Back in 2012 I realized I am a feminist—albeit with a little hesitation. Claiming to be a feminist, after all, can carry a lot of pressure, and a good deal of judgement. People see feminists as shrill, bossy, angry hordes of women coming to rip men apart with their pointy feminist teeth. Snap!
So I thought, “I’m not shrill or angry. I don’t want to chew on the souls of men…maybe I’m not a feminist.”
We’re also in a really interesting time in history. It’s like the smelling salts have been snapped, and we’re all getting a jarring new look around. Organizations like Miss Representation, Feminist Frequency, and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media are doing the painstaking work of really inspecting what we see and hear in TV, film, and advertising. Through that process a lot of really normal and accepted stuff is being called out as sexist. Misogyny lurks under so many things we really dig (Blurred Lines, anyone?), and one of the roles of feminism is to really look at our world, and call creepy, sexist BS for what it is. But if you’re in the shower singing Blurred Lines and thinking, “This is my jam!” and then you read about how it’s a bunch of creepy, sexist, BS that normalizes rape, suddenly you feel like a creepy sexist who normalizes rape culture. Hmm…(It’s okay. You probably aren’t.)
Feminism also tackles a whole host of topics, some of which might make you uncomfortable. Like the roles of women (and men) in the workplace. The roles of women (and men) in the home. And reproductive rights, which necessitates the use of the word vagina. (Why is vagina such a scary word, you all? 7th graders say it in health class.)
And that stuff? That makes feminism feel like a club that you’re not in.
But unless you’re the mayor of Crapville, you’re probably a feminist. Here’s a test to find out:
- Do you think women are just as important as men?
- Do you think it’s wrong and bad for women to be beat, groped, harassed, or raped?
- Do you think that babies need parents, and that women and men should be allowed to take time off from work when said babies are born or adopted?
- Do you think men can be whatever kind of person they want to be? That they don’t have to be strong, or violent, or void of emotion?
- Do you think women can be whatever kind of person they want to be? That they don’t have to be subservient, or demure, or “pretty”?
- Do you believe that all people are valuable and we should treat them that way?
Did you answer “yes” to most of those? Well, friend…you’re a feminist.
We’re not going to agree on everything. We feminists—we’re going to have differences and diversity just like anyone else. We’re going to muddle through all of these topics, push back on norms, and bumble around quite a bit. And you’re not going to feel like you’re doing it right.
But you don’t stop being a parent because you don’t know all the answers. You don’t stop voting just because the issues are complicated. You don’t stop shopping until you straighten out your economic theory. You dive in. You work it out. You take it easy on yourself and your fellow humans. You know there’s room to grow.
It is actually important to use the F word
The more people freely say, “I’m a feminist,” the less people will associate feminism with harpy witch women who hate men. The more men say, “I’m a feminist,” the more we can use feminism to improve men’s lives too. (Want to see a man doing some badass work for feminism? Look no further than your favorite Star Trek captain.) The more people throw their weight behind feminism, the faster we’ll progress.
And you know what? We need feminism in a bad way. Click that link and check out aaaaaall those reasons.
I promise once women get equal pay, I won’t care if you call yourself a feminist or not. When women and girls stop getting raped, then executed for it, I’ll leave you alone. When girls don’t get shot in the head for wanting education, when parenthood and earning a living can co-exist, when johns are prosecuted more than the underage prostitutes they rape, when women earn the same pay for the same work—WHEN I DON’T HAVE TO MAKE A LIST OF THIS CRAPPY STUFF, we can abandon the word feminist on the side of the road. It will have served it’s purpose. Until then—and it’s gonna be a while—pretty pretty please use that F word.
So, congratulations! You’re a feminist!
Go celebrate International Women’s Day by claiming feminism as your own. Tell your friends and family to join in on the fun. Let’s make a ruckus and do some good work. I’ll raise a fist in the air for you.