My Feminism Doesn’t Have to Be Your Feminism
There is no single way to be feminist; it is an ideal to guide you through life.
Throughout my life I have struggled with the idea of being a feminist. I was lost in a sea of definitions that I could partially relate to and then some I had no connection to or could barely understand at all. I know I am not alone in this dizzying world of trying to define ourselves through ideas found in the media and even within the classroom. However, I have discovered throughout my time in academia, that one of the ways we can discover who we are is by listening and learning from definitions of the various theories, ideologies, and theologies that are out there. This is a huge undertaking, but it gives us a start to truly becoming enlightened about the world around us. Once on the path towards self discovery, it is my belief that we must then learn to respect each other and the differences.
I started this article with my admittance to struggling daily with defining myself as a feminist. Even as a feminist scholar, I still change my definition of who I am in relation to this social movement in every paper, article I write or discussion I have with people around me. In some circles, I see myself as a radical feminist; one who wants to overthrow patriarchy and have a revolution to change our society dramatically. Yet, there are times when I feel more comfortable being a multicultural feminist; one who sees that not all social challenges women face are universal. In today’s world there is a multitude of cultural and social conditions which create struggles, that are unique to location and region based on different situations found within that specific culture. I feel as though both those theories and practices can live peacefully within me and help create the change I want to see in the world.
“Feminism gives me a way to understand the world I am living in,” says feminist scholar and activist for veteran’s rights, Kiersten Downs. “I found my identity as a scholar activist due to feminist research and pedagogy. Feminism to me, is a method of positioning myself in this life through my own lived experiences as a woman. We learn from our historical past to assess and critically engage with the present.”
The international scholar, Munazza Fatima, who hails from Pakistan, explains her belief in feminism as the idea that “feminism is the continuous struggle of getting equal to man in all aspects. But sometimes I feel that man and woman are not the same they are really different creatures. The problems arise when men do not treat women as women- when he doesn’t respect her and then the woman begins to feel that she is suppressed by men and she raises her voice against such injustices and unnatural behaviors.” She lives her feminism by wanting respect and gaining equality, even with the differences she sees in her every day life. Another viewpoint from a mother of three daughters, harkens Munazza’s point. “My definition of feminism is,” she pauses a moment, “I should be given the opportunity to try anything and not be limited because I am a woman. Some things I will excel at and others I will fail but not solely because I am a woman.” Even from two different countries, in two dramatically different cultures, these women are looking for respect and equality to live their lives.
The dangerous stereotype that only women can be feminist is shattered by the countless men who have decided to add their voices to the conversation, who in turn, stand up not only for women’s rights but stand up and announce they are proud feminists. “The idea that society cannot tell a woman what to do just because she’s a woman- institutionally/culturally- has forced disparity between men and women is decidedly not ok,” states a close male friend. He may not look like what the media has decided a feminist should look like, but he is proud to break the mold and add to the feminist culture of the United States.
Since the feminist movement has grown and changed to focus on different aspects of issues we face throughout the world and on a more personal level, who is to say one definition of feminism can be right or wrong? A good rule to follow would be understanding that feminism functions to bring equality to all. That there is no single way to be feminist; it is an ideal to guide you through life.