submission via firstname.lastname@example.org. post is a facebook public note posted by current Wellesley senior Kyle Ahlers. She is a women’s studies major.
So, I’m really getting sick of hearing "I’m not a feminist, but…" from women, especially young ones. As a young women’s and gender studies major about to graduate from a women’s college, I understand that I am more invested in this issue than most people. But the more I hear that phrase, the angrier I become. Although the stereotype of feminists as bra-burning, man-hating dykes still exists, I would expect a grown person with any amount of intellect to at least privately pause and think about whether that is what feminism really means to them. I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject, and my favorite definition that I have come across so far is this one:
"Feminism is a belief in the full political, social, and economic equality of all people…it is also a movement to make sure that all people have access to enough information and resources to make authentic decisions about their lives" (Baumgardner 2011).
This is a basic definition. Feminism means something different to everyone. For example, in my case it would also include an intersectional lens that gives attention to issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, and geography. But I digress. The point is that for any woman who even thinks about uttering the “I’m not a feminist, but…” phrase, I have a request. The next time you want to say it, or hear someone else saying it, ask yourself (or them) some questions: Do you have or are you getting a college education? Have you ever participated in high school or college athletics? If necessary, do you have access to birth control and safe, legal abortions? Could you currently get married to a man and not be automatically expected to perform all the domestic work and childcare? If in an abusive marriage, could your spouse be prosecuted? Can you sue your place of employment if you experience sexual harassment or sex-based discrimination? If you were to be raped, do you know of any organizations that could provide support instead of engaging in victim-blaming? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you have directly benefitted from feminism. If you agree with the above quote, you ARE a feminist. Amazing women from Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Alice Paul, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, and Fannie Lou Hamer to Ani Difranco and Jessica Valenti have spent their lives pushing for gender equality. Frankly, it is offensive to people who are actively working for feminist causes for women to disavow the label (even though they agree with the ideology) because they think it’s uncool, don’t get it’s meaning, or don’t want to be judged by others (read: men) who hate feminism based on stereotypes and misunderstandings. So please, even if your social/cultural education has you thinking that feminism is a dirty word, pause and consider not only what feminism has done for you, but what is has done and can do for your mother, your sister, your daughter, your spouse, or your friend. The words after “but” in “I’m not a feminist, but…” almost always negate the former part of the statement anyway.