This is what a Feminist Looks Like

09.16.2015

The word “feminism” holds a different definition to everyone.

For many people the word itself may place certain stereotypes onto women who identify as feminists. Some such stereotypes being: that feminist women are angry, that they’re men hating individuals who want to rid the world of gender and/ or they hate stay at home moms. Currently, with the modern day feminist movement assumptions prevail. Many assume being a feminist also means you can’t like romantic comedies, “girly” clothes or colors and listens to rap; (whose lyrics typically degrade women). Roxane Gay an American author, and English professor has coined the phrase “Bad Feminist” because she likes many of the things previously listed. I believe it is possible to be a “bad feminist” not by enjoying certain music genres and media, but by ignoring the issues women and girls face and not doing anything about it. Putting these issues of pay inequality, domestic violence, underrepresentation in leadership, and the lack of policies protecting women’s rights to the backburner will not make them go away. By doing nothing we make these problems worse.

Gay performs a Ted Talk that describes her definition of what being a feminist is and how at times the term can be taken as an accusation, instead of something to be bold and proud about. She expresses she could be seen failing as a woman and as a “bad feminist”. Roxanne goes on to say she enjoys fashion magazines, The Bachelor, and fairy tale endings. In the talk she also mentions her original view of what a feminist should be which was angry, hairy, and men hating woman. As I watched the Ted Talk I had to laugh at myself during this portion because I could see my younger self as viewing feminists in the same manner. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to examine just how different women are still being treated in and out of the workplace. Since that point in time I have wanted to make a difference in the lives of women as a whole, and change the negative perceptions that society may have about feminists.

Gay also gives the metaphor of how society puts feminists on a pedestal, and when women enjoy feminine objects or put themselves in an economically vulnerable state by becoming a stay at home mom or taking the last name of their husband, then they are customarily ostracized and yanked from the pedestal in which they once stood. A public example that was given was the famous Beyoncé from when she performed at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. During her time on stage there was a huge backdrop with the word “FEMINIST” in big bold letters behind her. At first there was praise behind her bold statement, but once the dust settled some critics slammed her for her sexual clothing and dance moves.

A suggestion that Roxanne Gay and many others give is to be more inclusive towards ourselves as women. This comes to women seeing and relating ourselves to one another in more than one way. We are all connected based on gender, but we must also think about each woman’s ethnicity, religion, and economic background. Another suggestion was for women to acknowledge imperfections vs. accountability. For example when watching a television show or listening to music and seeing or hearing women being treated unfairly then turn it off.  Having women collectively support each other as a whole is so important in leading in the future.

It is my personal belief that women need strong encouragement of other women in order to be a “Good Feminist.” When women can build upon one another and inspire ourselves with change and leadership then in my eyes we are next to unstoppable.

As an intern at The Women’s Fund, it is exciting to see the work that is taking place not only now, but in the future as well. I am ecstatic to be a part of a group who all have the same goal in inspiring and developing a world in which women and girls can live without facing negative gender roles, and be inspired to make their lives as best as they can be. We as women need to boldly claim our feminist points of view and not only share them with one another but also to younger generations of girls so that the work that we are doing for equality continues onto them. Like Gay, the younger girls in my family are who inspire me in my work at The Women’s Fund. I see them and I want every one of my nieces, cousins, and sisters to grow into this world without knowing the struggles women may face in their lives. This is to ensure that hopefully one day in the near future they will be able to live in a world where women and girls of all nationalities, religions, and classes, will be treated equal to men because that is what being a feminist is all about.

 

Written by Aariann Felix, Women’s Fund Intern

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