Disclaimer: This post is being brought over to my current blog from my previous site. I wrote this article for my internship when I had just entered the world of feminism and I didn’t understand it. Now, I proudly call myself a feminist and I try to educate people on their journey to identifying themselves as advocates of equal rights.
As of late, it seems as though a couple of celebrities have had an opinion on feminism. First it was Taylor Swift, and now Beyoncé.I personally am not a fan of Beyoncé. I am, however, very interested in her response to feminism, because it highlights one of my personal struggles:
‘That word can be very extreme … But I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything? I’m just a woman and I love being a woman. … I do believe in equality and that we have a way to go and it’s something that’s pushed aside and something that we have been conditioned to accept.’
I find her response interesting for a number of reasons. My concentration within my degree is Women and Gender, and this semester I took an introductory Women’s Studies class. My teacher happens to be very extreme in his viewpoints, which did little to change my original viewpoint of feminism and failed to help me see it in a positive light. Growing up, when feminism was presented, it was always something very radical, very ‘man-hating’, and very negative. And after being in the class that I’m in, I believe that in some areas of study it is.
But it doesn’t have to be. I believe in a feminism where we love and support each other as women and human beings without regard to our race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or any other label that we believe defines us. So I understand what Beyoncé says about not having to label yourself as something. When someone asks me what I am, I don’t think ‘feminist’. But neither do I think ‘female’ or ‘American’ or ‘heterosexual’. I think of myself as a human being before anything else.
I agree and understand that because so many groups have been oppressed, we need to concentrate on them. We must concentrate on women’s rights and indigenous rights and the rights of other groups that have been treated unfairly. Similarly, identity is important and we have to be able to accept and embrace everyone’s differences because they are part of who we are. But I believe it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees when you focus too hard.
Coming to this conclusion has been difficult because I feel like feminism can be stigmatized in many ways and many of my peers in the department think I’m in denial. I don’t know if I can label myself the type of feminist that many other people seem to be. I have the idea that your identity is your identity and that you shouldn’t need to validate that for other people by putting a label on what you believe or what you are. I believe in equality and primarily thinking about people as human beings rather than putting labels on everything. Because of this, I’ve been treated like I don’t know anything about feminism and that I don’t understand it.
However, I do believe that it’s necessary to dig deeper into many of the issues we face because they have become defining aspects of our cultures and way of life. And those are aspects that drastically need to change if we want to make our world into what it needs to be. But at the same time, because there are so many different issues and they intersect in different ways, there is a lot of tension between women within feminism (e.g. colonial feminism and porn-positive vs. porn-negative feminism). And I can say from experience and from talking with friends and acquaintances that the tension drives people away.
The simple answer is that people should just get over themselves and stop whining about how uncomfortable they are with people who lead different lifestyles. If we stopped seeing people as bodies and started looking at each other as different manifestations of life, we would be much better off. But unfortunately the simple answer isn’t adequate because we live in a world that’s so complicated.
If I can define feminism as how I defined it above, then I consider myself a feminist. But from my experience in my part of the US, the concept has become warped and fractioned away into many different ideas and politics and beliefs. I just have to say that I don’t think treating people equally and well should be a political or religious issue. It’s a human issue, and that’s what everything comes down to in the end. We’re just people, and people are the point.
I realize that the kind of feminism I’ve been exposed to is very adverse to the kind of feminism we should accept and practice. This is just my critique of what I’ve experienced. Perhaps with more experience and more exposure, I’ll be able to comfortably call myself a feminist by believing in what I believe. But as of now, being told what I’ve been told, I find it incredibly hard.