Monday, June 30, 2008

Feminism 101: A Life-Long Lesson

[Note to readers: Today, as part of our continuing series 'feminists on feminism,' we are honored to have Feminist Gal from Oh, You're a FEMINIST?! as a guest blogger. These are her words...]

Question #1. What is your definition of feminism:
I wrote a post back when I started blogging where I tried to define MY feminism along with some of the feminist identities out there. Here is what I came up with for MY feminism:

I identify with feminism because of its commitment to social, political and economic equality for all people. Regarding women specifically, my feminism allows me to: be independent, while depending on those I love; be flirty and "girly" whenever I want, without it compromising how people view my intelligence or sexual freedom; exercise, for me, for my body, for my health and strength, not to fit a status quo of beauty; stand firm for what I believe in, and not be called too masculine or a bitch. My feminism does not discount the differences between men and women, but strongly believes that these differences are either a product of, or exaggerated by, socialization. My feminism values men because it values equality. My feminism is anti "isms." It seeks to end the discrimination of people on the basis of sex, age, race, social class, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Oh, and my feminism is always changing, because like the waves of change flow through society and politics, feminism needs to be fluid to reflect the needs of the world.

I also quoted Rebecca West who is just as remarkably relevant now as she was in 1913, "I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute..."

Question #2: my "click" moment with feminism:
I definitely came to my feminist identity through academia. Recognizing and admitting to my own privilege (even getting the opportunity to go to college) was a huge part of that. When I get my ph.d. i'll be the first doctor in my family, and that's really something, ya know? My parents gave up a lot when they immigrated our family to America and I value that and realize the privilege that goes along with that. My feminism grew with my understanding of women's studies, feminist theory, and psychology.

As I developed my own ideas, away from those of my family, I came to understand the necessity of equality, of social justice, and of change. I also started realizing that "tolerance" wasn't enough. We need to celebrate diversity and learn from each other, not just "tolerate" one another. I quickly understood that there is no way to achieve equal rights until the basis for those rights is a mutual respect and value for each other. So my feminism developed from there. And it was fostered by amazing professors and mentors along the way who I love and thank for all they've done. Some of whom include Marita McComiskey, Dawn Goode, JoAnne Lewis and Mary Crawford. I don't think they know the extent of the impression they've made on me and on my life. I'm glad for this space in which to thank them, even though I doubt they'll ever read it :)

I had no "ah ha!" or "click" moment with feminism. It was a combination of experiences, opportunities, and lessons I learned in and outside the classroom in college. However, it was definitely my first WS class, taught by Dawn, who was then a grad student, that opened my eyes to the world of feminism. That class was the start of something that continues to change my life now and allows me to change others' lives.

The answer to question #3 will have to be a cliff hanger because Professor What If and I are working on an activism in/after college post together so stay tuned for that on our blogs :)

UPDATE FROM HABLADORA: The 'activism after college' posts that Feminist Gal references can (and should) be read here and here.


sally said...

I think it's interesting that so many people I know don't seem to have a "click" moment. Has anybody else found this? Usually people either accept that they're a feminist through time or completely reject it. "Click" stories, when I do hear, are pretty nice though!

Mächtige Maus said...

Obviously I consider myself a feminist. However, I find it interesting that my "click" moment was not strictly a feminist experience for me.

My family is not the most open-minded in the grand scheme of things. While I was never not encouraged to pursue something because I was a girl, I was exposed to other "-isms". I grew up in a relatively small oil town in Oklahoma. It was also not the most open-minded of cities. Honestly, it was not until I returned home after my first year of college that I realized how I had grown up in an extremely conservative environment. I seriously thought that what I was exposed to was the norm.

On occasion, I feel as if I failed as an individual during my early years. I accepted what was put before me. I never challenged the comments that deep down were clearly sexist or racist or homophobic. I try not to hold that against myself for too long though. My hope is that, through this blog or through challenging coworkers or through challenging my family on those occasions where I feel brave enough to do so, is all righting the wrongs I allowed to occur.

So, I suppose in "click" moment was of a more far-reaching nature.

habladora said...

For many of us, there is not one click moment, but a series of experiences that leave us convinced that 1) there is a problem with the way our society treats women and 2) there are things we could do to help rectify the disparities we see between the opportunities and respect afforded men and women.

Oddly enough, some of the most powerful 'click moments' are, as Maus points out, not moments when confront the sexism of others, but when we become aware of the sexist attitudes that we ourselves have internalized. One of the things that people who actively identify as 'feminist' share is that we feel that these moments of self-recognition should serve as a call to greater action.