressures men face). I always considered that to be the crux of generalized feminism, but due to the corruption of the word, definition and messages associated with it, perhaps these aims would be seen as more Women-of-color (Multiracial) feminist, Third-wave feminist or Transfeminist constructs with Egalitarian leanings, and I’d nod in agreement at such appraisals. What something is is always juicier and more complex than its label, isn’t it!
Currently, I still identify simply as a “feminist” because of the specific layers to my goals and own definition, but you could call me any of the above alternatives without my having qualms or, to go further, I could see being called a “feminist apologist” or just a plain old idiot. Meh. What’re you gonna do? I used to get tired and anxious and angry at people calling us “feminazis” or assuming I’m a radical right off the bat just because I mention the word “feminist.” I don’t hate men (do I have my moments? Oh yeah. Do they last? No), nor do I think one gender is superior in all things to any other, but those are such common and vicious misconceptions that I’m not sure the word “feminism” can ever truly be rescued. Even so, I will not hand over my power or esteem to people who won’t even make the attempt to listen to something that may upset or challenge their own point of view. That’s the problem with politics, man. Everybody thinks he or she is right, so nobody wants to listen to anybody else. I used to be like that back when I was a bit younger and thought I knew everything there was to know (LAWL), but I like listening now; you learn a lot more, and knowledge is power. Sometimes knowledge can be bliss, not ignorance…
I briefly considered identifying as a humanist—would that encompass all my beliefs? Or is it just chickening out and adopting a more socially friendly label just to make myself less of a target for enmity? Hmm. You can’t blame me (or anyone else) for not wanting to be attacked, but if I drop this identity now, after cultivating around it my own personal, positive meaning, that almost feels like abandoning a part of myself as well as any others who might share in and advocate that belief in any significant way. Hmmmmmmmmmm…
I was going to go bigger and broader with this topic since it’s such a touchy issue (at least in the U.S.), but at the end of the day I am merely asking what feminism means to you and me—just us, not the world. To me, it means equal rights, equal opportunities, equal respect, equal treatment and diverse representation, or at least a move toward all of these things without fear, bigotry, resentment or unneeded hostility coming into play. Seriously, calm down and listen for a second.
People should have the freedom to do what they want within reason and to live without the threat of physical, emotional, psychological or social harm. To me, traditional roles are fine if the people in such roles are comfortable and valued, but it is a problem when they are not. This kind of stuff—and hey, life in general—is about educating one other and sharing ideas and perspectives to become a more well-rounded society. I don’t know where you live, but America is a very ethnocentric and insular place. I love my country probably for as many reasons as I am ashamed of it, and yes, I say that without taking for granted that I have the constitutional right to say that. And it’s a pleasure to be able to say a thing like that and add to it as well: America is a very ethnocentric and insular place, but I’ve seen enough goodness and acceptance here to hope for a better future (channeling you here, Dr. King). With our “melting pot” masses, we, like many other countries, have the potential to be so much more open-minded and to set a good example via media and entertainment outlets if nothing else, which is why art is my chosen vehicle to get some positive messages out. I just can’t wait to share and listen and learn…I can’t wait for the further enlightenment life has to offer, and I hope you get there too.
I think whether you’re a feminist or egalitarian or humanist or an I-Don’t-Give-a-Crap-Shut-Up-About-This type of person depends on your definition and what those mantles mean to you, ’cause trust me, they’re always going to mean something different to somebody else, and an acceptance of this divide is the only way anyone can accept the use of the term “feminist” anymore at all, I feel. Because the word and original definition have become so debased and have gained all the wrong power in years gone by, it’s now about finding an honest, open and respectful balance between differences of opinion (of course, I’m well aware that’s far easier said than done).
As for me, technically, weirdly, I guess I’m all of these things (yes, even that last one from time to time, but that never lasts long either)…and a lot more. But I’m going to take their power—the power the word “feminism” and its subsequent movement were supposed to instill and foster in the first place—in my own hands and put it into my own words, as my activism is art, and THAT’S how I intend to be heard. It’s my strongest voice and the realm in which I feel I can make the most difference (though exploring other avenues certainly wouldn’t hurt either, would it?)…I hope.
If you’d care to leave a thought or an opinion or a hope regarding this taboo topic, feel free to post an honest, open and respectful comment below. And thanks for reading this one in particular.