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What is a feminist?

Posted by melagee on May 26, 2010

I have always been a feminist.  That is to say, I have always felt capable of doing the same things my brothers and male friends did, and I never assumed that my role in life was set based on my sex.  I have always believed that men and women deserve equal status in all cultures, while recognizing that they don’t receive it in most cultures (including my own).  I have often felt defined by the fact that I was a girl and am now a woman, but never felt like that meant much more than that my personality suits my body, and I am “allowed” to wear dresses and be pretty.*

When I look back on my childhood I can recognize that I was raised in a feminist household.  My mother raised me and my siblings on her own, and whatever mistakes she may have made, I am grateful that she taught me just what strength and power a woman is capable of; which is, no more or less than what a man is capable of.  I do not believe that one sex is better, strong, smarter, or more entitled than the other; rather I believe that both (or all) sexes deserve the same opportunities, the same rights, and the same privileges.

What I have just described are, to me, the basic tenants to being a feminist.  If you agree with the above statements, then congratulations: you are a feminist, as far as I am concerned.  Not everyone will agree with that statement, arguing that it takes more (or less) to be labeled a feminist, but that’s okay.  The word “feminist” is not a solid object that can be described to everyone’s mutual satisfaction.  It is a fluid term that changes with time and perspective, and from person to person.

Many people feel that “feminism” is a four-letter-word, either because they do not agree with equality among the sexes, or because they have seen the word co-opted by those they deem “loud” or “crazy” or “man-haters”.  Occasionally I feel the need to distance myself from those people, as though their use of the label will taint my own.  But the truth is, those people have as much right to the label as I do.  If I cannot clearly and precisely define what it means to be a feminist, then I cannot dictate who amongst us is truly entitled to wear the label.  More than that: I am a feminist who has at times been dismissed as too loud or too crazy.  I may not agree with the opinions and perspectives of everyone who identifies as a feminist, but I support most people (see first two paragraphs) in their use of the label, and I do this because sometimes the loud and the crazy are telling us what we need to hear, even if we don’t want to hear it.


*please note, boys are also allowed to wear dresses and be pretty, and girls are not required to wear dresses or be pretty. I’m deliberately steriotyping to make a point.


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