Editor’s Letter: On Accepting The Label Of ‘Feminist’
Hello again, lovely readers! Another week, another letter.
If you saw last week, I published my first ever editor’s letter, in which I discussed life, growing up, being in your 20s and using negative life events for personal growth. I was so moved by the response – it’s really amazing when people are able to relate with your deeply personal experiences. It makes you feel less alone. This is why I love publishing personal memoirs on Feminspire – there’s so much positivity, support and praise in the comments, and it’s not uncommon to see people say things like “Yeah, I know what you’re going through.”
A great example of this is an article published by my fellow editor Kaya Green, in which she was brave enough to open up about her struggles with depression, and many people came out in the comments to share stories of their own. After that, we began to receive many reader submissions from people writing about their own experiences with the same issues. As staffer Chazza spoke about in an essay on mental health stigma, depression is something that many young women deal with, but few people talk about. With so many people eager to discuss it, why isn’t more of an open forum available?
Well, I want Feminspire to be that forum. And not just for mental illness – I want us to talk about everything. Health, bodies, gender, identity, the media, the internet, how the things we see and read affect us, going to school, not going to school, sex, love, pleasure, death, society, all of it.
One thing that we talk a lot about is society, specifically in how it relates to and affects women. If you’re one of our regular readers, you may have noticed that we use the word “feminism” a lot (and it’s never a dull moment in the comments section when we do).
As a website whose general beliefs are rooted deeply in feminist philosophies, I think it’s incredible that we (and all the similar sites out there) have been able to gain such a wide, blossoming readership. To me, this seems like a real sign of the times. Through the internet I’ve noticed that being a feminist has become so much more of a normal thing than it once was, especially thanks to communities on places like Tumblr and LiveJournal. For me, the internet is what introduced me to feminism. I’ve never taken a gender studies class in my life (although I wish I had), so everything I know and my entire belief system is based on what I’ve learned from my discussions (and subsequent research) with women online!
Everyone knows that the word “feminist” has long carried a dirty, hairy, bra-burning, generally negative connotation in society, but I think that’s starting to change (did you read Jess Mary’s article on what feminism means and how it helps more than just women?). More women are becoming informed of the real meaning behind the word, and these women seem to be accepting the label with open arms. I mean, really, who wouldn’t want gender equality?! What kind of woman wants to be called a slut just because she likes sex, or wants the media fetishizing our bodies to sell products to men? And when you think about the horrific things that happen to women on a global scale, how can you not stand up as a feminist? When the information is out there, and when it’s taken in thoughtfully and fully absorbed, I think that most woman (and hopefully people of any and every gender) would be ready to accept the label. And no, being a feminist doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to wear pretty clothes or shave your armpits! There are many misconceptions, but when you get right down to it, it’s just about equality!
But I’m not here to say that anyone has to identify as a feminist, or that they must do so immediately, or to seduce you all into a menstrual blood drinking cult (although I’ve heard it’s quite the delicacy). Accepting the label of feminist can be hard – it’s something that comes with a lot of responsibilities, and those can be difficult to fully understand. Suddenly, as a newly minted feminist you’re not just someone who wants equal rights for themselves, but someone who wants equal rights for everyone – people of all genders, races, sexualities and walks of life. There’s a lot involved and a lot to learn, and of course you’re going to deal with the unavoidable backlash from people who don’t understand (many of whom don’t want to understand) the movement and what it really means. I can’t tell you how many patronizing comments I’ve received from males (and a few females) at work, or friends-of-friends at social gatherings, about gender equality and feminism. I also can’t begin to count how many dismissive, hostile comments Feminspire articles have received when “debates” about social issues have broken out.
Even individuals in the feminist community can seem harsh at times, and can be quick to become angered by new feminists who make un-feminist comments out of genuine ignorance (and when you’re just beginning to grow into the label, how can you be anything but a little ignorant on certain issues?). However, they don’t count for everyone. On the whole, the feminist community on the internet and in real life is a place that is welcoming, supportive, nonjudgemental and overwhelmingly willing to answer questions. That’s one of the many reasons why I accepted the label, and why I love being a feminist! I have a group of women around the world who I know as my friends and allies, people who are there for me and with whom I can freely discuss things that I might feel uncomfortable bringing up with others. Feminism is a community that’s willing to accept and celebrate you exactly as you are (as long as the person you are isn’t someone who supports the oppression of others). How cool is that?
I’d love to get your thoughts on feminism and what it means to you and your life, so feel free to leave a comment below!
Also, if you’re interested in writing something for Feminspire, keep in mind that we are currently seeking committed new staff members, as well as casual reader submissions. You can find out more here!
P.S. It’s August 26th, so happy Women’s Equality Day to you all! Hope it’s a good one! x