The F word. We all know it. And it is a BAD WORD. Its mere mention often brings looks of disgust and rolling eyes.
So I’m just going to say it. Ready?
I am a Feminist.
I wasn’t always entirely proud to admit that. My foray into feminism began with hesitation. It was a word with which I had a lot of trouble for many years. Oftentimes, when I heard the word Feminist, I saw or heard or read it in conjunction with misandry. Or with Feminazi. My father would listen to Rush Limbaugh talking about how the feminazis were just out to kill babies. I would listen to women proudly proclaim that they were feminists, hear them roar.
As in, “How would you like it if I kicked you in your balls? That’ll teach you to call us ‘guys’ again! I would never let my husband speak to me like that. Do you know how much more fragile testicles are compared to the uterus? I could literally rip them off with one hand, that’s how fragile they are. It takes nothing.“
I wish this meme had been around 10 years ago, because an old coworker used almost all of the above quotes at some point or another. I would watch her explode in this manner and think to myself, “If I say I’m a feminist, people are going to think that I have these same meltdowns. I should maybe just keep quiet.”
I began to think that this was feminism. So what, then, did that make me? Was I not a feminist? I just wanted to get paid the same amount of money for doing the same amount of work as my male counterpart. I just wanted to be able to speak openly about sex without being labeled as less-than woman. I wanted to dress how I liked without being told I look so much better when I wear a dress, though. And without being told, you know, you don’t have to wear a dress, right? I had no desire to detach sensitive body parts from another human being. I had no want for retribution by subjugating a man to the same put downs that women have gotten for so many years. I did not want power over men. I just wanted to be me. I just wanted to be equal.
Then I met Giselle. One of the coolest women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know referred to herself as a strong feminist. I do not remember the exact conversation or context in which it came up, but it did, and I sat on that thought for some time. I had never seen her explode at a man for daring to use such blatantly sexist general terms for her (although our language and the way we use it is fairly sexist, that is a topic for another day). More importantly, I have never ever known her to threaten to grab a man by his testes and physically remove them from (the rest of) their person.
I spent a couple years thinking about what I knew of Giselle and what I had previously thought of as feminism. I had conversations with my (feminist) boyfriend. I read more articles about feminism. I learned more about harassment of women. As time went on, I realized that feminism does not need to be defined in concrete terms. Feminism has become a fluid thing for me. It does not hold the same definition for me now as it did 10 years ago, as I doubt it will hold the same definition for me 10 years hence. As I have gotten older, more experienced in life, and learned more about how sexism works, I have become much more comfortable with my feminist self. I’ve learned to more readily recognize sexism when I see it. To distinguish between feminism and misandry. To use my words. To stand up for what I believe in.
Rush Limbaugh would still probably refer to me as a feminazi. And a slut.
I am ok with this. It means I am doing something right.